- Government revises draft National Education Policy 2019
- Thousands, especially in southern states, had protested
- Several politicians warned against forced imposition of Hindi language
The government has made a big change in its draft education policy after a huge outcry over a three-language plan that required children in southern states to compulsorily learn Hindi. In the new draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019, the reference to Hindi has been removed in the controversial clause.
"In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one or more of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6 or Grade 7, so long as they are able to still demonstrate proficiency in three languages...," says the revised draft.
The old version had said Hindi and English would continue to be among the three languages students would study in schools, be it in Hindi or non-Hindi speaking states.
Thousands, especially in the southern states, had protested what was seen as an effort to make Hindi mandatory till Class 8.
Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman's tweet summed up the passion in the protests. "Hindi is not mandatory in Tamil Nadu. Draft policy corrected. Beautiful solution,'" he tweeted.
Tamil Nadu's main parties AIADMK and DMK led the protest against what they described as imposition of Hindi as a mandatory third language in schools to serve a political purpose in the long term.
The state's ruling AIADMK had said the state would follow only the two-language policy of learning Tamil and English, and would boycott the new policy.
The DMK says it is opposed to the concept of a three- language formula. "The three-language formula with or without Hindi is unacceptable to Tamil Nadu. The thee-language formula is a tool to impose Hindi," said DMK Spokesperson A Saravanan.
The subject of Hindi being taught in schools in South India has been an emotive one, particularly in Tamil Nadu; the region saw anti-Hindi protests from 1937 to 1940 and again in 1965.
The Draft National Education Policy has been prepared by an expert panel led by Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
The policy says the three-language formula as a means of "promoting multilingual communicative abilities for a multilingual country" and children would "now be immersed in three languages early on, starting from the Foundational Stage onwards".
The part that provoked a howl of protests from states like Tamil Nadu was this: "In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6, so long as the study of three languages by students in Hindi-speaking states would continue to include Hindi and English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India, while the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi speaking states would include the regional language, Hindi and English."
The government assured that the policy would be adopted only based on feedback. On Sunday, even Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar posted identical messages on Twitter, assuring that the draft will be reviewed before implementation. Both the ministers are from Tamil Nadu and their tweets were in Tamil.
But the protests had continued. Even this morning, the DMK pledged to strongly oppose the Hindi move and Maharashtra politician Raj Thackeray's party had said: "Hindi is not the national language. Don't force it on us and give us a headache."