After Kendriya Vidyalaya downgrade German, student numbers plummet from 80,000 to 18,000

German is being offered as a “hobby subject” (optional) to students of Classes 6, 7, and 8 in these state-run schools. In some KVs, secondary and senior secondary students, too, can learn the language.

THE KENDRIYA Vidyalaya Sangathan’s decision two years ago to teach German only outside school hours has led to a sharp drop in student enrolment and about 270 teachers losing their jobs, forcing the German Embassy to seek the Central Government’s intervention, The Indian Express has learnt.

German is being offered as a “hobby subject” (optional) to students of Classes 6, 7, and 8 in these state-run schools. In some KVs, secondary and senior secondary students, too, can learn the language.

On March 29, 2019, the Sangathan issued a circular ordering its schools to teach additional languages outside school hours to allocate more time to work and art education.

Sources told The Indian Express that student enrolment fell from 80,000 in 369 KVs in 2018 to 18,500 in 91 KVs this year. The number of German teachers employed by KVs dropped from about 350 in 2018 to about 70, they said.

The German Embassy, sources said, has written at least two letters to the Education Ministry highlighting the numbers and requesting that KVs teach the language during school hours. The second letter was written a few months ago but there has been no assurance from the Centre yet, sources said.

When contacted by The Indian Express, a German Embassy spokesperson acknowledged a “rapid decline” in the number of KV students opting to study German since the 2019 circular.

“Currently, only 18,500 students are able to continue with the German language learning sessions at KV schools. 271 of the German teachers have already been laid off due to this development,” the Embassy said in an emailed response.

The Embassy said it has been “working closely” with KVS and the Education Ministry “to find out a constructive solution in accordance with the New Education Policy, NEP 2020 and CBSE guidelines that benefits the students to achieve their goals and meet their incessant desire to learn German, being the most used language in Europe right after English”.

The Embassy said it is “in touch” with the Ministry “to explore possible ways and means to re-increase German lessons in all KV schools”.

The fall in numbers comes at a time when Germany has emerged as a popular destination for higher education among Indian students. In 2019-20, according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, there were about 25,000 Indian students enrolled at German universities making them the second-largest group of international students in the country, after the Chinese.

The Education Ministry did not respond to requests for comment. KVS did not directly respond to queries on the dip in enrollment but shared a brief note stating that it had reworked the timetable to adhere to the CBSE direction to have at least one period of physical education.

Also, it said, the additional language periods carved out of the time meant for work and art education were restored to the respective subjects to conform with the spirit of the National Curriculum Framework.

The Sangathan said if at least 15 students or more in a school opt to study an additional language they can do so beyond school hours.

According to a Delhi-based German teacher who was laid off from a KV in West Delhi in 2019, parents are often unwilling to let their children stay back beyond school hours. “It took me 1.5 years to find another job. The pandemic had made it particularly difficult for teachers like me to find employment again,” said the 33-year-old, who spoke on condition of anonymity and now teaches at a private school in the Delhi cantonment area.

The teaching of German in KVs has been mired in controversy since 2014, when the then Education Minister, Smriti Irani, replaced the language with Sanskrit as the third language mid-session in the state-run Kvs.

The move triggered a minor diplomatic faceoff with German Chancellor Angela Merkel raising this issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Centre, however, justified the change on the ground that offering a foreign language as the third language subject is a violation of the three-language policy enshrined in the National Education Policy of 1986. Its decision was upheld by the Supreme Court. In 2015, the KVs reintroduced German as a hobby subject or additional language.

German, as a subject, was first introduced in KVs in 2009, with Max Mueller Bhavan and the German government providing academic support.

“From the beginning, this project was very much appreciated and has received a positive response…leading to a rising number of German learners over the years,” the Embassy said.

“Learning German language at school level has enhanced the opportunity for Indian students to study at German universities. Students have already gained admission to German universities and many more will have the chance to visit a university of their choice in Germany when this project continues prospering,” it said.

“Furthermore, programs like camps, competitions and trips to Germany, conducted by the Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan for students, were other motivational factors. For instance, over 50 KV students visited Germany at the invitation of the Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan in the past few years,” the Embassy said.

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