Language Policy In Indian Education: Pile It Up On The Children

I figured out how the Indian educational system initiates rote learning for students by turning upside down the LSRW approach in acquiring languages. However, I could not understand the reason, then.

I know that Indian students are taught multiple languages; I was a student myself, long back. However, I was taken aback when I read that currently, NCERT recommends that students learn a minimum of five (5) languages in their schooling years.

The quote from NCERT website: We strongly believe that all children should leave school with CALP (Cognitive Advance Language Proficiency) in at least three languages; they should of course know a couple of others at least at the level of BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills).

Now, I think I can connect the dots. The Indian education system has no option but to upturn the LSRW approach for teaching languages. They have to torture the child with so many languages and ensure that there is some resemblance of learning at the end of it. There is no time for the conventional time-taking methodical LSRW approach. What has to be done? Pile it up on the children. Bash on regardless. Focus on Writing, Reading might follow later. The student is left on her/his own for Speaking and Listening.

This brings us to the larger picture of what is the language policy in Indian Education and what purpose it serves?

The Language Policy

The Constitution, adopted in 1950, necessitated that English and Hindi be utilized for conducting the Union’s official business for a time of fifteen years [s. 343(2) and 343(3)]. After that time, Hindi should turn into the sole official dialect of the Union. This did not happen. What to do now?

  • Education policymakers knew that Hindi cannot be disrespected, so teach Hindi.
  • They recognized that English is not going to leave the Indian shores, so teach English.
  • Now, they became conscious that except for the northern states, Hindi is not the mother tongue for the rest of the citizens of the country. So, teach the third language.
  • Sanskrit is practically not used anywhere in the country. But we cannot forget the glorious past of the country. So, teach the fourth language.
  • Now, with so many commissions and omissions, we are bound to step on the toes of some of the communities and religions. To respect their feelings, teach the fifth language.

I know I made the above explanation up. However, there is no other practical way of explaining this silly obsession of teaching five languages to students.

The language policy takes into account the reality of multilingualism, the push and pulls of regionalism, the political need to carry every religion and community together and the inevitability of English. The hotchpotch ragtag mishmash jumble of teaching five languages is the incorrigible output.

Just that, it fails to take into account the audience for this folly of a policy. The children pay the price for this craziness and bear the brunt of taking the load of studying five languages.

The Purpose

NCERT dutifully mentions “We should also note that several recent studies have effectively demonstrated the positive relationship of multilingualism with cognitive growth, social tolerance, divergent thinking and scholastic achievement.” NCERT does not give a link to any of these studies.

I am not aware of any other country in the world that is teaching five languages to their children. Would other countries not be aware of what their children are missing out on by not studying five languages? This seems to be a well-guarded secret by Indian educationists.

Indian society is as much an inequitable and discriminatory as it can be. When it comes to social ills and leaving the marginal and vulnerable sections unprotected, benefits of multilingualism, as quoted by NCERT, seems to have bypassed India.

Rather, I feel that by making a child focus on so many languages simultaneously, Indian education system ensures that the child does not master any. Leave aside becoming a master of languages, s/he would abhor the languages. Do you need proof? Check the number of students opting for JEE/NEET and those opting for humanities at +2 level.

I agree that bilingualism is helpful for the child, but it is about two languages. Why is the third language getting added to the conundrum? The further addition of the fourth and fifth language is a sheer torment of young minds.

Would NCERT be conducting alternative studies that limiting the languages for school children to a maximum of two would lead to a better academic outcome? Apart from letting children enjoy their childhood, seemingly an objective that is long forgotten.

Apart from increasing the weight of school bags, I see no purpose of the language policy in Indian education.

What would be your views about the language policy in Indian education and the purpose it serves?

PS: I do not think, though, five languages are being taught to children anywhere in the country. It is another silly government rule that no school cares to follow. Even though the children are burdened with 3/4 languages, and that itself is too many.

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