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India Language Education Policy 

India has a longstanding tradition of both multiculturalism and multilingualism. In 1961 the India Census confirmed the populace spoke as many as 1642 languages, but then decreased to 114 in 2001. A long debate was carried throughout the time of constituent assembly from 1947 to 1950 whether the nation adopt Hindi or Urdu for their national language. In 1950 the Indian Constitution finally compromised so that Hindi was adopted as the official language for fifteen years. Later on the Eight Schedule of the Constitution recognized as many as twenty two languages including Hindi as the official languages. Even though Hindi was not declared as Indian national language, it was stated as the language of Federal government which later be applied in thirteen states. It has also been used for business in all of the unions along with English which was established since colonial time as the associate official language. According to Language-2001 Census (2011) there are about 41 percent of the population are native speakers of Hindi. Throughout its proliferation, Hindi has developed into 48 variants which was rooted from a distinct varieties of Sanskrit, namely Khariboli (Benedikter, 2009).

In India language is tightly affiliated with social structure and caste. There are seven major religions group and also Scheduled Casted and Tribes that represent the country.  The diversity of religion and ethnicity is even more complex in regards to the social stratification that links to them. As a consequence, social interactions are expedited by various patterns of language. The multilingual ethos that occurs in the society maintain a strong norm to the language shift in different domains. However, they are formed into non-competing spheres that applied at different space in the community. To this point, Mohanty argues that “under such conditions of multilingual functioning individuals naturally need and use different languages because no language is sufficient or suitable for meeting all the communicative requirements across different situations and social activities” (2006, p.263).

To provide an equal condition of language learning in the society and also to enhance the multilingualism in education, the government of India launched the three-language formula In 1957. This policy was established to allow (1) local language, (2) Hindi or any other language for Hindi-area and (3) English, as the language of instruction and also to be taught as the school subjects in secondary education. However, due to the enforcement of majority regional language over the minority language group, the practice often did not fulfil the policy. Therefore it went through several modifications, and how the states and school systems interpreted the formula resulted different versions that were applied (Mohanty, 2006). Even though some resistance occurred toward the implementation of this policy, the states were encouraged to make serious effort in promoting indigenous languages for a broader national communication.


Ethnologue: India

Ministry of Human Resource and Development Government of India: Language Education:

The Constitution of India: Provisions relating to languages:



Is Hindi our national language?:

Tamil must get national status in India:


Language-2001 Census. (2011). Retrieved December 24, 2015, from

Benedikter, T. (2009). Language policy and linguistic minorities in India: an appraisal of the linguistic rights of minorities in India (Vol. 3). LIT Verlag Münster.

Mohanty, A. K. (2006). Multilingualism of the unequals and predicaments of education in India: Mother tongue or other tongue. Imagining Multilingual Schools. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 262-79.



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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Hendrayani, Yani. (2015). India Language Education Policy. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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