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Should local language be compulsory in schools?

Indrani Thakurata

Bengaluru: The recent news of the President’s assent to make Hindi a compulsory subject in Kendriya Vidyalayas and schools affiliated to the CBSE in the northern belt and Kerala passing an ordinance to make Malayalam compulsory in all schools brings us to only one question. Should states impose their language on their students?

“It is hard to measure the benefits of these moves, but the seed of the idea came after a prolonged campaign to protect the vernacular language by literary critics, writers and intellectuals. If you don’t make it compulsory in schools, students will not take it seriously,” says Manjary Ganguly, a sociology teacher in a CBSE school in Bengaluru. Most State languages are mandatory till Grade VIII, but the talks are about extending it till Grade X.

She adds, “Whether in West Bengal or any other State, the local language is part of the mandatory teaching. And I think it is necessary. One must know the world first in their mother tongue and then other languages.”

Many states have spoken against the imposition of Hindi on them, and their need to promote their own language instead. But to be fair, the presidential order talks about drawing the policy in consultation with States. The CBSE recommended a three-language formula last year, English and any two Indian languages, be taught to classes 9 and 10. While Hindi is an easy choice for the northern belt, the other States can make a choice from any of the 22 Indian languages recognised by the Constitution. “Most states are drawn on linguistic lines, so it is important to make it mandatory; for it will be lost without such imposition. We have such rich literature in Tamil, Bengali, Kannada or any other language. What would happen to them if everybody studies only a few select languages? We are a diverse country, we should retain that,” says Sneha Kumar of AECS Magnolia Maaruti Public School in Bengaluru.

Though many support the move, Sudeshna Saha, a KV passout says, “Students should have the freedom to study whatever language they want. One shouldn’t be forced to study a language because of one’s geographical position. We should invest time in languages that equip us take on the world and creates more opportunity in the job market.”

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