NCERT Video lesson for teachers on multilingual education in primary grades


The NCERT/LLF  video lesson is making the concepts very clear for teachers

There is quite a bit of material on the Internet about multilingual education aimed at an academic audience. This week I watched the newly published video lesson  hosted by NCERT aimed at primary school teachers. Dhir Jingran, together with other LLF staff are the resource persons and are making multilingual education very practical. I love the participatory way the lesson is designed: there are interactions, video fragments, brief explanations, helpful graphics and ways for the audience to ask questions: worth watching!

The video lesson “Using children's languages in the classroom – why and how?" (Hindi version) is part of a NCERT course for primary school teachers. It unpacks the importance of multilingual education, namely the inclusion of mother tongue in early childhood education. This video interviews Dr. Jingran of LLF (Language Learning Foundation) and his colleague Ms Sneha Sharma (LLF) who have a broad experience in educating  parents and teachers about the value of using the local languages in the classroom. 

The video advocates for the use of mother tongue in early childhood and even beyond that. They also stress upon the point that learning in classrooms should be made more flexible rather than strict. They illustrate that with the help of a video of a teacher who is hardworking and well meaning yet he strictly makes children use pure form of hindi which is not the children’s mother tongue. Whereas in another videoclip a different teacher allows the children to speak in a mix of languages and engages with children freely. The children are seen as scared in the first scenario and picking up a lot more information in the second one. 

Through this video lesson we also learn that more than 35% of children in India are facing a learning disadvantage as they do not speak the language of their teacher. The children who are in the most disadvantaged positions are the tribal children in remote habitation, children whose home language is different from the state one, those who live at interstate borders and children of migrant workers. But the most disadvantaged of them all are the ones who have to study in English right from pre primary and pre-primary levels while their teachers hardly know English and the local languages are banned from the school premises.

The resource people in the video then propose a solution to this. Firstly, they propound that children should be allowed to speak and taught in a mix of languages, such as the state language and the mother tongue. The instructions also should be oral instead of rote learning. Another strategy they put forward is decoding what is being taught using the home language. Putting the lessons in the cultural context of the students is also another important strategy as students will be more comfortable and end up learning a lot more. There are situations where a teacher may not even be familiar with the  home language wherein one teacher used simple strategies. She listened and observed more, picked up common words, used a mix of languages and interacted with the wider community to enlist their help.  Multilingual education according to Dr Jhingran should utilise available cultural knowledge and mix languages as they are not watertight compartments. He also is of the view that using home language or mother tongue helps students not only in learning new languages but also better equips them to learn other subjects as well.

The resource persons in the video also talk about strategies to teach children an altogether unfamiliar language as well. The language learning process has to be more oral than written at the early stages. The students also should be taught in the story format. The teacher should use a comprehensible way of teaching. The learning environment should be anxiety free. Building the vocabulary should be focussed upon. Lastly, the resource personnel focus upon the importance of involving parents, educators and the community in providing a holistic multilingual environment for children. 

Thank you, Dhir and team for making this type of training widely available!


Karsten (with help of Upasana Lepcha who summarised the video content)