The clause recommending mandatory Hindi teaching in all schools was dropped from the draft National Education Policy on Monday, after the Union government faced an intense backlash from Tamil Nadu, as well as protests from some other States.
However, the revised draft retains the recommendation to introduce a three-language formula from Class 1 onwards; it simply removes the clause stipulating the specific languages that students must choose.
The revision was not done by the Central government. It was made by the committee that drafted the policy.
Former ISRO chief K. Kasturirangan, who headed the committee, told The Hindu, “This was an alternative option already approved by us. We had kept options for many controversial cases. It is something I learnt from my ISRO days, to always have a backup ready. If you look at the overall policy, there is substantial space devoted to recognising the diversity and multilingual nature of the country, and giving autonomy to the States. This [clause] was slightly out of step with the spirit in which the policy was written. So we thought the other formulation removes any misunderstanding and assuages feelings in the affected States.”
Since the original draft was released on Friday evening, all Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu blasted the recommendations, and even the ruling AIADMK, allied to the NDA government in power at the Centre, refused to dilute the State’s two language formula. Protests were also seen over the weekend in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Karnataka. The Centre went into damage control mode on Sunday, with senior Cabinet Ministers tweeting reassurances that Hindi would not be imposed without further consultations. Finally, the revised draft was uploaded by the Human Resource Development Ministry on Monday morning.
The controversial sentence appeared in Section 4.5.9, titled ‘Flexibility in the choice of languages’. It said: “In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6, so long as the study of three languages by students in the Hindi-speaking states would continue to include Hindi and English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India, while the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi-speaking states would include the regional language, Hindi and English.”
That has now been replaced by the following sentence: “In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one or more of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6 or Grade 7, so long as they are able to still demonstrate proficiency in three languages (one language at the literature level) in their modular Board Examinations some time during secondary school.”
Not everyone is satisfied by the changes. “The three-language formula itself is an unnecessary imposition,” said Vasanthi Devi, a prominent Tamil educationist and former Vice Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University. She felt that a single education policy laying out detailed common instructions for very different States was not useful. “In practice, imposing a three-language formula means that Hindi will be imposed in many non-Hindi speaking States because of lack of teachers for other languages, while many Hindi-speaking States will simply opt for Sanskrit as their third language.”