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Contents Contents...............................................................................................................................................2 Introduction.........................................................................................................................................3 History..................................................................................................................................................4 English Language – Role in Today’s World............................................................................................6 Regional Language – Importance in the Indian Context.....................................................................11 Solutions ............................................................................................................................................12 3 Language Formula...........................................................................................................................14 Disadvantages................................................................................................................................15 Advantages.....................................................................................................................................16 Conclusion..........................................................................................................................................16 Bibliography .......................................................................................................................................18



The topic of this paper is medium of instruction. The paper will not include the language debate in general and will focus only on the impact of language in education sector. The aim of this paper will be to examine the English versus the regional language debate specifically limiting to the education sector. The researcher has chosen an article format for presenting the paper. The paper will in detail look at the advantages of having English language, subsequently moving on to the advantages of the regional languages and disadvantages of the same shall also be discussed. The paper will briefly touch upon the history of medium of instruction in educational field. The researcher will also deal with various policies adopted by India enunciating the road to be taken with respect to education. In the last part of the paper, the researcher intends to search for a wholesome solution or a middle path which would solve the debate. In connection to the solution a special emphasis will be laid on the 3 language formula and its implementation in the current education system. The paper proceeds with the hypothesis that “Complete Shift as a Medium of Instruction, is desired consequence in the long term despite the problems and obstacles to it� It is a well known fact that India is a country which is widely known for its diversity. There are many languages and many dialects of the same, so much is the variety that in the past it has led to conflicts with regard to deciding a national language. The origin of the conflict was soon after independence while deciding which language should be considered the national language. However while deciding the national language, Hindi was considered as one option. Even though Hindi would be easier to adapt for the northern States, the non Hindi speaking States vehemently opposed Hindi as a national language. To reconcile this conflict, the VIII Schedule of the Constitution of India lists 22 languages which are considered the national language with Hindi as the official language and English as the associate official language.


Hence we see that the language debate has been one which is not of very recent origin and to this day it continues to be an issue. With increasing individualism and regionalism, we see the debate about language catch on again. One of the new angles to this debate is regarding the medium of instruction which should be followed in educational institutes. This paper will focus on medium of instruction in primary education and the impact it has on the secondary or higher education. It is not possible to disassociate an action without judging the possible consequences it has over future decisions. Hence it is important to not only focus on primary education but also touch upon secondary education or higher education as both are important for the overall sustainable growth of the person. With the current trend of globalization and increase in transactions at a global level, English has attained new importance as it is the most widely spoken language in the World. Therefore the problem arises when the State is faced with the dilemma whether English should be promoted over the other regional languages. In a study conducted in 2004, it was observed that if a worker’s probability of knowing English is reduced by 1% then over all it reduces his weekly wage by 1.6%. This would result to the average reduction of 68% in wage rate. 1 Language is not merely a tool of communication and something that binds the nation together. It is also a central issue to politics in a democratic set up such as ours. Increasing regionalism is an internal threat to the country’s integrity and hence it is not advisable to run away from this debate any longer. Any discussion will generate more point of views and increase consensus regarding and merely because English language is the most preferred language for economic reason, it does not mean that the regional languages should be neglected. As a matter of fact, the Indian Constitution in Article 350A categorically states that “it shall be the endeavour of every state and of every local authority within the state to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother-tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups”.

History 1

S.Kapur and T.Chakraborty, “English Language Premium: Evidence from a Policy Experiment in India,” visited on 6th August 2010


Post independence, the States were reorganized on the basis of the Nehru Committee Report 1928 which divided States on the linguistic basis. This was done keeping in mind the objective that the masses which did not know English could operate on regional language basis 2. On the other hand we see Mahatma Gandhi, who although did not oppose promotion of regional languages, firmly believed that a common language must be promoted 3. The common language proposed by him was Hindustani which was a mix between Hindi and Urdu. 4 One of the problems in the British era was that English education was an elitist concept and only a privileged few had the access to English education not withstanding









independence was that where primary concern would be addressing the problem of accessibility to education. The change in education system with regards to language is not a recent phenomenon and in fact can be dated back to 1948-49 with the setting up of the Radhakrishnan Commission. The recommendation of commission was that India should proceed to a system where regional languages would be employed as medium of instruction in education system. Following this commission were Official Language Commission, Emotional Integration Committee and lastly the Report of the Committee of Members of Parliament on Education which gave the nation a National Policy on Education6 (hereinafter referred to as NEP).7 An important movement was the Official Language Commission which was very optimistic about usage of Hindi as a language. It created various institutions such as the Board of Scientific and Technical Terminology in 1951 which came up with technical terms or the Kendriya Hindi Shikshana Mandal which was set up to promote and teach Hindi in the non Hindi areas. Basically, the Constitutional mandate seemed to be replacement of English as the official language while substituting it with Hindi. However, this did not catch on for a majority of the civil 2

D.D.Laitin, “Language Policy and Policy Strategy in India,” Policy Sciences, Vol. 22 (3 & 4) (1989) at 418 Id 4 S.P.Mookerjee, “Education in British India”, Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Vol. 233 (1944) at 35 5 Ibid at 31 6 P.B.Gajendragadkar, “The Medium of Instruction in Indian Higher Education: The language question,” Minerva, Vol. 6 (2), (1967) at 257 7 Id 3


services area was used to dealing in English which was considered an elite language. Secondly, many non Hindi states had an issue with imposition of Hindi on them while the Hindi states did not have to learn any south Indian language. 8 Education is the subject matter of the Concurrent list in the Constitution of India, which basically means that the State and the Centre both can legislate on the matter. However, in case of conflict, the Centre will be given more weightage. The possible reason for giving State the legislative power over legislation is that it would be logistically easier for the State to enforce laws and the States are more in touch with the need of the people and their specific natures which changes from place to place. Whilst dealing with the term ‘vernacular medium of instruction,’ the underlying assumption of this paper is that since India is a nation with several languages and each State has its own language, vernacular language would mean State’s official language as opposed to teaching in mother tongue or one vernacular language for the whole nation. It is abundantly clear to the mind of the researcher supported by the intent of the Constitution, that the framers understood the importance of the regional language and did not expect one language for the entire country. Moreover, it is not possible for a nation with so many national languages to have one language as a common language for all as regional interests and other depending factors would have to be compromised upon.

English Language – Role in Today’s World English is one of the most spoken language across the world, an estimate of about 250 – 350 million non native speakers9 which means that there are a huge number of people who converse and communicate in English even though it is not their own language or native tongue. In the world where people interact with each other across international boundaries, it is very important to have a language which is common to different places and which can be used to effectively communicate. Colonization has played a vital role in shaping the current world, it has also perpetuated English in most 8 9

Supra note 2 at 412 visited on 4th August 2010


nations of the world today so much so that even if the nations do not have English as their native language they continue speaking English or using English in official work in collaboration with their native language. The reason for this is partly based in economics since the concept of market has gone international and a majority of developed countries are European countries which have English as their native language, if the rest of the world has to deal with these powerful countries, and then it is in their interest to adapt the English language 10. Keeping this in mind one can say that knowing English brings not only national opportunities to the door step but also opens new avenues on the international front. For instance, a person studying at National Law School of India University since is well versed in English language, it would be easy for him/her to go and study abroad or work at an international firm where he will be able to communicate with other people better than someone who is not that well versed in English. In fact, the research can go the extent of saying that a person well versed in English is more likely to get selected in an interview for a job at an international institution than someone who is not aware One of the other benefits of learning English is that, in India, most of the higher education, secondary education or technical education is in English medium, hence knowing English provides one with more access to higher studies as compared to someone who has studied in vernacular medium. 11 It is not the researcher’s submission that people studying from vernacular mediums do not have access to better higher education. But it is common knowledge that it is very difficult for them to follow the technical terminology or nuances of the subject as the language employed is English. Unfortunately, we see that this has also led to a high dropout rate or low rate of vernacular medium students opting for higher education.12 With regards intra state dealings, each State has its own regional language, and in such circumstances, it would become very difficult and extremely expensive to communicate in absence of a common language. Hence English fills this gap of communication. The question then arises why, an alien language that originated 10

B.B.Kachru, “English as an Asian Language,” visited 2nd August 2010 11 V.Ramanathan, “English is Here to Stay: A Critical look at Institutional and Educational Practices in India,” TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 33 (2) (1999) at 217 12 Supra note 2


from our oppressors, should be chosen over the Indian regional languages? The answer to this is fairly simple. Each State believes its language is important and hence it would want its language should be the one common language which should be followed. In such facts, it would be not only difficult but almost impossible to choose a language as a common language for the entire nation. For example, when Hindi was to be chosen as the national language, the State of Tamil Nadu vehemently opposed this move from the Central government and instead preferred to continue in its own language. Moreover, leaving the political or cultural aside, simple economics would tell us that it would not be feasible for all States to pick up a common regional language. The costs would be massive, from teaching people the new regional language to translating all documents into the new regional language. Of course, the more important problem would be reaching far off places in the State where a new language would be very difficult to pick up.13 In most of the States although the regional language is one of the official languages, the Higher Courts’ documents and other pan India institutions use English in order to record information. This makes it easier to use it across the nation and can be accessed by anyone. As mentioned earlier, India is the second largest country to speak English, it shows a growing trend which is moving with the rapid globalization. 14 Most of the higher education is also in English medium, hence if a person is from vernacular medium, the transition from primary education to higher education would be comparatively difficult than a person from English medium. 15 As mentioned before choosing one language over the other could be a problem and in that sense according to the researcher English is neutral language. Also in the times when India is seeing extreme regionalism with one of its main issues being low tolerance for other cultures and languages, English in that limited sense promotes unity amongst people and maintains the much needed harmony. English 13

J.Baldrige, “Reconciling Language Diversity: The History and Future of Language Policy in India,” visited on 1st August 2010 14 visited on 4th August 2010 15 R.S.Rajan, “After ‘Orientalism’ : Colonialism and English Literary Studies in India,” Social Scientist, Vol. 14 (7) (1986) at 25


works as a ‘link language,’ which means acts a link between two parties or two entities trying to communicate.16 Fig. 1 : Top 10 languages in the World17

Fig. 2 : Top languages spoken18

16 e.shtml visited on 2nd August 2010 17 G.Weber, “Top Languages: World’s Ten Most Influential Languages,” visited on 30th July 2010 18 Id


From the above graphs we see that it is amply clear that English is one of the most widely spoken languages and its impact will only grow in the coming years. However the question remains whether it is feasible to convert completely to English. In India where there is not enough number of teachers, we find even fewer teachers who are well versed in English and are willing to go and teach in the far off or remote places in India. Hence we see there is a human resource development problem. The other problem is that even if we find teachers who are willing to go and teach in far off villages, they cannot possibly teach all subjects in regional language because many are not fluent in the technical meanings of the word even if it is our regional language. One of the solutions which the National Knowledge Commission has recently come up with to address the problem of lack of human resources by proposing electronic medium of video conference so that there is no need of teacher.



noble as the idea is, in the coming few years or even decades, this might not materialize for several reasons. Many far off places in India still lack basic facilities like classrooms, infrastructure and more importantly electricity. For electronic mediums to work, there has to be electricity, staff who knows how to operate the machines, technicians who can provide logistic support in case the electronic medium is damaged, in case it is broken or damaged in anyway replacing it or pinning the responsibility would be another herculean task. Even if responsibility is being pinned, it might not ensure that damage is compensated. Moreover, in schools a teacher’s role is not only to teach but to be in loco parentis which means that they are responsible for the student’s over all well being, keeping children under discipline and making sure they are paying attention. In some cases, the family of the child is hesitant to send him to school and in such circumstances, the teacher can convince the family and keep an eye on the child’s progress. Something that an electronic medium can never achieve because a teacher is a leader and guide and not just someone who teaches academics.

19 visited on19th August 2010

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The above arguments clearly show that even though English is a rapidly growing language, it is not possible or feasible to completely change the education system to English medium one.

Regional Language – Importance in the Indian Context The 2001 census clearly indicates that Hindi is the most widely spoken language in the country. About 41.03 % of the total Indian population speaks Hindi 20, notwithstanding the various dialects, however that still leaves about 59% approximately who do not speak Hindi. This is a fairly large number and hence for this reason one cannot expect the entire nation to pick up Hindi as the only official language. Language plays a very important role in framing the identity of a person and for this reason one cannot undermine the importance of language. Studying in vernacular also shows that children tend to understand concepts better as it is the first language they speak. It is also an observation that with the increasing usage of English, there is a sharp decline in the vernacular literature 21. The supporters of vernacular medium advocate that promoting vernacular language is a duty under Art 350A. We also notice that vernacular has more reach than English medium institutions for there are established in every village and town in the State. The State run schools are also often in the vernacular medium and hence there are teachers who can teach in the regional language. Some of the teachers are chosen from the village itself and hence can understand the ways and culture of the area thereby assimilating the education in the system more effectively. We also see that usually, the vernacular medium institutions charge lesser fees than their sister English medium concerns.

Hence one can conclude that vernacular medium provides

better accessibility even to the most remote of the place.

20 visited on 5th August 2010 V.Baker, “Native Language versus National Language Literacy: Choices and Dilemmas in School Instruction Medium,� visited on 10th August 2010 21

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This is not to say that we must change to vernacular medium completely. A shift to complete vernacular medium is not desirable because it limits options of the person studying. For instance a person who is studying in vernacular medium will find it very difficult to go to Harvard or any international university for the simple reason that he/she is unable to communicate in English. The second problem is that by studying all throughout in vernacular language, future opportunities get reduced very steeply. As world is moving towards becoming one global entity, it is difficult to remain isolated, by learning only regional language, the opportunities that the person would get to get a job in international concerns. Another problem with complete vernacular education is that students moving on to the higher education find it difficult to understand completely technical terms.


Also in the current negative scenario where regionalism is on a rise, we see that focusing too much on language and by not having any common ground, it could be a serious threat to national integrity. Hence we come to the conclusion that it is not feasible or in fact would be retrogressive to say that we must shift the complete educational system to Vernacular.


Now that we are aware that one can neither completely shift to vernacular medium of instruction nor can a shift be made completely to the English medium of instruction. We set on our endeavor to find a solution to this problem which will give a sustainable angle to this problem. One suggestion is to continue the present system, where complete education will take place in the predetermined medium of instruction. The problem with this system are already presented above. However, what can be suggested is that special assistance be provided to the vernacular schools or students so that whenever they want can assimilate in main stream English education system. By special assistance, the researcher does not limit the scope to mere financial aid but includes training programmes post schools which include crash course in English. The drawback of this system is that a crash course will not provide the 22

S.K.Tae et al, “The Transition from English to Mother Tongue – Chinese as Medium of Instruction,�

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thoroughness which 12 years of ordinary language training in education would provide. Second option with regard to special attention is that it can be mandated that the Universities where the students want to join should give special attention to these students by holding coaching classes where they can learn English. The problem with this solution is that of thoroughness and the fact the students would have problems assimilating with the entire college. The Union Public Service Commission which conducts the civil services exams allows the candidate to write the exam in English and Hindi as well. 23 Using the same analogy, one could say that the entrance test exams should have the option of giving it in Hindi as well. The second option is to completely shift to English. The implications of this are same as shifting to vernacular medium of instruction. It provides narrow opportunities for Vernacular students who have already completed their education from the vernacular schools. It creates class divide as the English education is still restricted to the rich and elitist and many people still cannot afford it. Hence leading to a class divide as the poor will not be able to afford quality education which the rich can afford.24 Also the problem of access to education arises which the researcher has already dealt with in the earlier part of the project. We notice that language and culture are very closely related and hence affect each other. India is a nation of varied cultures and is considered rich in diversity. It is this that makes the country unique from other countries. Oral traditions, songs and folks stories are primarily based on languages which are regional in their nature and ignoring language would mean intimately affecting them. 25 By imposing only one language, we see that the culture of our nation will not be promoted or developed26. Therefore, it is not advisable that one language be prescribed for the entire nation as it majorly compromises on the bond between language and culture. 23 G.Paton, “Foreign Languages are Elitist Subjects,” visited on 19th August 2010 25 R.Freeman, “Cultural Ideologies of Language In Precolonial India: A Symposium,” The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 57 (1) (1998) at 4 26 D.Crystal, English as Global Language, (2nd Edn., Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2003) at 14 24

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3 Language Formula The 3 language formula has been suggested in the Indian education system for quite a while now and like the debate is intends to resolve this idea has been around for a long time. The first time it was spoken about was when the 1957’s Central Advisory Board gave a complex and vague idea of what the three language formula should be27. The next time it was spoken about what in 1968 when the National Policy Resolution which came into existence on demand of Non Hindi speaking States as they did not want Hindi to imposed on them at the cost of their regional language.28 The next time we see this surface in when National Policy on Education 1986 also spoke about it 29. These policies merely state the importance of 3 language formula. But since education is in the concurrent list, it is usually left upto the State on how they would want to implement this advice of the NEP. Hence we see that with regard to the 3 language formula there is no one specific way of applying it and as of now Each state has different ways of applying it. 30 The way it currently operates is that the Hindi Speaking States have to apply the 3 language formula in the following pattern ;

Hindi – English and any modern

Indian language, preferably a south Indian language should be taught in that order while the Non Hindi speaking states can teach Regional Language – English and Hindi in that order.31 Usually, the first language will be taught from the first standard, second language from third or fifth standard and the third languages would be taught from the standard the State deems fit. The reason Hindi is compulsory in both forms is that it continues to be our official language and in relative sense has the highest number of the population speaking it. Hence we see that the implementation of this formula differs from each State and there is probably a need for uniformity. But more on that later.


Language in Education Policy and Practice in Asia and the Pacific, %20Policies.pdf visited 10th August 2010 28 visited on 3rd August 2010 29 visited on 3rd August 2010 30 See Generally, S.Agarwal, Three Language Formula, (Gian Publishing House: New Delhi, 1991) 31 visited on 3rd August 2010

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Disadvantages The disadvantages of the 3 language formula are that since the formula envisages multiple languages it could be difficult to implement. Another persistent problem to the Indian education system here also plagues this formula, it being the lack of human resources. It is quite difficult to get teachers to teach the third language. For instance it would be difficult to find a teacher who can teach South Indian languages as proficiently as the UGC guidelines would mandate it to. 32 Another question is that in case of the North Indian States, who should decide what the third language should be – will the State decide or the students? What will be the basis of choosing a language? Will the teacher be provided by the school? In the current position, in the researcher’s personal opinion, the system is that the school might provide a limited third language choice. However, if the student wishes to pursue any other third language, he must avail the teachings of the same at his / her own cost . Only help he will get from the school is that the school will assist him to appear for an exam of the Education board. In case the argument is that the students should get to choose which language they would wish to learn, a big hurdle is the paucity of teachers for one might chose a language but might be difficult to find teacher to teach that language. This is a policy decision which has not been worked out by the Governments yet. In the researcher’s view to attain uniformity, the onus is on the Centre to implement a system whereby the 3 language formula can be applied everywhere. Another problem which might not appeal to people is that fact that this formula mandates compulsory learning of one extra language. One might not want to learn extra language, but by virtue of being affiliated to a board, he might have to learn it


Supra note 30

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The 3 language formula does not take into consideration the different sublanguages spoken in a State. For instances, the 3 language formula only allows the option of choosing language which are listed in the VIII Schedule of the Indian Constitution, thereby effectively negating other languages. Hence one cannot learn Tribal languages under this formula.33

Advantages The 3 language has many advantages which in the opinion of the researcher over rule the disadvantages posed by it. The 3 language encourages Multilingualism by compelling the people to learn an extra language, thereby imbibing respect for the language and culture. This in turn contributes to the national integrity and unity, because it increases tolerance of the people towards other languages. The Ranganath Panel in 2009 also recommended this and supported its contention by also saying that the linguistic minorities are able to learn and propagate their own language, this is of course subjected to the availability of the teachers. It also says that the mother tongue of the child should also be included in the options for studying and the onus is on the State to provide for the same 34 Since there is no hard and fast rule on how the formula has to be applied it gives States the liberty to customize the formula to suit local conditions and circumstances of the State. Over all in the researcher’s opinion, the 3 language formula is an excellent middle path which gives way for “cognitive growth, social tolerance, divergent thinking and scholastic achievement” to quote the National Curriculum Framework. 35

Conclusion It is the obvious conclusion of the researcher that the hypothesis is wrong. One cannot choose one language over the others as a common language in a diversified


G.B.Nambissan, “Language and Schooling of Tribal Children: Issues Relating to Medium of Instruction,” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 29 (42), (1994) at 2754 34 visited on 2nd August 2010 35 A.B.M.Tsui, Language Policy, Culture, and Identity in Asian Contexts, (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc: Mahwah, 2007) at 198

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nation as India. As mentioned in paper above, the vernacular languages have their own advantages or disadvantages as does English Language has. One possibility is that in long term, the State could aim to set up Vernacular universities which deal with all technical subjects, thereby promoting Article 350A obligations. As of now it, might not be feasible right now and if set up on short term basis , it would limit choice for technical education cannot be provided as it required great investments in the human resource department and infrastructure. Hence in the opinion of the researcher, the 3 Language formula finds a mid way between English and Vernacular debate, whilst addressing the disadvantages of both the languages. True that there is no concrete policy on how the formula should be implemented and the opinion of the NEP or National Curriculum Framework is also merely advisory and non binding in nature, however the need of the hour demands a mid way and not an extremist view point. We have seen a very passive role on part of the Centre when it comes to the medium of instruction as it leaves everything for the State to legislate upon. This has proved to be detrimental to the education sector as it has brought unsystematic layers in the field. It is time that all the Reports, latest being Ranganath Panel report be considered seriously by the Centre and a concrete legislation or policy be brought about on how this system should be implemented and it should be done in consultation with the States.

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G.Paton, “Foreign Languages are Elitist Subjects,”

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17. Language in Education Policy and Practice in Asia and the Pacific, 18.P.B.Gajendragadkar, “The Medium of Instruction in Indian Higher Education: The language question,” Minerva, Vol. 6 (2), (1967) 19.R.Freeman, “Cultural Ideologies of Language In Precolonial India: A Symposium,” The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 57 (1) (1998) 20.R.S.Rajan, “After ‘Orientalism’ : Colonialism and English Literary Studies in India,” Social Scientist, Vol. 14 (7) (1986) 21.S.K.Tae et al, “The Transition from English to Mother Tongue – Chinese as Medium of Instruction,” 22. S.Kapur and T.Chakraborty, “English Language Premium: Evidence from a

Policy Experiment in India,” df 23.S.P.Mookerjee, “Education in British India”, Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Vol. 233 (1944) 24.V.Baker, “Native Language versus National Language Literacy: Choices and Dilemmas in School Instruction Medium,” sues_in_ed_global_96.pdf 25.V.Ramanathan, “English is Here to Stay: A Critical look at Institutional and Educational Practices in India,” TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 33 (2) (1999) BOOKS 1. A.B.M.Tsui, Language Policy, Culture, and Identity in Asian Contexts, (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc: Mahwah, 2007) 2. D.Crystal, English as Global Language, (2nd Edn., Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2003) 3. S.Agarwal, Three Language Formula, (Gian Publishing House: New Delhi, 1991)

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