Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Explained: Three Language Formula


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Three Language Formula

Mains level : Features of New Education Policy


  • The union government released a draft NPE, a report prepared by a committee headed by space scientist K. Kasturirangan.
  • Its reference to mandatory teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking States set off a political storm in Tamil Nadu, which is traditionally opposed to the compulsory study of Hindi.
  • The govt. sought to neutralize the hostile reaction by dropping the controversial reference to Hindi.

Backdrop to the Hindi imposition row

  • The State has been traditionally opposed to any attempt to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language of learning or administration.
  • The origin of the linguistic row, however, goes back to the debate on official language.
  • In the Constituent Assembly, Hindi was voted as the official language by a single vote. However, it added that English would continue to be used as an associate official language for 15 years.
  • The Official Languages Act came into effect on the expiry of this 15-year period in 1965.
  • This was the background in which the anti-Hindi agitation took place.
  • However, as early as in 1959 Nehru had given an assurance in Parliament that English would continue to be in use as long as non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.

The Three Language Formula

  • It is commonly understood that the three languages referred to are Hindi, English and the regional language of the respective States.
  • Though the teaching of Hindi across the country was part of a long-standing system, it was crystallized into a policy in an official document only in the NEP, 1968.
  • This document said regional languages were already in use as the medium of education in the primary and secondary stages.
  • At the secondary stage, State governments should adopt and vigorously implement the three-language formula.
  • It included the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi-speaking States.

For non-Hindi speaking States

  • In such States Hindi should be studied along with the regional language and English.
  • It added: Suitable courses in Hindi and/or English should also be available in universities and colleges with a view to improving the proficiency of students in these languages up to the university standards.

To Promote Hindi

  • The NPE 1968 said every effort should be made to promote the language and that in developing Hindi as the link language.
  • Article 351 of the Constitution provides for Hindi as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India.
  • The establishment, in non-Hindi States, of colleges and other institutions of higher education which use Hindi, as the medium of education should be encouraged.
  • Incidentally, the NPE 1986 made no change in the 1968 policy on the three-language formula and the promotion of Hindi and repeated it verbatim.

Tamil Nadu’s stand on this

  • Tamil Nadu has been traditionally opposed to any attempt to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language of learning or administration.
  • The origin of the linguistic row, however, goes back to the debate on official language.
  • TN leaders does not oppose the voluntary learning of Hindi and cite the unhindered work of the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, established in Chennai by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918.
  • Also, there is no bar on private schools, most of them affiliated to the CBSE offering Hindi.
  • The State has been following the two-language formula for many decades, under which only English and one regional language are compulsory in schools.

English, the only link

  • An important aspect of the opposition to Hindi imposition is that many in Tamil Nadu see it as a fight to retain English.
  • English is seen as a bulwark against Hindi as well as the language of empowerment and knowledge.
  • There is an entrenched belief that the continued attempts to impose Hindi are essentially driven by those who want to eliminate English as the country’s link language.
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