As a debate rages over the Human Resource Development Ministry’s decision to scrap German as a third language in Kendriya Vidyalayas, German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue in her bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Brisbane on Sunday.
According to a spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Modi assured Merkel that his government would work out how it can be best done within the confines of the Indian system. “I myself am a votary of young Indian children learning other languages,” Modi was said to have told Merkel.
The spokesperson said the Chancellor was keen that Modi decide the best way forward to resolve the issue. Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to HRD Minister Smriti Irani on the issue following his meeting with Merkel, the spokesperson said he was aware of the situation and the circumstances following which the decision was taken.
“The decision was in accordance with judicial pronouncements on the issue of third language being one other than an Indian language,” the spokesperson said.
There are other mechanisms to learn foreign languages, the spokesperson said, adding that these can otherwise be learnt by children in schools.
The spokesperson said Modi believes that children should know as many languages as possible since it will not only help them in job opportunities elsewhere in the world, but also play a role in their overall development.
In New Delhi, Michael Steiner, Germany’s Ambassador to India, said he was confident that a solution would soon be found “respecting the laws of India”.
“I was confident before and I’m even more confident now, when the two leaders have spoken to each other and expressed their will to find a solution to this problem,” he said.
Steiner said he was in touch with the government and was pursuing the matter. He expressed the hope that a practical, workable solution would soon be found in the interest of students, India as well as Germany. He added that Sanskrit gets high respect from Germany as they are both “brother languages.”
Minister Smriti Irani, while defending the decision to do away with German as a third language in Kendriya Vidyalayas, had said it would continue to be taught as an “additional subject of hobby class”.
The decision is expected to affect over 60,000 students across 500 KVs from classes VI to VIII who will be asked to switch from German. Ministry officials said counselling and other support will be provided to the students.
The memorandum of understanding signed between KVS and Goethe Institute-Max Mueller Bhawan in 2011 was due for renewal in September. The Ministry said the MoU was also not referred to it at any stage for approval. It said certain provisions in the MoU violate the National Policy on Education, the National Curriculum Framework and the Three Language Formula.
The Ministry clarified that students were not obliged to pick Sanskrit as the third language and could choose any modern Indian language they were comfortable with.