Extract of pages 79 to 87 of draft National Education Policy 2019
The issues regarding language are most fundamental to education. Language is a medium of expression of the individual, society and its collective continuity in culture, in addition to being a tool for communication. Language has a direct bearing as the mediator in all cognitive and social capacities, including in knowledge acquisition and production. The science of child development and language acquisition suggests that young children become literate in (as a language) and learn best through (as a medium of instruction) their “local language” i.e. the language spoken at home.Children between the ages of 2 and 8 also have an extremely ﬂexible capacity to learn multiple languages, which is a crucial social capacity that must be harnessed, in addition to the well-established cognitive beneﬁts of multilingualism.
Since children learn languages most quickly between 2-8 years, and multilingualism has great cognitive benefits for students, children will be immersed in three languages early on, from the Foundational Stage.
Education in the home language/mother tongue
It is well-understood that young children learn and grasp nontrivial concepts most quickly in their home language/mother tongue. The Policy further recognises the large numbers of students going to school to classes that are being conducted in a language that they do not understand, causing them to fall behind before they even start learning. Thus there is a strong need for classes in early years to be conducted in students’ local languages. On the other hand, textbooks (especially science textbooks) written in India’s vernaculars at the current time are generally not nearly of the same quality as those written in English. It is important that local languages, including tribal languages, are respected and that excellent textbooks are developed in local languages, when possible, and outstanding teachers are deployed to teach in these languages.
P4.5.1. Home language/mother tongue as medium of instruction: When possible,the medium of instruction - at least until Grade 5 but preferably till at least Grade 8 - will be the home language/mother tongue/local language. Thereafter, the home/local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible. High quality textbooks, including in science, will be made available in home languages as is needed and feasible, e.g. via the Indian Translation and Interpretation Mission (see P4.8.4) or its State counterparts. In cases where such textbook material is not available, the language of transaction between teachers and students will still remain the home language when possible, even if textbooks are, e.g. in the State/regional language.
The school education system will make its best effort to use the regionally preponderant home language as the medium of instruction. However, the system should also make full efforts to establish an adequate number of schools having medium of instruction catering to signiﬁcant linguistic minorities in that region.
P4.5.2. Bilingual approach for those whose language is different from the primary
medium of instruction: The curriculum will encourage a ﬂexible language approach in the classroom. Teachers will be encouraged to use a bilingual approach, including bilingual teaching-learning materials, with those students whose home language may be different from the medium of instruction to ensure smoother transition from the home language to the medium of instruction.
P4.5.3. Exposure to three or more languages in schools: To leverage the enhanced
language-learning abilities of young children, all students from pre-school and Grade 1 onwards will be exposed to three or more languages with the aim of developing speaking proﬁciency and interaction, and the ability to recognise scripts and read basic text, in all three languages by Grade 3. In terms of writing, students will begin writing primarily in the medium of instruction until Grade 3, after which writing with additional scripts will also be introduced gradually.
P4.5.4. Standardising sign language: Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardised
across the country, and National and State curriculum materials developed, for use by students with hearing impairment. Local sign languages will be respected and taught as well where possible and relevant.
Multilingualism and the power of language
Multilinguism is a necessity of India (as of much of the developed world), and must be considered a boon and an opportunity for learning and expanding one’s horizons rather than a burden. Children learn languages extremely quickly when immersed early, and multilingual children in studies around the world have also been found to learn faster and be placed better later in life than those who are unilingual. It enriches them intellectually and culturally, and allows them, throughout their lives, to think in more than one way, by being equipped with the structures of expression, vocabulary, idioms, and literature of more than one language. A multilingual India is better educated and also better nationally integrated. Moreover, India’s languages are some of the richest, most scientiﬁc, and most expressive in the world, with a huge body of ancient as well as modern literature that help form India’s national identity.
Despite the rich, expressive and scientiﬁc nature of Indian languages, there has been an unfortunate trend in schools and society towards English as a medium of instruction and as a medium of conversation. Logically speaking, of course, English has no advantage over other languages in expressing thoughts; on the contrary, Indian languages have been speciﬁcally developed over centuries and generations to express thoughts in the Indian scenario, climate, and culture. Moreover, Indian languages are very scientiﬁcally structured, and do not have unphonetic, complicated spellings of words and numerous grammatical exceptions; they also have a vast and highly sophisticated ancient, medieval, and modern literature in the Indian context; as a consequence, they have a certain home-feel and “apnaapan” quality in the Indian context, making them easier, more relatable, and more relevant for children and adults alike to learn and speak, and with which to learn and express deep concepts across school subjects.
What then is the reason that English is being pursued by so many in India as a medium of instruction and of conversation, when most other technologically advanced countries of the world have naturally kept their own native languages for these purposes? The answer, of course, is that, since Independence, the economic elite of India have adopted English as their language; only about 15% of the country speaks English, and this population almost entirely coincides with the economic elite (compared with, e.g. 54% of Indians who speak Hindi). Furthermore, the elite often use English (whether deliberately or inadvertently) as a test for entry into the elite class and for the jobs that they control: English is regularly used by the elite as a criterion to determine whether someone is “educated”, and perhaps most unfortunately of all, as a prerequisite for jobs - even in cases of jobs where knowledge of English is entirely irrelevant. This sad scenario and attitude (again, it may well
be inadvertent) has resulted in the marginalisation of large sections of society based on language, keeping them out of higher-paying jobs and the higher socio-economic strata.
This attitude has kept the elite class and the jobs they control segregated from the economically weaker sections of society, which of course contain many hardworking, smart, high quality, highly skilled, and educated people who happen not to speak the language of the colonists and current elite. It has created an unnatural aspiration of parents for their children to concentrate on learning and speaking languages that are not their own.
For true equity and inclusion in society, and in the education and employment systems across the country, this power structure of language must be stopped at the earliest. A major effort in this direction must be taken by the elite and the educated to make increased use of languages native to India, and give these languages the space and respect that they deserve (particularly in hiring, societal events, and in schools and all educational institutions, as well as in daily conversation wherever possible). An importance and prominence must be returned to Indian languages that has been lost in recent years. Language teaching jobs must be created in schools and universities across the country to help connect together Indians from differing geographical areas as well as from
differing socio-economic strata.
In particular, taking into account the enhanced abilities of young children to learn languages, and to help break the current divide between the economic elite and the rest of the country, in addition to teaching languages native to India, English must also be available and taught in a high quality manner at all government and non-government schools. The emphasis should be on functionality and ﬂuency. Meanwhile the medium of instruction, and the depth of study of literature, arts, and culture in the Indian context should be conducted and explored to the extent possible through the local language/
mother tongue and other Indian languages.
We further observe that English has not become the international language that it was expected to become back in the 1960s. As already noted, most advanced countries use their own native languages as the languages of interaction and transaction, and it is suggested that India works towards the same, or its rich language and cultural heritage, along with the rich power of expression, may slowly be lost. It is also strongly recommended that interactions between people within India be conducted in languages native to India; thus Indian languages must be heavily promoted again and with new vigour (see Chapter 22).
Of course, English has become an international common language in certain realms such as science and technology research, e.g. most high level scientiﬁc journals around the world at the current time publish predominantly in English. For this reason, it is also important for children (especially those who intend to pursue scientiﬁc subjects at a postgraduate level) to become bilingual in science and to be able to communicate science ﬂuently both in their home/local language and in English. This is in concurrence with the practice in all technologically advanced countries.
P4.5.5. Continuation of the three language formula in schools: The three language formula, followed since the adoption of the National Policy on Education 1968, and endorsed in the National Policy on Education 1986/1992 as well as the NCF 2005, will be continued, keeping in mind the Constitutional provisions and aspirations of the people, regions, and the Union. However, because research now clearly shows that children pick up languages extremely quickly between the ages of 2 and 8, and moreover that multilingualism has great cognitive beneﬁts to students, children will now be immersed in three languages early on, starting from the Foundational Stage onwards.
P4.5.6. Implementation of the three-language formula: The three-language formula will need to be implemented in its spirit throughout the country, promoting multilingual communicative abilities for a multilingual country. However, it must be better implemented in certain States, particularly Hindi speaking States; for purposes of national integration, schools in Hindi speaking areas should also offer and teach Indian languages from other parts of India. This would help raise the status of all Indian languages, the teachers of such languages, and the literature of such languages, and would open positions and increase opportunities for language teachers across the country; it would of course also truly expand horizons and enlarge the range of opportunities for graduating students.
There will be a major effort from both the Central and State governments to invest in large numbers of language teachers in all regional languages around the country, and in particular all Schedule 8 languages. States, especially States from different regions of India, may enter bilateral agreements to hire teachers in large numbers from each other, in order to satisfy the three-language formula in their respective States, and also to encourage the study of Indian languages across the country.
P4.5.7. Recruitment of teachers for language teaching: In localities where there is a shortage of teachers who speak a given language, special efforts will be made, and special schemes rolled out, to recruit teachers (including retired teachers) to that locality who speak that language. There will be a major nationwide effort and initiative for the development of teachers of Indian languages.
P4.5.8. Learning science bilingually: Students whose medium of instruction is the local/home language will begin to learn science bilingually in Grade 8 or earlier, so that by the end of Grade 10 they can speak about science both in their home language and English.
This will enable students to think about scientiﬁc concepts in more than one way, and enable future scientists to talk about their work and about science to their families and to local news channels, write about their work for regional newspapers, and speak to children about their work in their home States and towns to help inspire the next generation.
Being science-bilingual in this way is indeed a boon; most Nobel Prize winners in science indeed report being able to think and speak about science in more than one language. In the current Indian system, many scientists have complained about their inability to think and speak about their subject in their mother tongue, and how this has hindered both their own thinking and their outreach capabilities in their communities.
P4.5.9. Flexibility in the three-language formula: 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 (one language at the literature level) in their modular Board Examinations some time during secondary school (see P4.9.5). Since the modular Board Examinations for language proficiency will indeed test only for basic proficiency in each language, such a change in language choice in Grade 6 would certainly be feasible if the student so desires and would in such cases be supported by teachers and the schooling system. Additional choices of languages would therefore be offered in middle school
for this purpose of choice and flexibility.
P4.5.10. Foreign language offerings in secondary school: A choice of foreign language(s) (e.g. French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese) would be offered and available to interested students to choose as elective(s) during secondary school. Such an elective would indeed be an elective and not in lieu of the three-language formula. Because of the need for excellent translators in the country, one aspect of teaching foreign languages will include translation exercises between Indian and foreign languages.
P4.5.11. Approach to language learning and teaching: During the Foundational stage of education (pre-primary school to Grade 2), languages will be taught in a fun and interactive style with an emphasis on functionality and interaction (Samskrita Bharati and Alliance Francaise, which are organisations in India that teach Sanskrit and French, respectively, may serve as excellent models for such language teaching, and which may be adapted to other languages if desired). Language teaching would consist primarily of conversation (with a knowledge of alphabets and reading basic words) in the Foundational stage. It would move on to more sophisticated reading and basic writing abilities in each language’s script in the Preparatory stage. Writing will be incorporated more extensively during the middle stage. Language teaching at all stages will include extensive speaking exercises (especially in the home/local language in the beginning) to increase students’ power of expression in each language.
In addition, the home/local language and/or second language will be enhanced with the reading of and analysis of uplifting literature from the Indian subcontinent, ancient to modern, and by authors from all walks of life (see also P4.5.12-P4.5.16.); these languages will also be enhanced through other arts, such as by playing and discussing music or ﬁlm excerpts, or engaging in theatre in these languages. The incorporation of literature and other arts relating to language will be incorporated at all stages as appropriate, but particularly in depth during the secondary stage.
When teaching the State language and its literature, other forms of the language and other languages predominant in the region or variations thereof may also receive suitable attention for inclusivity, interest, enjoyment, and enrichment (e.g. excerpts from the rich traditions of Khariboli, Awadhi, Maithili, Braj, and Urdu literature may be included in Hindi courses for inclusivity and enrichment).
Exposure to Languages of India: Modern and
As so many developed countries around the world have amply demonstrated, being well educated in one’s language, culture, and traditions is not a detriment but indeed a huge beneﬁt to educational, social, and technological advancement. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that India’s languages, art, and culture be given a prominence again that has been lost in recent years. These cultural resources of one’s country help make the people human beings equipped with cultural values, identity, and expression, which is necessary to work efﬁciently, creatively, and with happiness.
India’s languages are among the richest, most scientiﬁc, most beautiful, and most expressive in the world, with a huge body of ancient as well as modern literature (both prose and poetry), along with ﬁlms, and music that help form India’s national identity and wealth. For purposes of cultural enrichment as well as national integration, all young Indians should be aware of the rich and vast array of languages of their country, and the treasures that they and their literatures contain.
P4.5.12. Course on the Languages of India: Every student in the country will take a fun course on “The Languages of India” sometime in Grades 6-8. In this course, students will learn about the remarkable unity of most of the major Indian languages, starting with their common phonetic and scientiﬁcally arranged alphabets and scripts, their common grammatical structures, their origins and sources of vocabularies from Sanskrit and other classical languages, as well as their rich inter-inﬂuences and differences. They will also learn what geographical areas speak which languages, get a sense of the nature and structure of tribal languages. They will learn to say a few lines in every major language of India (greetings and other useful or fun phrases), and a bit about the literature (e.g. simple poetry or major uplifting works from a representative and diverse set of authors) of each. Such a class would give them both a sense of the unity and the beautiful cultural heritage and diversity of India, and would be a wonderful icebreaker their entire lives as they meet people from other parts of India.
NCERT, together with SCERTs and language experts from across the country, will be tasked with designing this important course.
Incorporation of relevant excerpts from great works of Indian literature throughout the curriculum: Excerpts from works of great Indian authors, classical and modern, in all Indian languages, suitably translated into the medium of instruction, will be incorporated as relevant throughout the curriculum across all subjects in order to expose students to great inspirational writings of India (e.g. suitable excerpts from works of Shri Rabindranath Tagore may be incorporated in classes on philosophy, writing, ethics, or history, etc.). See also P4.5.14-P4.5.15.
P4.5.13. Classical languages and literatures of India. The importance, relevance, and beauty of the classical languages and literature of India cannot be overlooked. Sanskrit, while also an important modern (Schedule 8) language, possesses a classical literature that is greater in volume than that of Latin and Greek put together, containing vast treasures of mathematics, philosophy, grammar, music, politics, medicine, architecture, metallurgy, drama, poetry, storytelling and more, written by people of various religions as well as non-religious people, and by people from all walks of life and a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds over thousands of years.
India also has an extremely rich literature in other classical languages, including classical Tamil, as well as classical Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Odia, in addition to Pali, Persian, and Prakrit; these classical languages and their literatures too must be preserved for their richness and for the pleasure and enrichment of posterity. When India becomes a fully developed country, the next generation will want to be able to partake in and be enriched as humans by India’s extensive and beautiful classical literature which contain great intellectual and cultural treasures.
P4.5.14. Study of Sanskrit and knowledge of its extensive literature: Sanskrit has been
a great repository of knowledge pertaining to numerous subjects including science, mathematics, medicine, law, economics, politics, music, linguistics, drama, storytelling, architecture, and more, by authors from all walks of life. Sanskrit (and Prakrit) has played a great role in the Indian tradition of the quest for knowledge, including the study of the 64 kalas or liberal arts.
Considering the special importance of Sanskrit to the growth and development of Indian languages, and its unique contribution to knowledge development in as well as the cultural unity of the country, facilities for the study of Sanskrit, its scientiﬁc nature, and including samplings of diverse ancient and medieval writings in Sanskrit from a diverse set of authors (e.g. the plays of Kalidasa and Bhasa), will be made widely available in schools and higher educational institutions.
Where relevant, history-changing Sanskrit writings will be integrated suitably in various school subjects as well as in literature and writing classes (e.g. Bhaskara’s poems on mathematics and puzzles that help to make the study of mathematics more engaging, the incorporation of relevant Panchatantra stories in ethics classes, etc.).
Sanskrit will be offered at all levels of school and higher education as one of the optional languages on par with all Schedule 8 languages. Sanskrit textbooks at the Foundational and Middle school level may be rewritten in Simple Standard Sanskrit (SSS) in order to teach Sanskrit through Sanskrit (STS) and make its study truly enjoyable.
P4.5.15. Make available courses on all classical languages of India: In addition to Sanskrit, the teaching of other classical languages and literatures of India, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Pali, Persian, and Prakrit, will also be widely available in schools, to ensure that these languages and literatures stay alive and vibrant, especially in States where they may be best taught and nurtured. Classical writings in these and other languages across India from diverse sets of authors will also be studied and suitably incorporated throughout the curriculum and in literature and writing classes to inspire students with the rich long-standing traditions and writings of India (e.g. Sangam poetry in classical Tamil, the Jataka tales in Pali, the works of Sarala Dasa in classical Odia, excepts from Raghavanka’s epic Harishchandra Kavya in Kannada, Amir Khusro’s works in Persian, and Kabir’s poems in Hindi, etc.).
P4.5.16. A two-year relevant course on a classical language: For the enrichment of our children, and for the preservation of these rich languages and their artistic treasures, all students in all schools, public or private, will take at least two years of a classical language of India in Grades 6-8, with the option to continue through secondary education and university. In order to make such courses in classical languages more enjoyable and relevant, relevant great works of literature that are easy to read, enjoyable, and relatable, and written by authors from diverse sections of society, will be read, and their connection to the phonetics and etymology of, and their inﬂuence on, modern languages will be discussed.
Students who may have opted for Sanskrit as one of their chosen languages in the three-language formula may instead take an additional modern or classical Indian language or literature class for two years in lieu of the classical language requirement. For example, students in Hindi-speaking States who are taking Hindi, Sanskrit, and English as their three languages could take two years of a language from another part of India (e.g. Tamil) in order to satisfy this language requirement.