The National Education Policy, released in July 2020, has proposed major reforms to India’s education system. It reiterates the controversial ‘three-language formula’ which was initially proposed by the Kothari Commission Report of 1966, while also recommending that primary education must be conducted in the ‘home language/mother tongue’ of the students.
Some commentators have argued that this will affect linguistic minorities. However, in the Constituent Assembly, the demand for mother-tongue instruction in schools initially came from minority groups.
“(4) Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language and script shall be entitled to have primary education imparted to its children through the medium of that language and script.”
This would allow all Indians, including linguistic minorities, to receive primary education in their mother tongue. Lari pointed to similar provisions in the Nehru Report of 1928 in support of his amendment. Another member who supported this was Begum Aizaz Rasul, who agreed that it was better to educate students in their own language rather than in an “alien tongue and script”.
Kazi Syed Karimuddin and Govind Ballabh Pant pointed out practical difficulties in implementing this proposal. However, Karimuddin still was in favour of the spirit of the proposal, and so he proposed to qualify Lari’s amendment by inserting the phrase “in case of a substantial number of such students being available”.
Pant argued that Lari’s amendment was not economically viable, but then went on to state that the “ghost of Two Nations seems to be lingering somewhere”. He appeared suspicious that this proposal was communal – likely because Lari and the other members supporting it were Muslims whose speeches made it evident that they wanted to ensure that Urdu, a minority language, was protected.
Pant went on to note that “No language is the language of the Hindus and no language is the language of Muslims”, indicating that the question of language of instruction should not be communalized. The Assembly went on reject Lari’s amendment.
Now it appears that the NEP has revived Lari’s proposal. Will the rights of linguistic minorities be adequately protected when the NEP is implemented?
Historical Constitutions: Nehru Report, 1928
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