The Karnataka High Court on April 6 stayed two government orders that made Kannada a compulsory language in degree courses as a part of implementing National Education Policy, reported Live Law.

The order was issued to clarify that the Centre’s National Education Policy did not make it compulsory to learn local languages while seeking higher education.

The government had issued orders on August 7 and September 15 making Kannada a compulsory language in degree colleges, even for those students who have not studied it at the pre-university level, The Indian Express reported. The orders had led to confusion at the time of admissions to degree colleges in Karnataka in 2021.

The court was hearing two petitions filed by students and the Karnataka Trust challenging the state’s decision on mandating the regional language in degree courses.

The petition claimed that the state’s move was “arbitrary” and restricted “freedom of speech and expression” enshrined under the Constitution.

The court on April 6 said that at this stage, the state government must not insist on making the language compulsory.

“Those students who have taken the Kannada language on the basis of their choice may do so, all such students who do not wish to take the Kannada language shall not be compelled to pursue” the language, till further orders, said the court, Live Law reported.

The matter will be heard next in the last week of July, reported Live Law.

What is the new education policy?

The National Education Policy, approved by the government on July 29, was an election promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014 and the first revision in 34 years.

A panel headed by former Indian Space Research Organisation chief K Kasturirangan submitted a draft in December 2018, which was then made public and opened for feedback after the Lok Sabha election in May 2019.

The new highlights include a plan to allow foreign universities to open campuses in India and a single regulator for higher education institutions, except for law and medical colleges.

It encourages the use of technology, the study of Sanskrit, and teaching in one’s mother tongue or regional languages up to Class 5.

Meanwhile, Class 10 and 12 board examinations will be made easier, to test core competencies rather than memorised facts and all students will be allowed to take the exam twice.

The policy will also introduce four-year undergraduate degrees with multiple entry and exit options and abolish the M Phil degree.