languages (question) (was Re: pronunciation of Sanskrit)

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at
Mon Apr 14 21:25:19 UTC 1997

On Sun, 13 Apr 1997, Jacob Baltuch wrote:

> In response to a question of mine S. Palaniappan wrote:
> >The attitude of the Indian Government as experienced by Prof. Harman and the
> >farcical following of three-language formula by Hindi-speaking states is
> >well-known.
> Please excuse my ignorance but what is that three-language formula?

Federal education policy in India requires that every accredited school
teach three languages to children. Usually, for non-Hindi speaking states,
this means that basic courses in English, Hindi and the regional language
of the state are required. This means that if you are a Tamilian living in
Bombay or a Punjabi living in Madras, you will most probably not be able
to learn your native language at school. Sanskrit or a foreign language
can be substituted as the third language in the higher grades, especially
if you want to earn a high score in the state level examinations after the
tenth grade. The fact that you can answer greater than 90% of a Sanskrit
examination in English helps you earn the score, although you may not
really learn any Sanskrit. 

> >(They are supposed to study a non-Hindi language, but it is simply not done.)
> You mean a non-Hindi language to add as language of the Union?

For Hindi speaking states, the third language is supposed to be another
Indian language. The complaint is not about including a language to the
official list of Indian languages, but about the actual practice of
teaching (or not teaching) a non-Hindi language to native speakers of
Hindi. Nowadays, I hear Tamil is becoming popular as a third language in
Uttar Pradesh schools, because of the popularity of Periyar (E. V.
Ramaswami Naicker) and Anna (C. N. Annadurai) among its politicians. 

> >Tamilnadu and, if I am not mistaken, West Bengal openly adopted the two-
> >language formula.
> Are you talking of a federal two-language formula (in which case how can
> Tamilnadu and West Bengal do it on their own since this by definition
> would involve the whole country?), but if you mean at the state level,

Indian officialdom classifies most things into three lists - a union list,
a state list and a joint list. Defense, currency etc. are on the union
list and an individual state has no jurisdiction over them. Items on the
state list are supposed to be under the sole jurisdiction of the
individual state, but in practice, the union government usually gets
involved in the form of special tribunals or some such - e.g. water rights
and the disputes arising over the sharing of water among the different
states through which a river flows. 

Education is on the joint list, which means that both the union govt and
the state govt have a say in the matter. Tamil Nadu has eliminated 
teaching of Hindi from state-accredited schools. This means that if a
domicile of the state of Tamil Nadu wants to learn Hindi, she should 
attend private classes, or else go to a school that follows a syllabus
prescribed by NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and
Training), instead of the local state examination board. Tamil Nadu's
decision to boycott Hindi extends not only to education, but also to
Doordarshan broadcasts of the news in Hindi. That time slot is used for
Tamil news, whereas in a state like Maharashtra, Marathi news is broadcast
at a different time. Thus, a state can sometimes take decisions on a
joint-list item, that directly contradict official federal policy. 
Needless to say, this means that the state government has been dominated
by a non-Congress party for most of the past 50 years.

S. Vidyasankar

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