In an apparent climbdown months after it replaced German with Sanskrit as the third language in Kendriya Vidyalaya schools, the Smriti Irani-led HRD Ministry is looking at how “foreign languages can be prescribed as an additional tool” in a “highly competitive world” and whether the three-language formula should be “debated”.
Both these issues are set to be taken up at a meeting of state education ministers and secretaries on Saturday to discuss the consultative process in formulating the new national education policy. In a detailed note on the “themes and questions for policy consultations” during the meeting, the ministry has listed 13 broad themes for school education and 20 for higher education.
When the Board of Governors of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), headed by Irani, scrapped German as the third language in October last year (German has been kept as an additional subject/ hobby class), the minister had cited the three-language formula and the Constitution. According to this formula, schools should teach Hindi, English and one modern Indian language (preferably one of the southern languages) in Hindi-speaking states and Hindi, English and the regional language in non-Hindi speaking states. Introduced in 1968, this formula was reiterated in the 1986 education policy, as well as in 2005.
But in its latest note, under the head of “promotion of languages” in school education, the ministry has said that a “multilingual society recognises the importance of education in languages”.
Among the questions that have been listed are:
* In a highly competitive world, at which level and how can foreign languages be prescribed as an additional tool?
* What language would you like your children to learn in schools?
* What should be the place of Hindi, English and local languages in school education?
* Which language would be preferred as a medium of instruction in schools?
* Should education in mother tongue and multilingual education in schools be encouraged?
The note also emphasises the importance of “mother tongue-based” education. “While there are some interventions for appointment of language teachers and promotion of classical languages, there is no comprehensive scheme or language policy and we need to have inputs on this dimension,” it says.
The note says “there is a general perception that children learning through English-medium have an advantage over others while entering the world of work”.
In an indication that there may be a revision of textbooks, the note also questions if there is a “need to improve secondary/ senior secondary textbooks” and how many languages should be taught at the secondary/ senior secondary levels.
Another issue that is likely to be discussed is whether abolition of Class X exams has “reduced learning levels” of students.
For higher education, a question that has been listed is if universities should “include foundation courses on cultural integration” and if “Indology studies” should be a part of the curriculum.