Spanish in Indian Schools: Present and Future
There is no doubt that since a long time French has been the most common foreign language or second language subject taught in Indian schools, especially in the CBSE and ICSE schools. However, the scenario is changing rapidly across the country, and during the last two decades, Spanish has become the most sought after language in IB and IGCSE curricula and trickled down towards the national curricula as well.
Who could have imagined that even in the second tier cities like Lucknow or Varanasi, there would be jobs for Spanish teachers?
Just to give a quick overview of Spanish language: it is the official language of 21 countries, ranging from Spain in the European continent, Guinea Equatorial in Africa to the magical 19 Latin American countries across the Atlantic. Moreover, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the USA, a historical fact that the southern USA was once part of greater Mexico. Also, there has been a huge influx of Spanish speakers to the USA, from adjacent countries like Mexico, Cuba and other Hispanic nations.
It is a curious fact that Spanish presence in the USA is a vital fact in its popularity in Indian schools. As we know a huge number of NRI children are travelling back and forth, and most of them have studied Spanish at some point during their schooling. When these children join any international school in India, they intend to continue with their subject group without compromise and schools try to cater to their needs.
However, if we look at the Indian scenario, Spanish teaching in the country can be divided into three broad categories –
a) Costly international schools offering IB or IGCSE curricula
b) Traditionally elite CBSE and ICSE schools located in the hill stations or metro cities
c) Rest of the CBSE and ICSE schools including Kendriya Vidyalayas
The advent of IB curriculum in the country in 1976 was a watershed moment in the schooling culture in India. Their innovative teaching approaches, flexible curriculum, focus on international mindedness, foreign faculty members and international students, emerge as a fertile ground for experiments like offering foreign languages in a serious manner. In fact, second language is one of the major components in the higher secondary classes for IB, and since most of the students aim to attend international universities, having studied a foreign language proves to be an edge. Apart from AB Initio in IBDP, there is possibility to carry on Spanish in many IB schools, and the students having done Spanish B are expected to use the language proficiently. This is going to have a major impact on the education culture and economic ecology in the long run. Schools like Dhirubhai Ambani International School, even carry out student exchange programmes to Spain. Just imagine the broadening of cultural horizons of the participants and the impact on their life goals.
On the other hand, the traditionally elite CBSE, ICSE schools like Modern School, Sanskriti School, Doon School, Mayo College and the like too offer Spanish. However, it is more like getting into the game or to reap the status symbol the foreign languages carry. The serious didactics is missing there. However, thanks to enough resources, they can hire and run departments of foreign languages and can introduce many innovative steps towards modernization of schooling.
The third category of schools which cater to the maximum number of hard-working students as well teachers have to face major challenges in offering foreign languages. These schools have limited budget allocation for foreign languages. So, on the one hand they do not get qualified teachers, as they don’t pay enough and on the other they are at the receiving end of bureaucratic or administrative dictates. We all are aware of what happened with German language at Kendriya Vidyalayas. The programme ‘German in 1000 Schools’ launched in 2011 in a very short span of time garnered more than 50,000 learners at KVs. This was scrapped by the HRD Minister Smriti Irani, seeing it as a threat to Sanskrit. Such a regressive situation was further aggravated by the CBSE proposal to the HRD ministry to enforce the three language formula at the schools of offering Hindi, English and a third Indian language. The decision is not yet final but who would choose a fourth language if this is made compulsory at the CBSE schools as it is proposed?
Just look at our neighbour China! They recently began offering Spanish, German and French in their government schools, apart from Russian, Japanese and English which they have been offering since a long time. This fiercely monolingual country knows that in the era of globalization the developing nations need the western world more than they need us.
Spanish language in Indian schools does not seem to have a smooth ride except in the international schools. However, we hope that the eclipse on its future gets cleared in coming days and Indian students reap the benefit of the growing importance of this global tongue before joining universities.
Subhas Yadav has an MA degree in Spanish from JNU, a Master’s degree from Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Spain and is currently a Ph D scholar at the University of Hyderabad.
He has taught Spanish at Sreenidhi International School, Indus International School and Sancta Maria International School in Hyderabad. He is the founder of the forthcoming Spanish learning portal www.spanishbolo.com