Sanskrit or German? A row over foreign languages in India’s schools

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken to India’s PM Narendra Modi about his order that state schools stop teaching German as a foreign language. The move is designed to promote more traditional Indian languages.
School students in India

India’s government has ordered a state-run school association to stop offering German as a language option for its more than a million students and focus on promoting more traditional languages such as Sanskrit instead.

The country’s government gave the order to the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), or the Central School Organization, on Saturday, November 15. Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani told the Indian Express newspaper the decision was made in “the national interest,” and that young people could continue to study German as a hobby for no academic credit. The organization has 1,092 schools across India, for the children of army officials and government staff.

Local vs foreign

The announcement throws exam preparations into chaos, with 68,000 students in grades six to eight due to sit exams in less than three months. The students will be asked in the coming days if they wish to switch from learning German. The KVS says it will be providing counseling and extra support to those directly affected by the change.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German chancellor Merkel raised the issue with Indian PM Modi when the two met on the sidelines of the G20 summit

However privately-run schools will continue to be free to provide a range of foreign languages, including German.

India’s government promotes a “three-language policy,” designed to encourage schools to teach students Hindi, English and “an Indian language” such as Sanskrit. But many schools have allowed students to study another foreign language such as German in place of Hindi or Sanskrit, while schools in non-Hindi speaking regions generally teach on a “two-language policy” basis, ignoring Hindi altogether.

The alleged violation of the national educational curriculum was uncovered in October, when a 2011 memorandum signed by the KVS and the Goethe Institute came up for renewal. Indian Minister Irani says an investigation has now been opened into how this agreement originally came to be, calling it illegal.

Prior to this, India’s Sanskrit Teachers Association (SSS) had begun legal action in Delhi’s High Court, saying the continued allowance of German in the school curriculum went against national education policy. The group also described the teaching of foreign languages in Indian schools as “a Western conspiracy.”
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More options for students

On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the two met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia.

Following the meeting India’s foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said although no decisions had been made, Modi had made it clear his first priority was the students.

“Indian PM Narendra Modi assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he would look into the matter. Modi told Merkel that he wanted Indian children to have the chance to learn as many languages as possible,” said Akbaruddin.

On Monday, November 17, German Ambassador Michael Steiner said while he understood the motivation behind the government’s announcement, he hoped it would consider letting German remain as a foreign language option.

“There is no harm in learning the Sanskrit language as it is an integral part of the Indian culture and society. But if the Indian students want to learn a modern language to improve their professional prospects, they should be given the opportunity,” he told DW.

Language politics

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been pushing for Sanskrit to play a bigger role in Indian society. Although he can speak some English, Prime Minister Modi speaks almost exclusively in Hindi, a controversial action for some in a country where English is one of the official languages.

Though in the most recent national census only 14,000 people identified Sanskrit as their primary language, it is considered the root of many of the country’s more than 20 official languages, and is particularly important in Hinduism.


Sanskrit to be 3rd Language From Classes 6 – 8: Centre to Supreme Court

By Udayan Nag November 27, 2014

In the latest development regarding the language row concerning schools, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that Sanskrit will be the third language from standards six to eight.

The latest buildup comes on the back of a decision taken by the Human Resource Ministry which states that German will no longer be offered as an alternative third language in Kendriya Vidyalayas.

The government said that German can be studied as an additional language or a hobby along with Sanskrit, reports NDTV.

Minister of Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani, had earlier asked the authorities to stop teaching students German as the third language and stick to Sanskrit at the 99th meeting of the Board of Governors of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan.

Irani argued that teaching German as a third language violates the three-language formula enunciated in the National Policy of Education, 1986, reports India Today.

The decision is set to affect over 70,000 students across 500 Kendriya Vidyalayas studying in classes 6 to 8, who will have to switch their third language from German to Sanskrit or any other “modern Indian language” with immediate effect.

HRD Ministry to Emphasize on Sanskrit Learning in Schools

Aug. 6, 2014

In a drive to boost Sanskrit education in schools and keep the interest going among the students, the HRD ministry had roped in National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to organize a 3-day national seminar as part of the Sanskrit week beginning from 07 August 2014. The national seminar would be titled ‘Challenges in Sanskrit Teaching and Learning’ in which the NCERT is planning to take special measures to help Sanskrit find its place in the school textbooks and make it more interesting.

A meeting has been organized between the heads of premiere institutions in school education in India comprising of NCERT, CBSE, Kendriya Vidyalaya and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya. The meeting was conducted to work upon measures that can help bring the students to take interest in Sanskrit language. Kendriya Vidyalaya has decided to encourage Sanskrit by initiating Sanskrit Morning Prayer in the schools.

The seminar which is scheduled to take place in this month would be attended by eminent Scholars in Sanskrit, teachers, educators and Sanskrit language enthusiasts from all over the nation. The main agenda of the seminar is to decide on the Sanskrit curriculum in schools, the revision of the Sanskrit syllabus and textbooks. To make reading easier for the students the seminar would also discuss about the supplementary reading material and use of audio-visual material for teaching and learning. The development of e-content in Sanskrit would also get discussed so that the students can use the web medium to find more information and knowledge about the language.

Former VC of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sanshtan, Radha Vallabh Tripathi would be addressing the seminar and scholars in Sanskrit and teachers from various parts of the country would present their views on how to make the teaching and learning experience of Sanskrit more interesting and effective. This would help making the language popular among the school children and guide the teachers on the method of teaching Sanskrit in schools.

The Reality of English’s Role in India

By MANU JOSEPH, AUG. 6, 2014, The New York Times

NEW DELHI — Please mark the answer that best represents the truth (as this is not to ascertain your ideology, but your aptitude for a job with great perks).

English is a foreign language.

A) True. It came from outside India.

B) False. The former prime minister Manmohan Singh and the former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani also came from elsewhere, but they are Indian now. A language belongs where it lives.

C) True. English is foreign because it is not the mother tongue of the vast majority of Indians.

D) False. English is in fact India’s only national language, far more influential than even Hindi.

E) All of the above.

This question has yet to appear in any objective-type exam, but it has long bothered Indian society and is at the heart of a protest by hundreds of young Indians who are objecting to, among other things, the intrusion of English in one of India’s most prestigious tests — the civil services examination. To be precise, they are protesting one of the two screening tests that hundreds of thousands take every year to qualify for the “main” exams. Only a few hundred survive, to be inducted into a system that may eventually take them to the top levels of bureaucracy.

Candidates have the option of taking the screening tests in English or Hindi, but even the Hindi version has passages in English to test their comprehension of that language. Hundreds of candidates who have taken the tests and failed, or aspire to take the tests, have hit the streets of the capital protesting the English passages, which they say put those who are not proficient in English at a disadvantage. They have thrown stones and burned buses. They have also, oddly, held up protest signs in English.

Any battle against English in India is at once a battle of the poor against the rich, the village against the city, tradition against modernity and the regional elite against a more cosmopolitan elite. On Monday, the government tried to placate the mobs by announcing that the English passages would be scrapped, but as the protesters have other demands, they have not ended their agitation.

The general opinion among bureaucrats is that the protesters are a disgrace. Srivatsa Krishna, a civil servant, wrote in The Times of India that the government should study the video footage of the protesters, “identify the specific culprits and ban them for life” from taking the exams. He found it ridiculous that the exam’s candidates would protest a requirement to possess “English skills of 10th-class levels.”

In almost every state in India, the guardians of culture have tried to restrain the growth of English, but its power has only grown because of its promise of material and social benefits. Most of the cultural guardians themselves send their children to English-language schools. The medium of instruction for higher education in India is almost entirely English.

A politician, Yogendra Yadav, lamented in The Indian Express that “the entire system of higher education that controls white-collar jobs” is loaded against students who did not attend English-language schools. But then, that is the reality of the nation. The dominance of English dims the prospects of students who are too poor to attend an English-language school. But the government, for various reasons, including cultural prejudice, has not done enough to take English to its poorest. Most of its free or cheap schools do not have English as the medium of instruction.

In South India, there have been no protests against the English passages. Historically, that region has protested against the supremacy of Hindi. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave his first public speech in the south after assuming office, he spoke in English.

English is indisputably Indian now, and the most useful language in India. But it is not the most beloved, nor the medium of abuse during road rage. That special place Indians will always grant only to their mother tongues.

So the correct answer is “E.”

Follow Manu Joseph, the author of the novel “The Illicit Happiness of Other People,” on Facebook.

English medium & science high on demand

TNN | Jun 19, 2014, 01.42 AM IST

PUNE: There are 67,665 seats on offer at junior colleges in the city and neighbouring Pimpri Chinchwad under the centralized admission process (CAP) for Class XI, which is being conducted online for the first time. The number of seats has gone up by over 3,000 from last year’s 64,500 seats.

Urging students to make sure that they fill their forms by June 23, deputy director of education Suman Shinde said here on Wednesday that there is a trend for a higher demand for the science stream as well as commerce and arts in the English medium.

If any college authority wants to extend the number of unaided sections, then a decision on the matter would be taken on June 23. One section is equal to 80 seats if a junior college is linked with a secondary school and 120 seats in case it is linked with a senior college. The first merit list will be released on June 28.

“It is very important that after deciding on their preferences for junior colleges, students click on the ‘submit/confirm’ button. Until that button is clicked, the form is not a part of the system and will not be considered for the process. This needs to be done before June 23, after which all the data entered on the system will be frozen and no changes can be made,” Shinde said, while addressing a news conference.

She also said that it was critical that after the first merit list is announced, students take admission in whichever college they have been allotted. All colleges have agreed to charge a nominal fee of Rs 50 to secure the admission. If the student gets a better college in the second or third list, he or she can always cancel the first admission.

“If you do not take the admission that has been allotted to you, your name will not remain a part of the system,” she added.

This year, the process of filling the forms started even before the results of the Class X board examinations were announced. Shinde said that 62,727 students had already filled the first part of the form that asks for personal information and 4,196 students had filled the second part of the form.

“I would urge students to be very careful while filling part II of the form. Please keep in mind the previous year’s cut-offs of the colleges you are applying to, the distance of the college from your home as well as your family’s economic means,” she said, adding that these are the most common grounds on which students seek a change in college once an allotment has been made.

“I ask the parents to let their children think very carefully – let them take a day to make up their minds while deciding on which colleges to apply to. Please do not be influenced by factors such as where your friends are applying. Make your decision on your own,” she added.

She also urged students to be very cautious when filling in the college code as an error while entering the numbers into the system could cause a huge difference.

In a departure from previous years, not only will students have to give there preferences for 30 junior colleges, but they will also have to list another 15 junior colleges from one zone picked by them. The city has been divided into nine zones.

Another difference this time around is that admissions to the bifocal stream will not be carried out in a centralized manner. “If the students are interested in applying for the bifocal stream, they will have to enter the code of the colleges that have the stream. At the time of admission to the college, they will have to mention that they want to apply for a bifocal seat,” said Balasaheb Ovhal, assistant director of education.

Facility to surrender quota seats

Although some junior colleges have some seats reserved for in-house, management or minority quotas, if the college authorities want to surrender these to the general pool, they may do so, deputy director for education Suman Shinde said here on Wednesday.

“In our experience, there are colleges that cannot fill up their quota seats on their own. If they wish to surrender these seats to the general pool, they just need to inform us,” Shinde said.

She said that sometimes, minority institutions find that they do not have enough applicants from the community for the quota seats. In other instances, there aren’t that many takers for the management quota seats. She said that the authorities of Nowrosjee Wadia College and Nes Wadia College had informed her that they want to surrender their management quota seats.

Instructions to keep in mind

Although an SMS-facility to inform students about merit list allotment has been offered, applicants shouldn’t not rely on the facility as it may depend on the service provider. They should check the merit list on the website

For SSC students, their marks will automatically be entered into the system. A page will appear displaying the marks asking the student to confirm the information. If the marks are incorrect, students should immediately contact the zone in-charge or the deputy director of education’s office

Any changes in marks after the revaluation process will be considered. The student merely needs to contact the CAP authorities

If any student’s name does not appear in either the first, second or third merit lists (sometimes students list colleges with cut-offs much higher than their scores), they can get a junior college allotted along with the ATKT students
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