The regional languages in India hold greater sanctity when it comes to political battles in the country, but for educational use, English supersedes all other languages including Hindi. It’s not a new fact that has surfaced, but with the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) exam, this conjecture got further cemented as out of 13 lakh students who appeared for the NEET exam only 8 per cent wrote their medical entrance exam in regional languages.

The latest data has found only 8% of over 13 lakh aspirants wrote the medical entrance exam in regional languages, with a vast majority using English.

The government is likely to rethink the number of regional languages that aspirants can give the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) in, since the medium of instruction later has to be English. The move comes after a slight dip was observed in the number of aspirants taking the medical entrance test in regional languages this year compared to the last. As per latest data from the CBSE, which conducts NEET, over 10 lakh of the 13,26,725 students who appeared for the exam this year used English, around one lakh used Hindu, while the rest used other languages like Assamese, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Oriya, Bengali, Urdu, Telugu and Kannada.

In percentage terms, the number of candidates appearing in regional languages has dropped from 10 per cent to 8 per cent, with Oriya and Bengali seeing the biggest fall. Among the regional languages, the most popular medium remains Gujarati, while Urdu, the latest to enter the fray after a petition in the Supreme Court, found only 1,700 takers.

Decision will take some time

“There was a huge demand from various states for including regional languages in NEET, since many states conducted their own medical entrance exams in their respective languages before it became centralised,” a senior official in the Directorate of Health Services said.

“However, if the numbers in regional languages are not many and students start getting comfortable with English, we might just revert to English,” the official said. Some regional languages, however, have to be included because the Supreme Court had given an order to this effect, the officer clarified.

“We will see how it goes, and take a decision on the languages in the coming years,” the official said.

“This is only until the entrance examination level. Once a student is selected to a college, he/she will have to study in English only. For students from regional languages, the Medical Council of India will have a two-month foundation course to make them familiar with some terms which they might be unfamiliar with.”

Equal footing

Even as the government rethinks the issue, people who teach in regional languages say it is a way to provide equal footing to students.