Three language formula in India

The three-language formula has its roots back in the year 1961 and it was implemented as a result of a consensus during the meeting of various CMs of the Indian states. The Three-Language Formula was supposed to be not a goal or a limiting factor in language acquisition, but rather a convenient launching pad for the exploration of the expanding horizon of knowledge and the emotional integration of the country.

The National Education Policy 2020 has pushed for the three-language formula, to promote multilingualism and national unity. This move has restarted the debate over suitability of three language formulas all over India. It has been rejected by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister recently and has only reiterated the State’s unwavering position on an emotive and political issue.

  • According to the National Education Policy of 1968, the three-language formula means that a third language (apart from Hindi and English), which should belong to Modern India, should be used for education in Hindi-speaking states.
  • In the states where Hindi is not the primary language, regional languages and English, along with Hindi shall be used.
  • This formula was altered and amended by Kothari Commission (1964–66) so as to accommodate regional languages and mother tongues of the group identities. Also Hindi and English remained at the two ends of the line.
  • The First Language that students should study Mother tongue or the regional language.
  • The Second Language:
    • In Hindi-speaking states, this would be English or some other language belonging to Modern India.
    • In Non-Hindi states, this will be English or Hindi
  • The Third Language:
    • In Hindi-speaking states, this would be English or some other language belonging to Modern India, but the one that is not chosen as the second language.
    • In Non-Hindi states, this will be English or some other language belonging to Modern India, but the one that is not chosen as the second language.
  • Though TLF provides scope for mother tongue language education, the emphasis is lost due to varied implementation.
  • Amidst asserting political rights of dominant ethnic groups, this policy fails to protect various mother tongues from becoming extinct.
  • Students have to face increased burden of subjects because of the three language formula.
  • In some areas, students are forced to learn Sanskrit.
  • The draft policy’s push for Hindi seems to be based on the premise that 54% of Indians speak Hindi.
  • But according to the 2001 Census, 52 crore out of 121 crore people identified Hindi as their language.
  • About 32 crore people declared Hindi as their mother tongue.
  • This means that Hindi is the language of less than 44% Indians and mother tongue of only little over 25% people in India.
  • But there has been greater push for making Hindi a pan-India language, which is seen as imposition of Hindi by many states, especially that of the South.
  • The states like Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Tripura were not ready to teach Hindi and Hindi-speaking states did not include any south Indian language in their school curriculum.
  • State governments often do not have adequate resources to implement the three –language formula.
  • The inadequacy of resources is perhaps the most important aspect of the challenge. For resource strapped state governments, it will be an extraordinarily difficult task to invest in so many language teachers in a short span of time.
  • Language is primarily a utilitarian tool.
  • While acquisition of additional tools can indeed be beneficial, compulsory learning should be limited to one’s mother tongue.
  • Besides, English, as the language that provides access to global knowledge and as a link language within India, could be a supportive language.
  • Given this, not everyone is satisfied by the changes, and the three-language formula itself is seen as an unnecessary imposition.
  • Even if there is intent all around, implementing the three-language formula is not really doable in the current situation. Moreover, the two-language formula, or a shoddy version of the three-language formula has not undermined national harmony.

The three language formula is well intended to bring about national unity by bridging the linguistic gap between the states. However, it is not the only option available to integrate the ethnic diversity of India. States like Tamil Nadu with their own language policy have managed not only to enhance the education standard levels but also promote national integrity even without adopting the three language formula. Hence, providing the states autonomy in the language policy seems to be a much more viable option than homogenous imposition of three language formula all over India.