Hindi students celebrate Gandhi Jayanti at La Trobe

La Trobe ’s Hindi Program may be axed due to Low Student Numbers

La Trobe University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences is proposing to disestablish its Hindi Studies Program due to feasibility concerns caused by a decline in revenue from lack of students.

Hindi along with other language programs within Humanities Studies is deemed to be unprofitable by La Trobe and hence, the plan to disestablish Hindi and other language programs.

“Market demand and student enrolments for Hindi Studies have been very low for several years, the University said in a statement.

“In 2019, nine students enrolled for first year Hindi. Only three of these students continued their study this year.

“Accordingly, a change proposal has been released which, subject to the outcomes of staff consultation, may regrettably result in La Trobe closing the teaching of our Hindi language programs from 2022.”

Unfortunately, the difficulty was further accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program at La Trobe is one of only two Hindi programs in Australia – the other being offered by the Australian National University (ANU). La Trobe’s Hindi program is unique in that, that it offers Hindi classes from beginners’ level to Higher level.

According to Dr Ian Woolford, who teaches Hindi at La Trobe, La Trobe’s Hindi program is the unique point of the University in the Australian landscape and hence, strongly connects with the Indian community.

He believes that the Hindi program is also vital to building Australia’s multiculturalism and enhancing the connection between India and Australia.

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In a statement jointly issued by South Asian Studies Association of Australia (SAASA), Asian Studies Association and other Asian Studies Academics in Australia, they expressed grave concern about the potential closure of Hindi program at the La Trobe University.

“On behalf of Asian Studies academics in Australia we express our grave concern about the potential closure of programs in Hindi and Indonesian at La Trobe University.

“…For several years, successive Australian governments have prioritised strengthening Australia’s cultural, trading, diplomatic and defence ties with India.

“Australian universities have mostly failed to match this turn with major investment in India expertise, even as they have sought to attract ever greater numbers of Indian students”.

The university says all current students on the course will have the opportunity to complete their degrees and will be supported in the transition.

The statement expressed that closing the tertiary-level program of Hindi, would be a strong signal that Australia lacks seriousness in its new engagement with India.

Dr Vikrant Kishore, Senior Lecturer at Deakin University; along with other academics and community activists – formed the Hindi Action Group and met Indian Consul General, Raj Kumar in Melbourne, yesterday.

“The Consul General of India assured that he will take up the issue, and provide assistance to help the community retain the Hindi program at the La Trobe University, Dr Kishore told Bharat Times.

The Consul General is expected to meet the La Trobe University’s VC next month. Meanwhile, a meeting of community organisations will discuss the issue.

Earlier, the Hindi Action Group also met with Federal Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Jason Wood, urging federal action on the issue.

“The discussion with the Asst. Multicultural Affairs Minister went well,” Dr Kishore said.

“…support for Hindi received an encouraging, and positive response.

“The Minister did ask for further information, and assured that he will look into the issue, and have further discussion, and propose meeting with the Education Minister as well.

The Minister said that he would support the Hindi Language program to expand beyond its present reach.

Many MPs – Labor’s Tanya Plibersek and Peter Khalil, Greens’ Janet Rice and others have put their support behind stopping the scrapping Hindi Language at La Trobe.

“The loss of Hindi… would be devastating, Khalil said.

“Labor is deeply concerned that the Morrison Federal government’s failure to properly support our universities… their funding cuts are forcing universities to abolish courses that will be essential to Australia in coming decades,” he said.

He said that languages are “critical for Australia’s international relationships, trade and overall national interests,” given that India is an increasingly important international partner to Australia.

The Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek wrote to the Minister of Education, Dan Tehan urging him to work with Vice Chancellor Dewar to “ensure Hindi courses will be available to students next year and beyond”.

La Trobe proposes cutting Hindi language course
La Trobe proposes cutting Hindi language course

Meanwhile, Dr Woolford is expected to submit a proposal today, to La Trobe University for reconsideration and ways to save the program.

The proposal is expected to call for:

  • elimination of Hindi major, but retain Hindi instruction in a slimmed-down form – to better suit students who want to study Hindi but not as Hindi majors.
  • 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.
  • using the Hindi lecturer to cover both the Asian Studies subjects and Hindi electives.

With the proposal, the challenge may shape into an opportunity to reshape the Hindi curriculum, reduce cost and set Latrobe Hindi up in a much stronger position.

Saksham Katyal started a petition to Vice-Chancellor and President of La Trobe University to call for the continuation of the Hindi program.

The online Petition at Change.org has around 2445 signatures as of now.

Arun Sharma, Chairman, Celebrate India Inc. has also thrown in his weight behind the cause.

“I request you to join by signing this petition to support the continuation of Hindi language studies.

“I believe a conflicting message is being sent by the Federal Government here by reducing the funding for the national language of India, Hindi on one side and on other side promoting to build their relations with India,” he said.

Noteworthy, Hindi is offered as a subject in VCE, through Hindi schools, largely supported by the Victorian School of Languages.

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