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Should We Teach Hindi in Tamil Nadu Schools? (India)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE,  August 2015 (ID. 2015-08-01)
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Hindi may benefit less than 10% students who may one day work in Hindi states or Indian government jobs. Why take up to 3 hours per week to teach it instead of using those hours to teach computers, science and mathematics that benefit 100% of students?


OUTLINE

Abbreviations

PREFACE

Part I: Should Hindi be Taught in Tamilnadu Schools?

1. Is it wrong for a Tamil person to learn Hindi?
2. Should Tamil Nadu schools Teach Hindi? (as an optional or compulsory subject). 
3. Who Will Benefit from Learning Hindi?
4. Is there any harm in teaching Hindi in schools as an optional or compulsory subject
5. Is not learning three languages beneficial to the brain?
6. Why not teach Hindi as an optional subject in schools?

Part II: History of Hindi in Tamilnadu Schools and Current Situation

7. History of Hindi in Tamil Nadu Schools 
8. Current Situation (July 2015)
9. These meetings are not the way to assess public opinion

Part III: Action Plan


ABBREVIATION

AIADMK - All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (a political party in Tamil Nadu)

BJP - Bharatiya Janata Party (an All-India political party)

DK - Dravidar Kazhagam (a party in Tamilnadu; does not contest elections)

DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazagam (a political party in Tamil Nadu)

MDMK - Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (a political party in Tamil Nadu)


Preface

This article is divided into 3 parts.

Part I discusses in some detail the question whether teaching Hindi in Tamil Nadu schools, whether as an optional subject or as a compulsory subject, benefits majority of the students. The logical conclusion is "no". This must be brought to the attention of parents who believe the false propaganda that learning Hindi would lead to better jobs and higher salaries. Part I establishes that it is untrue and that, instead of learning Hindi, spending those hours to learn computer languages or improving proficiency in English, mathematics and science would result in better jobs and more money.

Part II discusses the history of opposition to teaching Hindi in Tamil Nadu schools since 1938 and finally removing it from Tamil Nadu schools by the DMK government under Chief Minister C. N. Annadurai in 1968. Then Part II discusses the current (2015) request by pro-Hindi all-India political parties (whose decisions are always made by Hindi politicians) and well-meaning parents who wrongly think that learning Hindi is the path to better lives for their children.Part III presents an Action Plan to stop Hindi from entering Tamil Nadu schools again.

I am a pragmatist. I want what is good for my children and all children of Tamil Nadu. If Hindi would make the future of our children more prosperous with better jobs and higher salaries , I would never object to bringing Hindi into our schools again. Hindi does not bring any benefit to majority of students; instead it takes time away from improving our skills in more important subjects like computers, science and mathematics. These are the subjects of the future, not Hindi.

Part I: Should Hindi be Taught in Tamilnadu Schools?

1. Is it wrong for a Tamil person to learn Hindi?

Is it wrong for a Tamil person to learn Hindi? Absolutely not. If you want to learn Hindi, go ahead and learn the language. I discussed it in some detail in the article "Should my Son Learn Hindi?" published in 2008 [Reference 1] .

2. Should Tamil Nadu schools Teach Hindi? (as an optional or compulsory subject)

Is there anything wrong with a Tamil person learning Hindi?" and "Should we teach Hindi in Tamiil Nasu schools?" are two different questions.

There is nothing wrong in learning Hindi. That does not mean that schools have to teach Hindi. There are people in Tamil Nadu who want to learn German; it does not mean that Tamil Nadu schools have to teach them German. Three years ago one of my friends went to South Korea to work. He learned some basic Korean language by himself using an educational tape (he could say less than 20 words). Then he learned more Korean after he was in Korea. Tamil Nadu schools did not teach him Korean. Schools have no obligation to teach Korean unless majority of the students would benefit from it. The same yardstick applies to Hindi also.

In the following sections we would demonstrate that leaning Hindi would provide some benefit to less than 10% of students. So there is no obligation for Tamilnadu schools to teach Hindi, Those who want to learn Hindi, for whatever reason, should learn Hindi on their own. Fortunately for them, Indian government funded organizations like Dashin Hindi Sabha offers Hindi classes in many cities free of charge or for a very low fee. For those in small towns and villages, Indian government offers free or low-cost correspondence courses through mail. If anyone wants to learn Hindi, for whatever reason, let them use those services. There is no need for Tamil Nadu schools to offer Hindi classes.

I would not object to teaching Hindi, if learning Hindi would benefit most students in Tamil Nadu schools. I am a pragmatist -- a practical person. I want a bright future, good jobs and good salaries for my children and all children of Tamil Nadu. There is no evidence that Hindi would lead to better jobs and salaries for most students in Tamil Nadu. Learning Hindi is a waste of time for most of the students. In fact it comes in the way of learning other, more important subjects like computer science and mathematics. This is explained in more detail in Section 4.

3. Who Will Benefit from Learning Hindi?

Who Will Benefit from Learning Hindi? Those who one day would work in Indian government jobs and those who would one day go to work in Hindi sates would "benefit somewhat". Less than 10% of the students would fall under this category. Even these less-than-10% students do not  need a knowledge of Hindi to get an Indian government job or a job in Hindi states. By law, Indian government cannot require a knowledge of Hindi to get an Indian government job. This is the law. You can write job examinations in English or Hindi (and in some cases Tamil). I do not know a single person from Southern India writing these examinations in Hindi although Hindi is taught in the other states because they are invariably more proficient in English than Hindi. Indian government requires you to learn Hindi only after you have the job So there is not much of a benefit for those who one day may work in an Indian government job. Even at that, only a small percentage of students will work at an Indian government job. Those who go to work in a Hindi state (only a very small percentage of Tamil people do) can and do acquire a working knowledge of Hindi once they are there. Similar to my friend who went to work in Korea and learned Korean there. The small percentage of Tamils working in West Bengal learn Bengali after they are there. Same is true for other states too. Do the same if you are one of those few who go to work in a Hindi state. So there is no need to teach Hindi in Tamil Nadu schools as a compulsory or optional subject.

4. Is there any harm in teaching Hindi in schools as an optional or compulsory subject

Is any harm done in teaching Hindi in schools as an optional or compulsory subject? Answer is "yes". Are you wondering how teaching a language would harm students? There are only a limited number of hours that students attend school every week. If we spend 1, 2 or 3 hours to teach Hindi, those hours should be deducted from the hours that are currently spent in teaching subjects like computer technology, mathematics, science and English. These subjects are more beneficial to students than Hindi. Think about it. While Hindi might be somewhat helpful for less than 10% of students (as explained in Section 3), computer technology, mathematics, science and English would be beneficial to 100% of students anywhere they go to work, whether within Tamil Nadu, within India or anywhere in the world -- America or Europe, Arab countries or Singapore, Australia or Malaysia.

Parents who have believed the false propaganda of the India government and all-India parties like the Congress Party and BJP should think again whether their children should learn Hindi or spend those 1, 2 or 3 hours on more beneficial subjects like computer technology, mathematics, science and English. More hours spent on these subject, the better our students in these subject and standout during employment examinations and interviews. Let us not take hours from these subject.

5. Is not learning three languages beneficial to the brain?

Is not learning three languages beneficial to the brain? I have heard some people say that learning an additional language exercises the brain. They are actually talking about learning a second language in addition to the mother tongue, not a third language. Very few countries teach three languages in schools. All advanced industrial nations (for example France, Germany, Japan, Russia) teach no more than two languages. They are all doing well in industrial development and science.

I would rather teach a computer language than Hindi. Does anyone dispute learning a computer language is better than learning Hindi?

6. Why not teach Hindi as an optional subject in schools?

Why not teach Hindi as an optional subject in schools? When do you teach Hindi? During school hours or after school? If during school hours, what do students who do not want to learn Hindi do? Do they go home or go to play ground or sit in the Hindi class paying no attention? I had talked to people who were students in the early 1960s in Tamilnadu. Hindi was an optional subject/ Those students who had no interest in Hindi, sat in the class paying no attention. They just wrote their names and whatever they knew. Their grades in Hindi did not count. Whether they got 0 or 20 or 80, they all passed high school and the mark in Hindi was not included in calculating the average mark. One, two or three valuable school hours were lost to these students.

Alternately, are students not interested in Hindi asked to learn more mathematics or computers or science or English in those Hindi hours? Will not those students going to Hindi classes fail in these subjects? If we lower the examination standard in these subjects for the benefit of Hindi students, that brings down the standard of education in these subjects. This is not good for Tamil Nadu students as a whole. So this alternative is unacceptable.

Another alternative is to to teach optional Hindi after the school hours. If someone wants to study Hindi after the school hours there are ways of doing so. There is no need for Tamilnadu schools to do it. What are the other ways? Indian government funded Hindi Prachar Sabha offers free or low-cost Hindi classes in many cities and gives certificates to those who pass their examination. Indian government also offers free or low-cost correspondence courses. People living anywhere in India, even remote villages can take these correspondence courses. So there is no need to teach Hindi as an optional subject in our schools.

Hindi was taught as an optional subject in Tamil Nadu schools until 1968. The DMK government that came to power in 1967 under Chief Minister C. N. Annadurai removed Hindi from schools in 1968. When DMK lost to AIADMK, the AIADMK government under its founder M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) also kept Hindi out of Tamil Nadu schools.

I want to emphasize what I said in the preface. I would never object to teaching Hindi as an optional subject if majority of students would benefit from it. I have conclusively shown in the preceding sections that it is not the case.

Part II: History of Hindi in Tamilnadu Schools and Current Situation

7. History of Hindi in Tamilnadu Schools

The first anti-Hindi agitation was on January 3, 1938 as it became evident that the Congress government of the Madras Presidency plans to make Hindi a compulsory subject in schools. (Much of today's Tamil Nadu State was within the Madras Presidency) 

In spite of opposition, the Congress government under Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) issued an order making Hindi a compulsory subject on April 21, 1938. Under much opposition against Hindi, Government of Madras Presidency withdrew its order on February 21, 1940. Anti-Hindi agitations abated.

Seeing that anti-Hindi agitations had abated for two years, Hindi was made compulsory in schools again in 1942. Anti-Hindi agitations resumed. Government backed down and again withdrew its order.

The new Congress Government under T. Prakasam ordered Hindi as compulsory subject in 1946, and later withdrew the order because of opposition to it.

This cycle of ordering Hindi as compulsory subject and then removing it continued. During the 1960s, Hindi was an OPTIONAL subject under the Congress government of Chief Minister Baktavatsalam.

Congress Party lost the 1967 election in Madras State (Tamil Nadu State) and DMK which spearheaded many anti-Hindi agitations came to power. At that time Hindi was taught as an optional subject in schools. Even students who get zero mark in Hindi can pass the final high school examination. Marks in Hindi examinations did not count in calculating the average mark either. So many students ignored Hindi even though it was taught in schools. Yet Hindi in Tamil Nadu schools was an irritant to many. Finally Chief Minister C. N. Annadurai removed Hindi from Tamil Nadu schools once and for ever; and Hindi remains out of our schools as of this day (July 2015).

8. Current Situation (July 2015)

Pro-Hindi all-India parties want Hindi to be brought back into Tamil Nadu schools at least as an optional subject. They want to undo what Chief Minister C. N. Annadurai did in 1968. Annadurai, popularly known as Anna, was the founder of DMK, and AIADMK is named after him (AIADMK - All India Anna Dravide Munnetra Kazhagam; "Anna" is for "Annadurai"). After 1967, DMK and its offshoot AIADMK came to power in the state alternately and these parties kept Annadurai's policy of "no Hindi in Tamil Nadu schools" intact. Annadurai's successor in DMK, M. Karunanidhi, and AIADMK founder M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) and his successor J. Jayalalithaa all kept Hindi out of Tamil Nadu schools.

Not only the pro-Hindi all-India parties but also SOME well-meaning parents who believe the false information propagated by the Indian government that Hindi is the way for better jobs for their children want Hindi to be brought into Tamilnadu schools again. We have established in Part I of this article that learning Hindi would benefit only less than 10% of students somewhat. No student would be refused an Indian government job for lack of Hindi knowledge; they will learn it after getting the job with government help. That is the law. Taking away 1 to 3 hours from English, computers, mathematics or science and allocating those hours to teaching Hindi would actually reduce the proficiency in those subjects and reduce job opportunities for our children. English, computers, mathematics and science are more important in any job anywhere in India or the world. Parents should realize that.

If some parents are still bent on teaching their children Hindi, their children may learn Hindi from free or low-cost Hindi Prachar Sabha schools in most major cities or through free or low-cost correspondence courses by mail offered by the Indian government; they both offer certificates.

****It is in this background some relevant news unfolded in July 2015. MDMK leader Vaiko issued a statement on July 12, 2015 that Tamil Nadu State government Education Department is holding meetings in some major cities in July 2015 about teaching languages. Based on the topics to be discussed at these meetings, Vaiko charged that the state government is panning to bring Hindi back to Tamil Nadu schools (Vikatan.com; July 12, 2015).

The state government has not issued any statement whether it is planning to bring back Hindi into schools WITHOUT ANT BENEFIT to 90% of students and  undo what DMK founder C. N., Annadurai did in 1968 and what his successor M. Karunanidhi, AIADMK founder M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) and his successor J. Jayalalithaa continued. May be the purpose of these meetings is something else. We are waiting for a statement from the government.

9. These meetings are not the way to assess public opinion

Holding meetings in a few cities is not the way to asses public opinion. These meetings are neither representative nor democratic, One side or the other (pro-Hindi or anti-Hindi group) can bring their people to these meetings and be vocal in expressing their points of view. So any conclusions reached at these meetings are meaningless and should not be used as justification for changing the current language policy of not teaching Hindi in Tamil Nadu schools as either a compulsory or an optional subject. If you wish to assess public opinion, hold parents meeting in every school in the state after publicly announcing them at least one month in advance.

Part III: Action Plan

A Tamil group should take the lead in a small signature campaign. Write a petition asking the Tamil Nadu State government not to bring back Hindi into our schools either as an optional subject or a compulsory subject. Get about 100 signatures in those cities where the afore mentioned meetings were held; the number of signatures should be at least one more than the number of people who attended the meetings. There is no need to hold these petition in more cities or get more signatures; that would actually side-track our intention. All we want to show is that more people in these cities oppose bringing back Hindi than those who attended the meetings. That would show how ridiculous it is to base important decision on the basis of such meetings. If they want they should hold meetings in every school in the state after giving wide publicity to those meetings. That may give some idea of parents' view on the subject.

Tamil groups may also counter the false propaganda that Hindi is the path to good jobs by presenting them with facts. As we discussed in some detail in Part I, less than 10% of students may get some benefit from learning Hindi for 1, 2 or 3 hours a week but 100% of students would benefit by spending those hours improving their skills in English, mathematics, science and computers.


Post your comments and/or Read other comments (Subject: August 2015)

REFERENCE

1. Should my Son Learn Hindi? (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 2008 (14 KB)

Should my Son Learn Hindi? Tamil nationalist writer and a strong opponent of Hindi imposition responds. Answer may surprise you.

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India, Tamil Nadu and Hindi Imposition

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