What have the two years of NEP meant for Multilingual Education in India?
The National Education Policy (NEP) completed two years last month. This is a good reason to ask what the NEP 2020 has meant for multilingual education in India. There has been significant talk about introducing or strengthening Multilingual Education in various state-level primary schools, but has there been action?
The NEP 2020 has brought multilingual education higher on the agenda in India. As an indicator, I did a quick research in Google and compared the Google hits in the two years after NEP(2020-22) and two years prior(2018-20). I got 6500 hits since June 2020 when I searched for "Multilingual education" in India, while the two years before that had less than half of that.
The extra attention has caused a wider group of people to be thinking of the issues related to multilingual education. The home minister, for example, recently stated that, when we do not use Indian languages to teach, we are not able to utilise the full potential of the country. He also stressed that there is an important relationship between being able to use or think in one’s mother tongue and doing good research and education because of that ability. (https://www.shiksha.com/news/amit-shah-launches-new-initiatives-to-mark-two-years-of-nep-blogId-98333)
The education ministry in 2021 released SARTHAQ, a document which provides a guideline on the execution of the NEP. The document includes thoughts on the practical implementation process of education in the mother tongues of the students. It outlines a two-pronged approach. First is the tool of linguistic mapping in developing the curriculum in different regional languages. Second is the implementation of a bilingual approach to imparting education. Linguistic mapping tools will identify the languages spoken in an area and understood by students. This will be followed by the development of a curriculum in these local languages in addition to finding teachers fluent in those languages. This all sounds interesting, but I have only heard about linguistic mapping happening in Chhattisgarh in collaboration with the Language Learning Foundation. I am not aware of other states conducting such a survey.
In the MLE India blog, we have reported about practical steps that a few states have taken in the context of the NEP 2020. For example, Jharkhand saw the development of textbooks in five tribal and two regional languages and being used by about 1,000 schools in ten districts. The northeastern state of Assam also plans to introduce teaching in four of the regional languages of the state. The state of Odisha introduced in 2021 the ‘Project Samhiti’ which seeks to teach the tribals of the state in their own language.
The focus on the mother tongue and regional languages in the schools Is generating a lot of talk. A lot more needs to happen to have the children in the classroom benefit from it!
Karsten, together with Upasana Lepcha.