The union human resource development ministry (HRD) is drafting a new language policy for the education sector and has set up a committee to look into the matter. The committee that comprises eminent educationists will submit its report within a year.
The decision to set up the committee comes close on the heels of the controversy over the three-language formula and replacing German with Sanskrit in Kendriya Vidyalayas in schools last October.
“The committee has been entrusted with the task to draw up a comprehensive language policy for the country. It has been given the mandate to decide on the link language and look at ways to promote classical languages such as Sanskrit, Tamil etc,” says a source not wanting to be named.
Till date, the three-language formula has been described in the national curriculum framework NCERT. It states that English will be the first language, Hindi or Urdu will be the second and the third will be any of the modern Indian languages. Sanskrit can be studied either as a modern or a classical Indian language.
In 2004, the government accorded status of classical languages to Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada and Telegu and in 2013 to Malayalam and Oriya.
The committee, which was constituted in January this year, has been entrusted with the task of studying the existing policies and programmes of the government of India and the states, the efficacy of present language initiatives of the government and promotion of various languages, identifying gaps, suggesting remedies and modifications. It will also look into the issue of establishing a link language for educational purposes, promote the six classical languages, and assess the role of various language promotion councils, autonomous organisations and universities, the source said.
The panel will also look into the role of educational institutions with regard to medium of instruction, and the language in which different subjects are being taught in different states, It will comment on the efficacy of the schemes related to preservation and promotion of tribal and extinct languages, the source said.
Research projects on the promotion of classical languages, will also be examined, with the panel providing a roadmap to be followed for protection and promotion of linguistic and cultural diversity of India, the source added.
Anita Abbi, a former linguistics professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University and president of the Linguistic Society of India, says that the task of drawing up a comprehensive language policy for the country is a challenging one. Studies have found that the dropout rate of students in small towns and villages is very high because they find it difficult to follow lessons taught in class as it is not in their mother tongue. Language/medium of instruction should be judiciously selected while imparting education to ensure that the child does not end up spending more time in translating lessons rather than understanding them.