FAQ: What is The 3-Language Formula in The New Education Policy?

Here’s all we know about the New Education Policy and what it says on medium of instruction.

3 min read
Hindi Female

The National Education Policy 2020 has ‘emphasised’ on the use of mother tongue or local language as the medium of instruction till Class 5 while, recommending its continuance till Class 8 and beyond.

What does this have to do with the three-language formula? Will students now have to study in their mother tongue? Here’s what we know about the new policy so far.

What is the three-language formula?

The new National Education Policy (NEP) recommends that all students will learn three languages in their school under the 'formula'. At least two of the three languages should be native to India.

For example: If a student in Mumbai is learning Marathi and English, he/she will have to choose to learn another Indian language.

Does the NEP make Hindi learning mandatory in all states?

In the draft NEP released last year, a paragraph suggested that under the three-language formula, teaching/learning Hindi will be mandatory in those states where the language is not usually spoken. Following protests by non-Hindi speaking states like Tamil Nadu, the Centre dropped the reference to mandatory learning of Hindi.


Who decides the three languages that the students learn at school?

The choice of languages learnt will depend on the state and the students. However, it is mandatory for at least two of the three languages to be native to the country – one of which is most likely to be the local/regional language.

Although a statement issued by the Ministry of Education says that "no language will be imposed on any student", it is not clear to what extent a student will be able to choose a particular language.

Should students now study all subject in their mother tongue?

Under the section called ‘multi-lingualism, and power of language’, the NEP says “wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Class 5, but preferably till Class 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother tongue/local language/regional language.”

Does this mean the language of instruction will change in English-medium schools?

Most likely it will not change. The NEP says "wherever possible" local language/mother tongue should be used. Therefore the school is likely to continue teaching in their medium of instruction and use local language when feasible.

However, the Ministry of Education is expected to clarify this soon. Watch this space for updates.

Does this medium of instruction rule apply to both private and public education institution?

Yes, the NEP document says that the rule will apply to both private and public schools.


What does the NEP say on teaching in home language/mother tongue/local language?

  • High-quality textbooks, including in science, will be made available in home languages
  • In cases where home-language textbook material is not available, the language of the transaction between teachers and students will still remain the home language wherever possible
  • Teachers will be encouraged to use a bilingual approach, including bilingual teaching-learning materials, with those students whose home language may be different from the medium of instruction

What are some unanswered questions in the NEP regarding the three-language rule?

  • Will language will English-medium schools teach in?
  • What about kids whose parents speak two different languages at home? What will be considered mother tongue?
  • Does the local language automatically become the mother tongue?
  • What about kids whose parents are in transferable jobs? How can their medium of instruction be the local language?
  • How much liberty will students be given to choose their medium of instruction?

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