Educationists in Karnataka state in India are grappling with the problem of an increasing education divide in the area as more and more parents want English medium education for their children. It has long been the case in India that elite education is offered through the medium of English, while state schools educate children in one of the many languages of the country. The right to be educated in the mother tongue is enshrined in the Indian consitution.

The offering of English medium education in private schools increases the take up for private education, even among poor families, since English is perceived as the language of success and aspiration. The Teach for India programme - yet another offshoot of the hotly contested Teach for America scheme, which drafts minimally trained high flying graduates into low income schools for two years, only uses English as a medium of instruction.

While doing research in Mumbai, I witnessed children being taught through the medium of English in one of the few public schools which offers such education. The children, none of whom came from homes where English was spoken, were hugely disadvantaged, as they struggled with an alien alpahabet and language on top of their mother tongue, which was often different from the Indian national language, Hindi. Not only that but the textbooks were Eurocentric and seemed to bear no relevance to the life and culture of the children's homes - with stories about April showers, Greek myths and German fairy tales.

Education activist and academic Niranjan Aradhya said, "This is only an indication of the increasing privatisation and commodification of education. Education is creating a big divide in society now. It's appalling to see the division and segregation though the constitution speaks of unity and integrity."

The issue of the linguistic medium of education is now being tested through the courts in Karnataka.