Keeping students future at stake

Keeping students future at stake

Jitendra, a final year student of Persian in the School of Foreign Languages at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU), attentively listens to a speech by the university president outside the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) building. Question is, what is making JNUSU president, and several other foreign language students like him gather outside UPSC office?

They are protesting. Exclusion of foreign languages from the list of optional subjects for Main exams of Civil Services has left students disgruntled. All they know is to raise their voice. Holding placards in their hands and demanding restoration of foreign language paper in the Mains, these students protest against UPSC, which cites “insufficient number of students opting for these subjects” as the reason behind its decision.

“I feel as if I have wasted all these years studying Persian,” says Jitendra, whose hopes of becoming a bureaucrat have begun to dwindle with the scrapping of the paper.

“Appearing for UPSC exams and clearing it with good marks was the only aim of my life. Because of this reason, I opted for Persian language so that I could easily get good marks. With new changes, I feel my graduation has gone in a bin. Even if I decide to appear for the exam with another subject, I have to begin from scratch. In the meantime, I cannot even plan for my higher studies in Persian language because I will spend my entire time understanding that new subject,” says Jitendra.

Like Jitendra, many language course students in Delhi University (DU) and Jamia Millia Islamia University also see their future hanging in balance. But it is not only students who are worried about the changes, teachers of Persian and Arabic languages are irked.

“How can these two languages (Arabic and Persian) be foreign languages? They have been a part of our culture for more than 500 years,” says Rehana Khatoon, former professor Persian language, Department of Literary Studies, Delhi University.

“Today, the language is getting popular among the students. They are doing diplomas, masters and PhDs. Any step like this acts as a demoralising factor for promotion of the language that has always been a part of the country,” says Rehana.

With 32 years of experience behind her, “There was a time when only a few were interested in studying the subject. But, with ties having improved with nations like Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran, the language has gained prominence.”

Talking about the importance of the subject in Civil Services, Rehana says, “When it comes to marks, the subject is like Mathematics. If you give a correct answer, you get full marks. That’s why IAS aspirants opt for language courses,” she says.

On the other hand, a professor of Arabic studies, DU, preferring anonymity says, “Through this new pattern, the government is trying to provide an opportunity to only those who have done good schooling and are graduates in Science or Arts. It’s a planned move to keep those away from administrative services who have studied vernacular languages. Basically, it is to introduce elitism in bureaucracy.”

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