An avoidable controversy

The Union government’s attempt to >replace German with Sanskrit as the third language taught in Kendriya Vidyalayas for Classes VI to VIII in the middle of an academic year is oblivious to the interests of students as also to the need to ensure credibility in dealings with other nations. Its explanation is that a memorandum of understanding signed between the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) under the previous regime with the Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan — to teach German as a third language — is illegal and violative of the National Education Policy. Several school systems in the country include foreign languages such as French and German as even a second language, and so far no one has ever questioned their legality. In this case, German was only one of the options for the third language offered by the KVS and the MoU was never intended to make it compulsory. The fact that over 70,000 students across 500 schools opted for it speaks volumes about the preference among students and parents to learn a foreign language to boost their career prospects. Student preference for Sanskrit as a third language remains unclear. The HRD Ministry seems insensitive to the impact of its decision so late in the academic year on students who have taken up the language. It is obvious that the present regime’s eagerness to demonstrate its commitment to Sanskrit overrides the interests of students, as well as the notion of sanctity of agreements reached with institutions backed by foreign states.

The Supreme Court has questioned the haste with which Sanskrit is sought to be introduced in the middle of an academic year. The government’s claim that it will ensure that students are not put undue stress by adopting an entry level syllabus and marking system shows that its keenness to promote Sanskrit is mere tokenism. The court seems to have endorsed the policy of introducing the learning of Sanskrit, described as ‘the mother of many languages’, as a third language, but only wants the decision to be implemented from the next academic year. To be fair, the November 11, 2014, office memorandum replacing German says students can learn either Sanskrit or any other ‘modern Indian language’ as third language. German will be relegated to the non-serious ‘hobby class’. The moot question, however, is whether at all Sanskrit should be counterpoised against German when there should be a place for both the languages, with students being allowed to choose Sanskrit or another modern Indian or European language. Such counterpoising is all the more ironic considering that German academia has had a long tradition of scholarship in Sanskrit and Indian studies.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 6:45:05 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/Sanskrit-in-Kendriya-Vidyalayas-An-avoidable-controversy/article59784210.ece