It is going to be the last few years of French being offered as a second language in schools affiliated to the State government. Under the Tamil Nadu Learning Act 2006, Tamil was made compulsory for students of class I from the academic year 2006-07. The law made Tamil compulsory as the first language, English as the second language and study of any other language by students, who had neither Tamil nor English as their mother tongue, optional.

The first batch of students for which the rule came into effect is now in class VI. A good number of Matriculation and Anglo-Indian schools that offer a choice of languages, from class VIII onwards, will have to rethink whether to continue offering a choice of third languages – French, Hindi, Sanskrit – as an optional subject or discontinue it as there would be no public examination in the subject. “Many parents of children hailing from north Indian States have expressed disappointment over the government's move. We are at a loss,” said Shalini Pillay, principal, Lady Andal Venkatasubbarao Matriculation Higher Secondary School. The school offers French in classes VIII, IX and X, but will have to shortly offer it as a third language. “French is also easy to score, so there are many takers,” said Ms. Pillay, adding that 30-40 students in a batch of 90 currently opt for the foreign language.

While some schools say they will continue offering French as at the higher secondary level Tamil is not mandatory and there are many takers for a foreign language, a few schools think it would not matter much as learning an additional subject only adds to the burden of a student.

The fate is the same for minority language schools as the State follows the two-language formula. Educationists say a majority of the parents would not want to burden their child with an additional language, and so the strength of minority language schools is gradually decreasing leading to their possible closure.

Besides restricting outstation students from joining a school at the middle or high school level, heads of institutions say they are going to lose out as those not keen on learning Tamil will seek transfer to other Boards. The fate of language teachers is equally worrying. “It is a question for the management, especially Hindi teachers. If they have majored in some other subject then you can think of putting them. But, what do we do with teachers who only know Hindi?,” asks V. Lazarus, vice-principal, CSI Ewart Matriculation Higher Secondary School. Schools affiliated to the CBSE and ICSE offer foreign languages such as French and German as options.

Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan initially wanted to extend German classes from higher secondary schools to high school level but discontinued the plan after schools expressed doubts whether the Act would be amended. Teachers say that at least another Indian language could be offered as choice for students not keen on learning Tamil. Some of the city schools also made a representation to the Federation of Matriculation Schools.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012