President Pranab Mukherjee has endorsed a proposal to make the learning of Hindi compulsory up to Class X in Central Board of Secondary Education schools but rejected a similar suggestion for state board schools, sources have said.
Hindi is now compulsory till Class VIII in CBSE schools virtually everywhere in India, as in state board schools in the Hindi-speaking states.
But in Classes IX and X, when CBSE students have to study only two languages instead of three, Hindi becomes optional.
CBSE spokesperson Rama Sharma declined comment on the latest proposal. A human resource development ministry official said the recommendation would be examined.
Parliament's committee on official languages had recommended "serious efforts" to make Hindi compulsory in schools, suggesting a beginning be made with CBSE schools.
But it also suggested that a proposal to make Hindi compulsory up to Class X be introduced in Parliament, which, if passed, would have covered all schools in the country.
The President, however, advised that compulsory Hindi teaching in state board schools should remain confined to the Hindi belt, sources said.
A home ministry resolution has cited the President's directions to say the panel's recommendation has been "accepted with (the) modification" to limit compulsory Hindi teaching to "Region A", and that the Centre "should formulate a policy after consultations with the state governments".
"Region A" covers Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and the Andamans.
Some school principals criticised the idea of making Hindi compulsory up to Class X. "There may be unrest; the parents may not want it," said Usha K., principal of the CBSE-affiliated Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Kochi, Kerala.
A former CBSE chairman said that language, being a sensitive subject, should not be forced down one's throat but its learning should be encouraged. "If imposed forcibly, it can be counterproductive," he cautioned.