news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

By Sandhya Ramesh

December 4, 2014| 10.00 pm IST

Saying that Sanskrit replaced German is extreme over-simplification and is also highly inaccurate. Back in 1968, the Three-Language Formula was established (and reiterated in 1986) for secondary schools in the Indian National Education Policy. Secondary school is classes 6, 7, and 8.

This policy was created to aid the development of regional languages and to strengthen Hindi in south Indian states. The formula explicitly states this about the languages that need to be studied in secondary schools:

(i) In Hindi speaking States: 

(a) Hindi (with Sanskrit as part of the composite course);
(b) Urdu or any other modern Indian language excluding (a);
(c) English or any other modern European language.

ii) In non-Hindi speaking States:

(a) Hindi (alone, or with Urdu as a composite course in AP);
(b) Regional language or mother tongue;
(c) English or any other modern European language.

The formula can be simplified as English or any European language, Hindi, and any regional language or Sanskrit or Urdu.

You can already see you don't know how and why German came along if this is the law. Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, aided by Congress, signed an MoU with Goethe Institut-Max Mueller Bhavan in 2011, that enabled German to be taught in secondary schools by doing away with the third modern Indian language. This decision was in violation of the Education Policy and not approved by the Education ministry. There is currently an ongoing investigation into this matter. The MoU contract was set to expire in three years -- in the middle of the 2014 academic year.

What Ms. Smriti Irani did was a mere revert of this illegal decision as soon as the contract expired, but at a horribly wrong time. Indian media is not a stranger to "saffronizing" any decision taken by the Centre. This is one such story that has been distorted out of proportion again, bringing in fluff about RSS influence without painting a full picture. The fact that people seem to be focusing more on "imposing" Sanskrit over German, rather than focusing solely on the fact that the change is happening very abruptly in the middle of the school year shows a complete lack of understanding fueled by political motivation.

There are many parts to this story that are not known by the masses. Firstly, this decision affects students only from Class 6 to Class 8, only in KVs. I have heard news anchors saying that this decision affects lakhs and lakhs of students across the country. Wrong. It affects only 70,000 students from KVs, 25,000 of whom only took up the change to Sanskrit instead of German. That is because, secondly, German is going to be continued as an optional foreign language and students who had studied German can continue studying it, although they have to study another language in addition. This language, thirdly, might or might not be Sanskrit, as Ms. Irani has frustratedly pointed out on multiple occasions.

The third mandatory language for students studying in Classes 6 to 8 should be any regional Indian language or Sanskrit. Students are free to choose Tamil or Tulu or Assamese or Gujarati or Urdu over Sanskrit. Sanskrit always has been, and will continue to be, an elective. Moreover, not many people know that German was not taught by qualified teachers. Sanskrit teachers in KVs were given training by teachers from the Goethe Institut to teach German in schools!

Here are the minutes of meeting between Ms. Smriti Irani and Kendriya Vidyala Sangathan. Pages 2 and 3 explain the situation in full detail and clarity. It's almost laughable that all of this information, which includes a statement by the school that German was introduced illegally and the fact that Sanskrit is one of the elective options, is out there in public, and people call this RSS powered Sanskrit imposition over modernization.

All of the sticking to procedure, however, does not take away the fact that making a change mid-academic year is an extremely stupid move. There have been counselors and advisors set up to help students deal with this change. One can only hope that they would be helpful. In all likelihood, they are just tools to take away the burdening option of studying both languages by loop-holing to studying neither.

More resources: 

An MHA report detailing the three language formula and how it is not being implemented correctly, going as far as saying that some schools have implemented European languages as a violation of the policy.

This report from 2011 talks about how German was introduced as an experiment in 2009, and due to favorable results, replaced Sanskrit as the third language.

Read- Why economic development should drive Tamil Nadu and not caste based politics

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