Amid debate over what should be the medium of instruction in schools, Lok Sabha secretariat encourages senior officials to learn foreign languages, citing parliament’s growing engagement with foreign counterparts and international institutions . They are also required to learn, at least at a basic level, the local languages.
“It was decided to organize beginner level learning courses in different foreign languages as well as Indian languages programmed for officers of Parliament. The duration of the program would be three months with two classes per week,” said an internal Lok Sabha circular, a copy of which was viewed by HT.
The courses will be offered in four foreign languages - German, French, Russian and Spanish – and may be extended to other languages depending on the level of interest of Lok Sabha secretariat officials, according to lecturer Om Birla. The French course started on August 4th.
A civil servant enrolled in the French course said: “It will be very useful for us in our interactions with international hosts. French is a widely used language in Europe and also in Africa. The language exercise comes amid a debate sparked by the new education policy approved by the Center last month which stressed the need for students to be taught in their own language despite sticking to the formula in three languages - English, Hindi and a regional language. The policy stated that since children learn and grasp non-trivial concepts faster in their mother tongue, which is often the mother tongue, this should preferably be the medium of instruction.
“Wherever possible, the language of instruction through at least Grade 5, but preferably through Grade 8 and beyond, will be the language spoken at home, mother tongue, local language or the regional language. Thereafter, the native or local language should continue to be taught as the language whenever possible. This will be followed by public and private schools,” the policy states.
However, this has raised concerns about the existence of thousands of English-speaking schools across India. To allay concerns in a country that has 22 official languages, officials said the policy was not intended to impose one language on anyone.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla wants senior officials in the lower house secretariat to hone their foreign language skills keeping in mind the parliament’s growing international exposure and multilateral commitments, officials said. The French course is open to officers who are at least executive assistants. Fifty-seven officials registered for the course.
The Secretariat of Parliament is a mini-India in its profile, comprising civil servants from different corners of the country. But with most day-to-day tasks carried out either in Hindi or English, civil servants have had little incentive to learn new languages. In recent years, Parliament has increasingly engaged with its international counterparts.
In addition to participation in multilateral forums such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union, legislative delegations make overseas visits on goodwill missions and receive guests from other countries. .