NEW DELHI: In a major move to promote multilingual education in the country, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has allowed schools to offer education in India languages right from pre-primary to Class XII. Currently in majority of the CBSE affiliated schools the medium of instruction is English and in some education is delivered in Hindi.

The National Education Policy 2020 advocates use of home language, mother tongue, local language, or regional language as the medium of instruction across the education sector starting from schools. According to CBSE, the minister of education has directed the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) to prepare the new textbooks in 22 scheduled Indian languages and these will be made available from the 2024-25 academic session. NEP is completing three years this month and the new school curriculum is also expected to be announced to mark the occasion.
In an academic circular to its schools on Friday, the Board while stating that multilingual education has been widely recognized as a valuable approach to fostering linguistic diversity, cultural understanding, and academic success among students, stated: “The CBSE affiliated schools may consider using Indian languages, …, as the medium of Instruction from foundational stage till end of secondary stage i.e. from pre-primary classes till class XII as an optional medium in addition to other existing options….”

The Board cited the NEP 2020 which emphasized on the cognitive advantages of multilingualism for young learners, particularly when they are exposed to multiple languages from foundational stage, with a specific focus on their mother tongue.
The Board while underscoring the challenges such as availability of skilled teachers capable of teaching in multilingual settings, the creation of high-quality multilingual textbooks, and the limited time available, especially in two-shift government schools, as multilingual education demands additional instructional time allocation, according to Joseph Emmanuel, director (academics) the Centre has initiated steps to promote education through Indian languages medium on ground. “One of the major steps taken now is the direction by the ministry of education to NCERT for preparing new textbooks through 22 scheduled Indian languages. The NCERT has taken this serious task on highest priority so that textbooks in 22 scheduled languages can be made available to all students from next sessions.”
Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan on CBSE’s decision tweeted, “Well-done @cbseindia29. This is a laudatory step towards encouraging education in mother tongue and Indian languages in schools. #NEPInAction”
At present, there are 2.54 crore students studying across 28,886 CBSE affiliated schools. There are 12.56 lakh teachers in these schools.
Apart from NCERT school textbooks in Indian languages, CBSE said that with “Higher Education has also started gearing up to produce textbooks through Indian languages, and initiate learning-teaching process through Indian language mediums in addition to English medium, and to conduct examination through Indian languages as well,” along with textbooks in technical education, medical education, vocational education, skill education, law education, already being made available in Indian languages, it is necessary for school education has to become its foundation.
“The approach towards medium of instruction should be a continuity from school education to higher education,” said Emmanuel.

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