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Why in news: The three-language formula (TLF) under the draft National Education Policy (NEP), (now modified after protests), stipulated originally that schoolchildren learn three languages, namely their mother tongue, English and Hindi when Hindi is not their mother tongue and Hindi, English and a ‘modern Indian language’ (not necessarily one spoken in South India) in case their mother tongue is Hindi. This was seen as an attempt to impose Hindi in non-Hindi States. As per the revised position, the government has dropped the clause for compulsory teaching of Hindi but it is persisting with the TLF.
This was seen as a case for discrimination against south Indian states who argued that there is no credible basis on which to insist that south Indians learn to speak Hindi while north Indians are exempted from learning a language spoken in the south.
What is the TLF – The three-language formula for language learning was formulated in 1968 by the Ministry of Education of the Government of India in consultation with the states. The formula as enunciated in the 1968 National Policy Resolution which provided for the study of “Hindi, English and modern Indian language (preferably one of the southern languages) in the Hindi speaking states and Hindi, English and the Regional language in the non-Hindi speaking States”.
The old TLF under the Official Language Resolution of Parliament in 1968 sought to promote Hindi and southern languages. However, the problem arose as while Hindi-speaking States never bothered to promote non-Hindi and “preferably one of the Southern languages”, non-Hindi states continue to teach Hindi (Tamil Nadu obtained an exception to this policy).
The position on ‘English’ language:
Our language policy is based on a honourable objective: decolonising all walks of our national life. Therefore, progressive replacement of English with Hindi was thought to be a sound beginning. But things didn’t work out the way it was hoped.
English has become an extremely important language today. From being a language of colonialism, English transformed itself into a global language of culture, science and technology, and world politics. Its universalist claims are also backed by its capacity to absorb words from other languages. The intent to replace English with Hindi is based on an erroneous understanding that all languages are similar. All Indian languages are languages of identity and cultural expression whereas English is a language of mobility and empowerment.
A case can be made that India ought to introduce English throughout school and college education so that all Indians will be conversant in their mother tongue and English. Such a policy will be beneficial to the Hindi States. Consider the demographic trends: by 2060, non-Hindi States, especially in the south, are projected to experience demographic decline and attendant labour shortage. The situation in the north will be the opposite. Embracing English as the second language will promote mobility and economic development, especially in the north, and make India a more legible place to its citizens.
It must also be considered that primacy of a language is rather transient. There was a time the English (and even Germans) were communicating in French. One cannot now rule out the possibility of Mandarin replacing English as the global language in future.
- The three language formula does not benefit the students. There was a time Bihar opted for Telugu as the third language, just as Andhra Pradesh chose Hindi. It can be asked that how would Bihar students have benefited from Telugu being a third language on their school-leaving certificate? How are students in non-Hindi states benefiting from Hindi as a third language? Wouldn’t it be sensible if the policy replaced the third language and allowed students to choose a subject or a skill?
- Under the revised National Education Policy: every State is required to teach one modern Indian language, in addition to mother tongue and English. However, the lack of proficient teachers of southern languages in, lets say, Hindi speaking states would create a big problem.
- The common thread that runs through issues such as language in administration, medium of instruction and inclusion of a third language in curriculum is the project to remove English. Until the project is dismantled, the forces it unleashed through Part XVII will continue to wreak havoc with the country. The draft NEP recommends English throughout school education but it is, strictly speaking, counter to the spirit of Part XVII.
- Several States have already made their respective languages the sole language of administration. As if to hurt the prospects of students from poorer sections, States stipulate mother-tongue instruction being mandatory only in government and aided schools. The well-off are free to access English medium education in private schools.
Validity of the TLF:
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 (in Karnataka v. Recognised-Unaided Schools) that imposition of even the mother tongue as the medium of instruction is violative of one’s fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression [Article 19(1)(a)]. Reflecting the ‘condition’ that Article 344(3) imposes on the language policy that it must “have due regard to the industrial, cultural and scientific advancement of India,” the Bench advanced the rationale for English: “For example, prescribing English as a medium of instruction in subjects of higher education for which only English books are available and which can only be properly taught in English may have a direct bearing and impact on the determination of standards of education.”
Way ahead – The government must amend Part XVII of the Constitution (which deals with the language policy) to be in sync with the global trend of mother tongue plus English.
Categories: POINT IAS