[Lgpolicy-list] [lg policy] Tamil Nadu, India: State boards have own 3-language mantra

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Nov 29 16:31:59 UTC 2014

State boards have own 3-language mantraTNN | Nov 29, 2014, 04.02 AM IST


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CHENNAI: The controversy around the HRD ministry's insistence on teaching
only Indian languages in middle school appears to be at odds with the state
of affairs in school boards across states. While the Centre has faulted
Kendriya Vidyalayas for teaching German in Classes VI to VIII, regional
boards have a laissez-faire policy, allowing foreign languages to be taught
at the equivalent level.

Secondary divisions, depending on which part of the country they're in, can
choose from Latin, Portuguese, Persian, Arabic, French, Spanish and German
apart from Indic languages. These options stem from the availability of
teachers to a region's cultural diversity.

A Class VIII student of Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary
Education can pick from Portuguese, French, German, Konkani, Sanskrit,
Kannada and Urdu as third language. Puducherry offers French, Tamil, Hindi,
Sanskrit and English. Bengal has Hindi, Bengali, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian,
Latin and Greek.

Abundance of resources allows Mumbai and Delhi schools to follow a similar
flexible approach. Often in the absence of strict board regulations, a
school's location and availability of teachers are the only determinants.
The three-language formula of English and any two modern Indian languages,
which the Centre seeks to resurrect, was introduced in the 1960s to promote
national integration by facilitating the learning of Hindi in southern
states and other Indian languages in Hindi-speaking regions. More than 50
years later each state has modified the policy to suit its needs.

The reluctance to accord Hindi importance in non-Hindi-speaking states and
the urge to promote the state language have meant further deviation from
the policy. TN follows a two-language formula. Tamil, as mother tongue of
the majority, is taught as first language in government and private state
board schools. English is medium of instruction in most private schools.
There's no compulsion to learn a third language.

In many states, Sanskrit was a predominant third language choice,
especially where parents had transferable jobs. For, there was greater
likelihood of schools elsewhere offering it. In recent years enrolment for
Sanskrit has fallen because more schools offer foreign languages. Private
schools teach languages based on demand or availability of teachers. Big
city institutions often have resources allowing them to teach foreign

A private matriculation school in Tiruvallur near Chennai offers Japanese.
"We wanted to introduce a foreign language for employability reasons. We
offer Japanese - the only foreign language we found a teacher for," says
school correspondent P Vishnucharan.

For many students, choice depends on higher education plans. Jeyanthi John,
a Class VII student in a Chennai private CBSE school, said she switched
from matriculation to CBSE because her parents wanted her to have the
option of studying Hindi and French. "My parents believe in thinking
global, acting local. They made extra efforts to get my brother and me into
a school that offered language options. They wanted us to be equipped if we
travel within or outside the country."

Given these circumstances, imposing a fixed three-language formula is
unreasonable, feel academics. "It's important to learn a language for
practical use. Instead of rejecting a foreign language, it's time for a
relook at our language policy in schools. This calls for an education
system revamp and a change in attitude among policy makers, schools,
parents and students," said Sonal Kulkarni Joshi, treasurer, Linguistic
Society of India. "We need to find room within the curriculum to make it
possible for a child to learn more than one Indian language without having
to contend with an examination," she added.


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