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War over three language formula

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  • Published
    13th Aug, 2020

After the release of the New Education Policy 2020, the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu protested against the policy accusing it of imposing Hindi and Sanskrit.


  • After the release of the New Education Policy 2020, the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu protested against the policy accusing it of imposing Hindi and Sanskrit.


  • The Union Government had constituted Education Commission in 1964 under the Chairmanship of D.S. Kothari to review the ‘entire educational setup and recommend changes’.
  • The report touched upon every aspect of education ­— aims, objectives, structure, syllabus, teaching methods, pay structure, language in education, science, strength of the class, etc.
  • C. Chagla, the then Union Education Minister, hailed the report as the ‘Teachers’ Magna Carta.’
  • Addressing the issue of language in education, the Commission recommended ‘Three Language Formula’ as a means to Social and National Integration.
  • A different ‘Three Language Formula’ had already been recommended by the Central Advisory Board of Education in 1956 and a simplified version of the same was recommended by the Conference of Chief Ministers in 1961. 
  • The National Policy on Education (1964) that came after the Kothari Commission Report made ‘Three Language Formula’ a policy.
  • Accordingly, all students would study in mother tongue from Class I-IV. In Class V-VIII, the student would study two languages — regional language and English and Hindi depending on the region.
  • The non-Hindi States would make Hindi mandatory and the Hindi States were expected to offer a Southern language.
  • The implementation of these recommendations, however, was not uniform across the country.


What is the ‘three language formula’?

The National Education Policy 2020 has ‘emphasised’ on the use of mother tongue or local language as the medium of instruction till Class 5 while, recommending its continuance till Class 8 and beyond.

  • In India, the ‘three-language formula’ has its roots back in the year 1961. 
  • The formula means that students in Hindi-speaking states should learn a modern Indian language, apart from Hindi and English and, in non-Hindi-speaking states, Hindi along with the regional language and English. 
    • First language: The First Language that students should study is the ‘Mother tongue’ or the regional language
    • Second language: In Hindi-speaking states, the second-language would be English or some other language belonging to Modern India. In Non-Hindi states, the second language will be English or Hindi. 
    • Third language: In Hindi-speaking states, the third language 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, the third language will be English or some other language belonging to Modern India, but the one which is not chosen as the second language.

Hindi imposition 

  • The Dr.K. Kasturirangan Committee Draft Report of 2019 made a subtle change in the ‘Three Language Formula.’
  • It made Hindi mandatory in non- Hindi speaking States. (Later the Hindi mandatory rule was withdrawn after Southern States raised objection)
  • The Draft Report removed the necessity to study a Southern language for the Hindi speaking States.
  • Instead, it inserted the term ‘modern Indian language.’ Modern Indian Languages are the ones listed under the VIII Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  • Thus a student in a Hindi speaking area could study Hindi as First language, Second language and English. 

How Constitution of India deals with language?

  • Currently, the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution contains 22 official languages-Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.
  • Article 346 of the Indian Constitution recognizes ‘Hindi’ in ‘Devanagari’ script as the official language of Union government India.
  • However, the Constitution did not declare Hindi as the National language, it rather accorded Hindi the status of ‘official language’ along with English. 

Article 350A:

  • Article 350A of the Constitution deals with the facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at the primary stage. 
  • 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; and the President may issue such directions to any State as he considers necessary or proper for securing the provision of such facilities.

Article 351:

  • Article 351 provides a directive for development of the Hindi language. 
  • It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.

Why Tamil Nadu is opposing?

  • Tamil Nadu felt that the ‘Three Language Formula’ was a ploy to introduce Hindi into Non-Hindi States and resisted the implementation.
  • Tamil Nadu adopted a two language formula — Tamil and English. Hindi speaking States did not adopt a South Indian language.
  • They too went for a two language formula. Hindi speaking States don’t have a need for a South Indian language same as the Southern States do not have a need for Hindi.


Today, India needs the acceptance of ‘multilingualism’ for the diversity to continue in all domains. It needs to concentrate on the effective teaching/ learning of languages — regional language and English in South, regional language and English in the Hindi belt, regional language and English in the North East. Knowing only one language is a handicap. It’s time to pay attention to increasing the language proficiency level of students.


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