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Language Education in Multilingual India

Given the complicated and dynamic language situation, the role of language in Indian education has been at the centre of both debate and controversy. The central issue in the last hundred and fifty years has been the medium of instruction. There is evidence to show that before the British rule there was a vigorous system of indigenous education with provision for both sectarian and secular education. However, learning of an elite standard language was always a part of the Indian education system. Before the British, the language of power was Persian, and before that is was Sanskrit. The British debated the issue for many years before deciding in favour of English as the medium of instruction in Indian schools, which accorded prestige to the English language. Even during the British rule, the controversy centred round the question of education through the Indian languages versus English. The entire question of which language was to be the language of instruction at the school level was naturally and intricately linked to the freedom struggle and national identity. The language issue took on a more serious connotation as it became linked to the question of identifying a national language for independent India.