The Benefits of Multilingual Classrooms - Macmillan India Report
It is always good when research affirms what we have already observed ourselves: it is beneficial for learners when multiple languages are used in the classroom, particularly if the teaching isn’t in the students’ home language.
Macmillan Education India is a key stakeholder in the Indian education arena as they regularly produce resources in both print and digital form in addition to engaging in assessments and teacher training. In February, they presented the results of a survey they did to understand the effects of multilingualism in the classroom. (See full report.) Managing Director, Rajesh Pasari, writes in the foreword: “Through this study, we wanted to find out more about this linguistic phenomenon in relation to English classrooms. The study analysed the potential advantages and challenges of linguistic diversity which can impact the everyday lives of Indian learners in educational institutions. The report documents the multilingual reality and various teaching practices in classes of English language as well as other subjects all over India.”
According to the Macmillan report, the participants filled out an online survey, and those who agreed to a follow-up were contacted via a telephone interview. The sample consisted of in-service teachers of government/private schools and those who gave home and online tutoring. (Macmillan Report pg. 9). The study aimed to understand the teacher’s perception and understanding of multilingualism in the classroom and what was its impact. It sought to study the significance of multilingual education in Indian classrooms. The study came up with the following findings:
Teachers have different perspectives on multilingualism, but the use of different languages in the classroom is welcomed.
The use of the home language supports the understanding of academic concepts.
Diversity and inclusion should be encouraged through the use of the different languages spoken by children in a classroom.
The teachers were asked a question about whether student learning improves when you switch between languages during classroom instruction. A majority of teachers answered ‘Yes’ . One teacher, for example, said, “Language switching helps English learners better understand concepts, especially cultural ideas.”
This report would be helpful to teachers to understand the importance of the use of the local languages in the classroom context. As per the findings of this survey, it reinstates the benefit of using multilingualism so students grasp concepts better and more quickly. In addition, multilingualism in the classroom (multilingual education) is also seen as fostering a more egalitarian education system by fostering diversity and inclusion through the use of the student’s mother tongue.
Karsten van Riezen and Upasana Lepcha