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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

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Volume 2018, Issue 253


The right to education act (2009): Instructional medium and dis-citizenship

Usree Bhattacharya / Lei Jiang
Published Online: 2018-08-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0028


While the broader ambition of the Indian government’s Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act (2009) has been lauded, scholars have expressed reservations with the universal education measure. One area that has not been adequately addressed within these debates is the instructional medium. While RTE (2009) recognizes children who are “disadvantaged” as linguistic minorities, and stipulates that the “medium of instruction shall, as far as practicable, be in child’s mother tongue”, it offers little further direction. India is home to more than 1,652 languages, but only 43 languages function as instructional media. Therefore, the majority of children learn in a tongue that is not their home language, experiencing serious educational disadvantages. How this issue complicates the intent of the RTE (2009) Act remains to be explored. This article examines this gap using the theoretical lens of dis-citizenship, which is conceptualized in terms of exclusions experienced by marginalized groups. Here, we focus on those marginalized by the language of instruction. We investigate questions about language access, inclusion, equity, and rights arising from RTE (2009), within the narrative of India’s complex, hierarchical multilingualism.

Keywords: medium of instruction; India; equity; dis-citizenship; right to education


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-08-19

Published in Print: 2018-08-28

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Volume 2018, Issue 253, Pages 149–168, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0028.

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