NEP 2020 and language policy

Synopsis- Since colonial times, efforts to introduce education policy based on mother tongue have failed. The NEP 2020 also fails to uphold a multilingual educational approach.


  • Since colonial times, all committees and commissions recognized the importance of education in the mother tongue. Its proponents include Elphinstone’s Minute of 1824, Macaulay’s Minute of 1835, and Wood’s Dispatch of 1854.
  • However, they laid the foundation of India’s education system in the English language.
  • UNESCO declared in 1953 to use mother tongue for the conceptual clarity and cognitive growth of students
  • Even NEP 1986, plan of action 1992, NCF 2005, RTE 2009 also highlighted the importance of mother tongue in education. However, they did nothing to fill the quality gap between English-medium schools and non-English medium schools.
  • Now, NEP 2020 also recommends the medium of instruction to be in the home language/mother-tongue/local language or regional language in primary classes. But again words such as “preferably” or “wherever possible” are used, making implementation uncertain.

NEP 2020 sticks to the ‘three-language formula’ while emphasizing that no language would be imposed on anyone.

What is the issue with NEP 2020 on the language front?

  1. Multiplicity of languages and dialects in India – Students are better able to learn to read and write in the language that they are most familiar with. However, in a multilingual country like India, it comes across as a challenge with different states, regional and national languages.
    • Just 47 of the 270 mother tongues identified in the 2011 Census used as mediums of instruction in schools.
    • NEP 2020 speaks a lot about multilingualism. But it fails to recognize that children arrive in school not with “a language” but with a complex verbal repertoire.
  2. The NEP 2020 three-language formula is theoretically unsound and has had a disastrous history. NEP, 2020 fails to understand that people only learn another language to integrate with others or when it is an instrument of benefit.
    • For example, people from South India learn Hindi for jobs and increments. People in North India learn Sanskrit because it ensures high marks without much work.

What needs to be done?

  • The Government needs to ensure that every child’s voice is heard in the classroom according to the child’s own understanding.
  • The Government needs to initiate an MLE model and identify the problems in implementation and the cost of change of the model. After then prepare an action plan which resolves all of such problems.


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