NAGPUR, India, 16 December 2006 — The western Indian state of Maharashtra has decided to make learning the Marathi language mandatory for students studying in schools affiliated to the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) and Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) in the state.
The government’s decision was announced by Minister of State for Education Hasan Mushrif during a Maharashtra Legislative Council session in Nagpur on Thursday evening. Speaking to journalists later, Mushrif said the government’s decision is in line with a Supreme Court directive to the central boards to include local languages in their curriculum in states. This has already been done in several states, Mushrif added.
The issue of compulsory Marathi language in ICSE and CBSE schools generated a heated discussion in the council when Jitendra Awhad of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said that Marathi was being marginalized and would disappear from urban areas in the state if steps were not taken to introduce it as a compulsory subject in schools affiliated to central boards.
When Mushrif told Awhad that the state government cannot give direction to CBSE and ICSE schools as they are under the purview of the federal government, Awhad cited the example of some north and south Indian states which had made the local language compulsory. “So why not Marathi too?” Awhad asked and said that since education was a state subject, the state had a right to intervene.
Another NCP legislator, Ulhas Pawar, also said that the Supreme Court had allowed intervention by the state.
Mushrif then accepted the demand and said the state would issue instructions to such schools to make Marathi compulsory. Teaching of Marathi would be made compulsory even for schools that change from State Board pattern to CBSE or ICSE pattern.
The minister also warned that the state government would not issue a no-objection certificate to schools until they agreed to teach Marathi language.
The government’s decision evoked angry reactions from educationists in Mumbai, who termed the decision as arbitrary. Principals of several ICSE and CBSE schools felt that making the language compulsory will be impossible as these schools are affiliated to boards with independent syllabuses.
Shama Chaturvedi, vice principal of the CBSE-affiliated Kendriya Vidyalaya in Bhandup, a Mumbai suburb, said: “Students seeking education in CBSE schools are often multilingual and generally children of parents with transferable jobs. If Marathi is made mandatory, they will face problems while shifting from one state to another.”
Avanita Beer, principal of Poddar High School in Santa Cruz, also a CBSE school, said: “Most students studying in CBSE schools would not be able to identity themselves with the local language. Also, it’s technically impossible for the school to incorporate the change as we follow the directives issued by the CBSE and not the Maharashtra state board. So schools may not be able to implement it unless they are directed by their boards.”
MP Sharma, principal of G.D. Somani School, which is affiliated to the ICSE board, said: “The ICSE board has prescribed Marathi as an optional subject from standard IV to VII. Thus, those interested in learning Marathi have an option for opting for it.”
Schools are also worried over the clause that the state government will not issues no objection certificates (NOC) to new schools till they include Marathi as a compulsory subject till Class X.
The decision has also worried parents. Archana Sharma, a parent, said: “My child has never learnt Marathi and thus will find it difficult to cope with it. It will also hamper her academic performance. We are against the decision,” she said.