CBSE move to three-language format proves burdensome
The proposal of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to revert to the three-language system is likely to increase the burden on students. “The return of the three-language format could further prove difficult for students as it increases the number of subjects from five to six. Earlier, students had to learn three languages only until Class VIII, after which the emphasis shifted to Science, Maths and Social Sciences in Class IX and X. However, it might become a way of life soon,” according to Rakesh Joshi, Principal of Apeejay School in Nerul.
The CBSE insists that the third language must be an Indian language rather than popular foreign languages like French and German. According to the Board, the syllabus should include English, Hindi, and an Indian language, while foreign language should be the fourth, optional language subject for Class X board exams.
Explaining the logic for the new proposed format, Dr. Mousumi Bhoumick, who has worked as an advisory with various CBSE committees, said, “The theory behind the three-language format is that students should first be taught their mother tongue, then a language spoken in their environment, and thirdly the language of the society in which they stay. Thereafter, they can be taught foreign languages. However, parents misuse this system by enforcing foreign languages on their children, which is very unfair and could be harmful for them in the long run.”
The contention behind the CBSE’s new policy is that many parents prefer their children learning foreign languages like French and German over regional languages like Marathi. This is so that their children will be equipped to participate on an international stage. The government’s bid to downgrade foreign languages and upgrade Indian languages has however, not gone down well with the parents.“We chose French over Sanskrit for our son since learning Sanskrit offers no practical use. Learning French would be helpful in communication while travelling abroad,” says Shubra Singh, whose son is a Class IX student in a CBSE school.
In R. N. Podar School, Santacruz, most students opt for French over Hindi or Sanskrit as the third language option, according to Principal Avnita Bir. “Most parents prefer their children to learn French as they feel it would be an advantage to them in an increasingly globalised world,” she says.
Incidentally, the confusion over foreign languages by the CBSE has led to much chaos in classrooms. In 2014, CBSE had introduced Mandarin in some schools, following a tie-up with China. However, schools were left scrambling in the middle when the deal with China expired within two years. The subject was discontinued in many CBSE schools as they couldn’t find the language teachers at a short notice. Similarly, German language was allowed to be taught in schools but was suddenly discontinued in 2014 by the then Human Resources Minister, Smriti Irani, in spite of intervention by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
The new system will privilege the learning of the local regional language. However, sentiments are strong that frequent changes to the CBSE syllabus are disruptive.“Education should be insulated from political changes. It has caused enough confusion in the classrooms. The government can’t keep going back and forth on policies like this. It does not help our students go anywhere,” an academician said.
The difficulty faced by students is also not going unnoticed. “My daughter had opted for French but later gave it up. It is difficult for her to learn one more language for her Class X boards next year. In today's times, when there are so many opportunities opening up, students should be given the option to choose the subjects that they wish to learn,” says Rupa Sen, mother of television child actor Anushka Sen, who is a Class IX student.
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