German ambassador Michael Steiner's lobbying against government decision to teach Sanskrit as a third language in about 500 Kendriya Vidyalayas has invited criticism from all around and raised questions as to the role of the envoy, or for that matter the government he represents, in deciding for the Indian government as to what should be taught in its schools.
The union ministry for human resource development had decided to replace German with Sanskrit as the third language in central government-run Kendriya Vidyalayas, even as the ministry allowed the schools to continue teaching German as an optional language, so as not to affect the prospects of children who have been studying that language so long.
Steiner is reported to have gone as far as reaching out to Sanskrit Shikshak Sangh and holding meetings of stakeholders in private schools in Delhi on the issue.
The envoy seems to have been encouraged by German chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit at which she had raised the issue. The prime minister had also assured her of looking at it within the confines of the Indian system.
Steiner, after the meeting with Sanskrit Shikshak Sangh, tweeted, ''Sanskrit Shikshak Sangh supported my idea to organise, early 2015, conference on Indo-Germanic language family'' and he had ''in-depth exchange with... Sangh leaders on Sanskrit and German in very friendly atmosphere''.
HRD minister Smriti Irani had reiterated that German will continue to be taught as a foreign language. "We are teaching French. We are teaching Mandarin. We teach German in the same way,'' she had said.
Even as the German language cannot claim any special status compared to other foreign languages that are taught in Indian schools, the minister wondered as to why people do not understand that fact.
Kendriya Vidyalayas, according to Irani, have been teaching German under a MoU signed in 2011, which was in violation of the Constitution. An investigation has already been launched to find out how the MoU came to be signed, she said.
The Sanskrit Shikshak Sangh officials too said they have explained to the German side that the agreement signed between India and Germany for teaching German as a third language in KVs was in violation of both National Education Policy as well as three-language formula.
However, it is believed that despite the concerted efforts by the German envoy, there will not be any rethink on the decision of replacing German but the students wanting to study the foreign language can still do so as an ''additional'' subject as government has decided to continue with services of teachers hired for teaching it.