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Lanka seeks tips on language gap

Sri Lanka has asked India for help to emulate its three-language education policy to teach Tamil in Sinhala dominated areas and Sinhalese to ethnic Tamils in the island nation slowly emerging from decades of ethnic conflict.

delhi Updated: Oct 15, 2010 22:37 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi

Sri Lanka has asked India for help to emulate its three-language education policy to teach Tamil in Sinhala dominated areas and Sinhalese to ethnic Tamils in the island nation slowly emerging from decades of ethnic conflict.

The HRD ministry will soon send experts to Sri Lanka to share India’s experience in handling linguistic differences and to explain the nuances of India’s language policy, government sources told HT. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Pereis on Friday met HRD Minister Kapil Sibal.

Under India’s three language formula, schools students across India learn English, their mother tongue and a third language that depends on the most widely spoken language in their state. Students in Hindi-speaking states learn one of the other official languages of India as their third language while students in other states learn Hindi as their third language.

“The fundamental idea behind the three-language policy is to ensure that every child studies in his mother tongue and one national language, while also learning the basics of a third language that will help understand other cultures of the country,” a government veteran explained. The third language is usually taught predominantly at the secondary school level.

Sri Lanka, source said, is keen to emulate the policy to ensure that ethnic Tamils are taught at least basic Sinhalese and the Sinhala speaking majority learns Tamil as well.

Students in Sinhala dominated areas may learn English and Sinhalese as principal languages with Tamil as the third language, and students in Tamil dominated areas may learn Tamil and English along with Sinhala as their third language.

India can also share its experiences battling language politics. The three language policy was the outcome of staunch protests in southern India against the perceived imposition of Hindi as a principal language in educational institutions.