[MLE] An overview of Multi Lingual Education in India

Dear MLE Interest group,
Some of you have asked for an overview of what is going on in India regarding MLE. The below is a document that was compiled for the Unesco international head quarters. Be encouraged by the progress!
Feel free to comment if you feel a significant activity is missing or certain project are not well presented.

Multi Lingual Education (MLE) activities in India

India is a culturally diverse country with thousands of people groups and hundreds of languages. Recently the use of local languages in the classrooms has gained more attention. The UNESCO position paper “Education in a Multilingual Worldplayed an important role in this. It created a platform for interaction with government, as well as the scientific and social institutions. UNESCO Delhi collaborated with SIL Int’l and the International Network for Development (INfD) in this advocacy effort.

An important factor regarding the context is that the 2005 National Curriculum Framework (NCF), developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), is promoting the use of the local languages in the class rooms. Also the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) has had the use of the mother tongue high on its agenda from its beginning.

Multilingual Education workshop

The “India Workshop on Multilingual Education, with Special Focus on Tribal Education” was held from 25-27 October 2005. The workshop was sponsored by UNESCO, UNICEF, NCERT and CIIL. Policy makers, scholars and grass-root level workers from ten different states discussed issues related to Multi Lingual Education (MLE). As a result of that, the following state level initiatives were either strengthened or started.

·         Pilot Project among 8 tribal languages in Andhra Pradesh

AP began a multilingual education programme in November 2003 under the Ministries of Education and Tribal Welfare. In the last two and one-half years Andhra Pradesh has developed 1st and 2nd grade materials and is working on 3rd grade in eight of its 32 languages. Training in new teaching methods has taken place and about 100 classes are running which use the new materials and methodology.

·         Pilot Project among 10 tribal groups in Orissa

In April 06 the Orissa Primary Education Programme Authority called for an MLE consultation. A plan was made for a pilot project to begin in 10 (out of 62 languages) by June 2007. The time till then is being used for material production and teacher training. Two material development workshops have taken place and a third is planned for November. NGOs have been invited to conduct model programmes.

·         MLE consultation in Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh held its first seminar on multilingual education for tribal groups in October 2006. There was a positive response from the tribal and non tribal teachers present as well as NGOs working in linguistics and literacy in tribal areas. A support team is emerging and there are plans to initially work with seven languages.

·         NCERT consultations in Jharkhand and other states

NCERT, in collaboration with CIIL, has taken up a programme to do consultations and training on tribal education in three states. One such consultation took place in Jharkhand in October 2006. Children, teachers, parents and policy makers were involved in expressing their needs and listening to each other. Several training sessions will follow to equip teachers to use the mother tongue of the children in the classroom. The first training session is planned for January

·         Pilot project in Assam

Assam already has mother tongue education in two of its major language groups. It is currently planning on developing an MLE program in the tea gardens where there is the highest dropout and lowest achievement rates in the state. A sociolinguistic survey will take place in November 06. In January 2007 a material development workshop will take place, initially for kindergarten and then for grades 1 and 2.

Capacity Building workshop

A Capacity building workshop on Planning for Multilingual Education in Language Minority Communities for ten days was held in Bangkok from 10-21 July 2006 under the coordination of UNESCO BKK in collaboration with SIL International.  The purpose of the workshop was to address the literacy of pre- primary and primary and adult literacy of   ethnic minority groups   of South East Asian countries.  Two participants were sent from India (NCERT, New Delhi and Tribal Education coordinator of the Orissa Primary Education Programme Authority, Bhubaneswar, Orissa)

Emerging issues

The programmes are in its pilot stages. The challenge is to get these projects embedded in the educational system and ensure coherence in policies and implementation at all levels. Good collaboration between the tribal welfare and education departments is required. Methods are often developed assuming that the classes are monolingual. However in reality many classrooms are filled with a multiple language population. More participation of the local communities is desired.

All of the above are using a programme where the medium of instruction is initially in mother tongue with a gradual transition to second and third languages – maintaining the mother tongue for as long as feasible and at least until the end of primary schooling. In each state educators and linguists, government, NGOs and academic institutions have been working together and a team is being trained in MLE and gaining experience.

Oct 06; Compiled by Karsten van Riezen, SIL Int. on behalf of UNESCO Delhi