What is the issue?
The Centre has moved quickly to withdraw its plan of making Hindi compulsory.
The reference in the newly unveiled draft National Education Policy to mandatory teaching of Hindi in all States was withdrawn following an outcry from political leaders in Tamil Nadu, a State that is quite sensitive to any hint of ‘Hindi imposition’ by the Centre.
The gist of the original sentence in the draft NEP was that students could change one of the three languages of study in Grade 6, provided that in Hindi-speaking States they continued to study Hindi, English and one other Indian language of their choice, and those in non-Hindi-speaking States would study their regional language, besides Hindi and English.
What does the modified draft say?
The modified draft under the heading ‘Flexibility in the choice of languages’, has omitted references to the language that students may choose. The revised draft merely says students may change one or more of their three languages in Grade 6 or 7, “so long as they still demonstrate proficiency in three languages (one language at the literature level) in their modular Board examinations some time during secondary school”.
It may not amount to a complete reversal. However, there is a larger issue here. Ever since the Constitution adopted Hindi as the official language, with English also as an official language for 15 years initially, there has been considerable tension between those who favour the indefinite usage of English and those who want to phase it out and give Hindi primacy. In Tamil Nadu, it is seen as a creeping imposition of Hindi in subtle and not-so-subtle forms. The tension has been managed based on the statesmanship behind Jawaharlal Nehru’s assurance in 1959 that English would be an associate language as long as there are States that desire it. Unfortunately, differences based on language especially in the form of imposing the three-language formula on States, keep on arising.