This article has been written by Sharanya Ghosh of Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA and explores the Third Language Bill, 2020, its advantages and disadvantages.
India is a vast nation with 22 official languages and 780 total languages. In such a diverse country, one major issue is communication. With the existence of 22 official languages that include English, it has become easier to further communicate with people from other States or those who speak different regional languages. With that in mind, the Third Language Bill, 2020 was put forth to further improve the cultural and traditional knowledge of students. This article intends to explore its contents, the advantages and disadvantages of implementing the Bill.
Third Language Bill
Most states in North India do not speak South Indian languages. Similarly, the South Indian states do not usually speak in Hindi or other North Indian languages. However, due to this, there may be communication barriers between the communities, not only from North and South but also other states and regions. Thus, the Three Language Formula was developed in 1968 by the Ministry of Education. According to the National Policy Resolution of that year, it was suggested that Hindi, English and a modern language (preferably south Indian) be taught in Hindi-speaking states while non-Hindi speaking states shall be taught their regional language along with English and Hindi. This directive was ignored by many states for years. Some states, such as Maharashtra or Odisha continued teaching their regional languages in their schools with a few offering Hindi as a third language. Some states also included foreign language as an option that would enable a student to study abroad. However, no state actively participated in offering other regional languages in their curriculum.
The issue of languages began with the debate for an official language for the country. At that time, Hindi had been voted as the official language and English continued as another for a period of 15 years after which a decision regarding the official language would be taken. Post this period, the Official Languages Act, 1965 came into effect during which there was agitation. Tamil Nadu felt that this formula was being imposed with the view to undermine their mother-tongues and to impose Hindi on their non-Hindi speaking population. This led to the addition of new official languages, the number being at 22 currently, as recognised by the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
The Third Language Bill of 2020 was introduced in the Parliament with the view to including a third Indian regional language in the curriculum of students. This is an attempt by the Central Government in order to help in creating a stronger culture and reducing the kind of language barriers that exist in the country. It would ensure that students learn a regional language other than English, Hindi or the Regional language of their state in the form of a third language in their school level.
According to the Bill, all schools, whether private or public shall introduce a compulsory Third Language Education to their students from the primary to senior secondary levels throughout the country. The third language shall be any language other than English, Hindi or the regional language of that State and should belong to the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
The Third Language Bill, 2020 comes with the following major provisions:
That a National Policy framework is to be created by the Central Government within the year of commencement of the Act for providing Third Language Education in all schools across the nation. The policy shall also include the infrastructure and facilities required.
The policy under this Act shall include the following among other provisions:
- Third Language education for all students across all schools.
- Enhancing the tradition, culture and literature by encouraging students to take up Indian Languages.
- Ensuring the availability of required faculty.
- The release of adequate funds for developing the required infrastructure.
- Incorporating Third Language as a compulsory subject across schools.
- Preparing standard and qualitative syllabus for the third language subject.
- Providing scholarships to students with outstanding marks.
Implementation of National Policy
Once such a National Policy is drafted, it is the duty of the Appropriate Government (State or Central) to implement it across the country and all schools.
In the event that a school does not follow the prescribed policy, the penal provisions described under the Act shall be liable for punitive action for such violation. In other words, if a school violates the policy, it shall be liable for punishment under this Act. This punishment may include the withdrawal of recognition of the school from the concerned Board or any other action as prescribed under the Act.
The funding, after the implementation of this Act, will further be provided by the Central Government on a regular basis in order to better implement this Act.
The Power to make Rules
The power to make rules or provisions of this Act lies with the Central Government which may be done by notification in the Official Gazette.
There are several advantages of learning three languages in the primary and senior secondary levels of school for students. Some of these are enlisted below.
The learning of a language is similar to learning about the cultures related to it. If a student learns Odia, they will better understand the cultures of Odisha and be able to interact with people belonging to that state. If a person can read and understand Bengali, they will be able to read books in that language and further enhance their own cultural knowledge. Thus, learning the language of a different state or region will help students in forming better connections with their own roots and also enable them to relate to others belonging to their own nation.
This already happens with students in schools that have picked up foreign languages as a third language component. Exchange programmes also enable a student to better understand the cultures of different places and correlate them with their own cultures and values. Thus, it should be possible to conduct the same within the country as well.
The communication between persons across states will become easier if they learn a language belonging to a foreign state in their childhood. It is said that children around this age of primary and senior secondary stages are better equipped to learn languages and have a better grasp over them in the long run. Thus, this helps in creating better scope for communications across the country. A student in Karnataka may be able to communicate with a student in Manipur. Further, this will help in connecting businesses in the future and improving communications across fields.
Recognition by Boards
There are several students in schools across the country that speak more than one language or have a different mother-tongue than Hindi or English. Studying the language of a different state today is not something that is recognised and nor is it certified unless a student takes particular examinations for the same. However, a student who is studying in Delhi and gives the examination for Bengali will be able to prove that they are fluent or have basic knowledge of Bengali. They will have the recognition of their particular board, say, for example, CBSE or ICSE. Thus, finding jobs will become easier along with other benefits.
National Integrity and Unity
One advantage that many believe comes with the compulsory introduction of a third language is that the nation will unite more with the kind of cultural interaction that will follow. Although this has not been proved, it can be seen as an advantage: a policy that breaks communication barriers and helps people communicate across borders will most definitely help in bringing together the states.
Increased Acceptance and Tolerance of Foreign Cultures
Adding to the national integrity and unity, learning about cultures and languages different from one’s own from a younger age will enable students to accept other cultures more easily and help them be more open-minded towards people different from themselves. Thus, they will be less intolerant and more accepting as they grow.
Step Towards Single National Language of India
Although a controversial topic, this Bill most definitely helps in taking a step towards having a national language separate from the official languages of the country. There have been several attempts to do the same in the past. However, the decision of which language shall be the national language often raises concern and conflict. Perhaps with the implementation of this system, new steps and measures may be taken in order to move in the direction of a single national language or perhaps in understanding that such a situation may not arise in the long run.
The following are some of the major disadvantages of implementing such an Act:
Difficult to make Changes
It is really difficult to make such a change from one kind of curriculum to this. The following points express how this Bill, if implemented, will create problems for the States, students and education system:
Difficult in Providing Options to Students
Considering the fact that the Eighth Schedule of our Constitution recognises 22 languages, it will become difficult to provide students with options to choose from the remaining 20 languages after removing English and Hindi or the regional language of the state. This means that schools in a particular state will have to offer a lower number of options or provide only one out of the 20 languages as the third component of their language and communication building skills. However, who will decide which languages are to be included and which ones are not? Moreover, if only one language is set, it will be unfair for students who may be transferring from other schools and were learning a different third language in that school. In this case as well, it is not easy to determine which one out of 20 languages will be chosen. Will this be done by the school itself or the State?
Difficulty in Hiring Faculty
Assuming that this Bill is passed and becomes an Act, there is also an issue of where the required faculties will come from. There are definitely professionals who study languages and teach them. However, the faculty should also be able to speak in either the regional language of the state or Hindi or English so that they can teach the student and explain concepts to them properly. Moreover, depending on the number of language options offered to students, if at all, faculties for each of the languages will have to be hired by the schools. This may prove to be difficult in a scenario where each school across the country shall offer these languages.
Difficult to Implement across States and all Schools
As mentioned above, the development of this kind of Act will require heavy investment. Implementing such a policy in all schools across the country and ensure that the guidelines and the provisions of such an Act are being followed by each school will require a lot of investment, effort and manpower. The Government of the Centre and States may not be ready for such a change.
State of Foreign Language Learning
There are certain states where a foreign language is offered as a third language instead of the languages recognised under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. How is a student to approach foreign language learning if the schools begin teaching official Indian languages? This may hinder their performance as global citizens and also bring harm to the foreign language field which involves several teaching staff of German, French, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and so on. There is no mention of how these languages will be dealt with. However, it is quite obvious that schools will not be teaching four languages to students. Thus, the teaching of these languages in schools may be scrapped altogether.
Intolerance in Certain States
There are certain states which do not prefer the interference of the Centre in determining the languages taught in their schools. One such state is Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu insists on following a two-language system that teaches students Kannada and English. In this way, they stay connected to their own roots and English as a language enables them to be global citizens. The state refuses to teach any other language to their students, especially Hindi, since many believe that teaching Hindi to their students will enable the language to be imposed on them and Hindi will become the national language of the country, while being a foreign language for the people of South India. Thus, although their argument is justified, it may not benefit the students and the overall education systems across the country in the long run.
The Burden on Students for Learning
The most concerning issue here is that the brunt of learning three languages is quite heavy. Indian languages are already more complex and difficult to learn because of the characters used in the writing. Memorising these characters in a short time at a primary level may be easy for a regional language which they are already learning at home but for a different language may be difficult. Although it is said that children learn languages best at this age, there is a difference between language acquisition and language learning. Language acquisition is the learning of a language through one’s surroundings and through meaningful interactions. Thus, a child growing up in a family that speaks different languages will be able to acquire them naturally. However, learning a language in school does not give a child the kind of exposure it requires to become familiar with the language. Due to this, learning becomes extremely difficult and proves to be a cognitive burden on the child instead of a skill.
Issues that have Arisen
The main issues that arose with the New Education Policy as suggested in 2019 was the backlash received from the state of Tamil Nadu. At that time, the Draft had stated that the languages to be taught in schools shall be English, Hindi and one regional language instead of the regional language for non-Hindi speaking states. Following the backlash, the Draft was edited and released again by the State.
DMK president MK Stalin went as far as to state that his party would have to launch a protest against the imposition of Hindi in their state. As mentioned above, the state has traditionally been against the idea of teaching any language other than English and Kannada to their students. However, after the changes were made by the Centre, no new issues have come up regarding the same.
The Third Language Bill, 2020 may not be ready to be implemented in India just yet. It will take more than a year of planning to create a policy that will suit all the states and ensure that no state or its people feel neglected nor cornered. It is also important to ensure that the right facilities are made available and that the faculties are well-educated in their fields to be able to impart the required knowledge. Moreover, it is also important that the age of the students being taught these languages is based on their cognitive skills instead of identifying the age at which their ability to acquire a language begins. Clarification of the state of foreign languages being taught in schools should also be made. All in all, the policy that will be framed under the Act if the Bill passes will have to be developed after careful consideration of several factors.
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