[Lgpolicy-list] [lg policy] Deutsche Welle:

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Nov 18 16:06:09 UTC 2014

Sanskrit or German? A row over foreign languages in India's schools

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken to India's PM Narendra Modi
about his order that state schools stop teaching German as a foreign
language. The move is designed to promote more traditional Indian
 [image: School students in India]

India's government has ordered a state-run school association to stop
offering German as a language option for its more than a million students
and focus on promoting more traditional languages such as Sanskrit instead.

The country's government gave the order to the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan
(KVS), or the Central School Organization, on Saturday, November 15. Human
Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani told the Indian Express
newspaper the decision was made in "the national interest," and that young
people could continue to study German as a hobby for no academic credit.
The organization has 1,092 schools across India, for the children of army
officials and government staff.

*Local vs foreign*

The announcement throws exam preparations into chaos, with 68,000 students
in grades six to eight due to sit exams in less than three months. The
students will be asked in the coming days if they wish to switch from
learning German. The KVS says it will be providing counseling and extra
support to those directly affected by the change.
 [image: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela

German chancellor Merkel raised the issue with Indian PM Modi when the two
met on the sidelines of the G20 summit

However privately-run schools will continue to be free to provide a range
of foreign languages, including German.

India's government promotes a "three-language policy," designed to
encourage schools to teach students Hindi, English and "an Indian language"
such as Sanskrit. But many schools have allowed students to study another
foreign language such as German in place of Hindi or Sanskrit, while
schools in non-Hindi speaking regions generally teach on a "two-language
policy" basis, ignoring Hindi altogether.

The alleged violation of the national educational curriculum was uncovered
in October, when a 2011 memorandum signed by the KVS and the Goethe
Institute came up for renewal. Indian Minister Irani says an investigation
has now been opened into how this agreement originally came to be, calling
it illegal.

Prior to this, India's Sanskrit Teachers Association (SSS) had begun legal
action in Delhi's High Court, saying the continued allowance of German in
the school curriculum went against national education policy. The group
also described the teaching of foreign languages in Indian schools as "a
Western conspiracy."
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*More options for students*

On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue with India's
Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the two met on the sidelines of the G20
summit in Brisbane, Australia.

Following the meeting India's foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin
said although no decisions had been made, Modi had made it clear his first
priority was the students.

"Indian PM Narendra Modi assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he
would look into the matter. Modi told Merkel that he wanted Indian children
to have the chance to learn as many languages as possible," said Akbaruddin.

On Monday, November 17, German Ambassador Michael Steiner said while he
understood the motivation behind the government's announcement, he hoped it
would consider letting German remain as a foreign language option.

"There is no harm in learning the Sanskrit language as it is an integral
part of the Indian culture and society. But if the Indian students want to
learn a modern language to improve their professional prospects, they
should be given the opportunity," he told DW.

*Language politics*

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been pushing for Sanskrit to play a
bigger role in Indian society. Although he can speak some English, Prime
Minister Modi speaks almost exclusively in Hindi, a controversial action
for some in a country where English is one of the official languages.

Though in the most recent national census only 14,000 people identified
Sanskrit as their primary language, it is considered the root of many of
the country's more than 20 official languages, and is particularly
important in Hinduism.


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