The clause recommending mandatory Hindi teaching in schools, as expected, did not sit well with people in many states, most notably, Tamilnadu. Amid, intense backlash that the union government faced following the declaration, the clause was dropped from the National Education Policy.
However, the revised draft NEP still contains the recommendation for the introduction of a three-language formula from grade 1 onwards. The choice of the languages has been made elective.
The revision was carried out by the committee entrusted to draft the NEP and not the central government.
Search for common ground
“This was an alternative option already approved by us. We had kept options for many controversial cases. It is something I learnt from my ISRO days, to always have a backup ready. If you look at the overall policy, there is substantial space devoted to recognizing the diversity and multilingual nature of the country, and giving autonomy to the States. This [clause] was slightly out of step with the spirit in which the policy was written. So we thought the other formulation removes any misunderstanding and assuages feelings in the affected States.” Said the head of the committee and the former ISRO chief, K. Kasturirangan,
Since the publication of the original draft, Tamilnadu erupted in protests organized by the opposition parties. Notably, even the AIADMK, which is an ally of the ruling central government, refused to make amends to the existing to language formula.
besides Tamilnadu, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Karnataka also saw protests. Centre was driven to the backfoot as a result and mitigating twitterati surfaced exclaiming that there would be no imposition of Hindi without further consultations. In a climax of sorts, a revised draft of the NEP was uploaded on the internet by the HRD ministry.
Allegations of Inflexibility
The original sentence that is in the center of the controversy was titled ‘Flexibility in the choice of languages’. It read “In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6, so long as the study of three languages by students in the Hindi-speaking states would continue to include Hindi and English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India, while the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi-speaking states would include the regional language, Hindi and English.”
Following the revision it reads “In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one or more of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6 or Grade 7, so long as they are able to still demonstrate proficiency in three languages (one language at the literature level) in their modular Board Examinations some time during secondary school.”
Though the revision is seen as placating enough, not everyone seems to be placated. There are imminent educations who are of the opinion that the three-language formula, by its very nature, amounts to imposition. Vasanthi Devi, a prominent Tamil educationist and former Vice Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University says that an education policy laying down uniform instruction for diverse states is not utilitarian. “In practice, imposing a three-language formula means that Hindi will be imposed in many non-Hindi speaking States because of lack of teachers for other languages, while many Hindi-speaking States will simply opt for Sanskrit as their third language.” she said.
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