This is a call to The La Trobe University for the continuation of its Hindi language program.
Victoria's Latrobe Univerisity is considering discontinuing its Hindi Language Program, one of the two of its kind in Australia, the other one being the Hindi Program of Australian National University.
The Latrobe Univerity School’s proposal is to eliminate the Hindi major and cease the teaching of Hindi altogether. This proposal could deliver a serious blow to India studies in Australia, and also greatly damage the reputation of the university among the Indian community a vast majority of whom speak Hindi.
We are in the middle of an unprecedented financial situation, and we acknowledge that some sacrifices need to be made within the School. Therefore, in view of the current circumstance, we recommend that the University retain Hindi instruction in a slimmed-down form that is better situated for the circumstances as well for the long term.
While it would be sad to see the Hindi major go, there is also an exciting opportunity for Hindi at the university in the future. Most students who want to study Hindi do not do so as Hindi majors. Rather, they want to add on some Hindi to their main degrees.
A slimmed-down Hindi program better meets this need of students.
Perhaps, by reducing the number of Hindi subjects, and rebranding Latrobe Hindi as a series of electives, targeted at students in other disciplines (such as International Relations, Archaeology, and Health fields), the university may be in a position to grow Hindi enrolment numbers and create better synergy with other courses of study at the university.
It may not cost the university any additional funds to pursue this plan as the program is likely to pay for itself.
Our own thoughts are that it is quite embarrassing for Australia that there are only two university Hindi programs, and none in Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu or any other South Asian languages. The India-Australia relationship is quite unbalanced in this regard. Indian diplomats know what is happening on the ground across Australia, but Australian diplomats do not necessarily know what is happening on the ground in India, because we do not put resources into training them in Indian languages.
It is important to stress that Hindi is a growing community language in Australia— part of a multilingual landscape that includes many other Indian languages. Especially post-COVID, when it is important to keep lines of communication open, it is a terrible idea to start shutting down an important communication medium like Hindi.
The university just honored Shah Rukh Khan with an honorary doctorate last year, and the chancellor gave a speech during the ceremony highlighting the university's commitment to Hindi. What kind of message will this extra-ordinary step send to India and the Indian diaspora if the Hindi program is shut down a year later.
If Latrobe wants to rebrand itself as a major learning centre of a “Smart City”, then its curriculum should reflect it in the diversity of its language courses.