New Education Policy: What does it say about language?

New Education Policy India

In 2015, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) initiated a consultation process for the formation of the New Education Policy (NEP). The full draft plan has not yet been released to the public but an input report has been published. The report includes several references to language including multilingual education.

Image Credit: Flickr/ Yorick_R (CC BY 2.0)

The background of the New Education Policy (NEP) and the reason for the slow process are given in the article published earlier this month India’s New Education Policy: Creeping 'Saffronization'? The aim of the new policy was "to respond to the 'changing dynamics of the population’s requirement with regards to quality education, innovation and research' and help the country move towards becoming a knowledge superpower.". The Diplomat reports that the process was slowed down because of saffronization acquisitions.

In the recent article India's New Education Policy: What Are The Priorities? more details on the content are given based on a 43 page report released by MHRD titled: "Some Inputs for Draft NEP 2016" . The identified seven key areas are: access and participation, quality, equity, system efficiency, governance and management, research and development, and financial commitment to education development. These will be "addressed through policy interventions broadly into preschool and adolescent education, curriculum development and examination reform, teacher and faculty training, lifelong literacy, higher education, and long distance learning".

It is goot to note that the report is still based on the assumption that teaching in the mother tongue is best but it recognises the tension: "Students learn most effectively when taught through their mother tongue. On the other hand, there is a growing demand for learning English language and schools with English as medium of instructions." It then comes with a rather weak policy formulation: "All states and UTs, if they so desire, may provide education in schools, upto Class V, in mother tongue, local or regional language as the medium of instruction."

For tribal children the phrasing is a little stronger. It first states: "Education level of tribal children is a matter of grave concern". With regards to language issue in tribal areas it states: "Experience has shown that tribal children have difficulty in understanding and learning in the regional language which is usually the medium of instruction. To overcome this impediment, steps will be taken to ensure that, wherever required, multi-lingual education will be introduced."

In the policy the three language formula is kept, but in favour of English: "if the medium of instruction upto primary level is the mother tongue or local or regional language, the second language will be English and the choice of the third language (at the upper primary and secondary levels) will be with the individual states and local authorities, in keeping with the Constitutional provisions".

It looks like that the basic principle of teaching in the mother tongue is kept, but with a lot of wiggle room, particularly in favour of English.


Copyright © 2016 Karsten van Riezen, All rights reserved.
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