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Minutes of the MHRD’s Consultation on Multi Lingual Education (MLE)

A Consultation on Multi Lingual Education (MLE) was organized in the Conference Room of MHRD (112 C) on 20 th January 2009. Dr. Arun Kumar Rath, Secretary, Department of School Education & Literacy, MHRD chaired the Consultation. The main objective of the consultation was to take stock of progress in MLE activities in various states under SSA, identify the emerging issues and explore possible solutions for strengthening related processes at different levels. Experts from different organizations including researchers from Universities, NCERT, NUEPA, NGOs, and specialists from Development Partners such as UNESCO, UNICEF and programme facilitators from selected states such as Andhra Pradesh & Orissa

participated in the consultation. List of the participants in this Consultation is enclosed at Annex


At the outset, Dr. Rath, Secretary, SE & L welcomed the experts and lauded their interest in the Consultation on MLE. He indicated that Mother Tongue based early education for children from disadvantaged tribal groups, where the school language differs from the home language, is very crucial to introduce them to the world of learning. In spite of policy frameworks and action plans, introducing Mother Tongue based early education has remained a challenge in many areas because of inadequate infrastructure, under prepared teachers and pedagogical processes. In states like Orissa, where tribal population constitutes 22% of the total population, it remains a stiff challenge to quality education. There are similar problems in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and nearby states. Hence there is a strong need for preparing more and more people to strengthen the Multi Lingual Education (MLE) programme, such that pedagogical processes are initiated in the Mother Tongue and is systematically linked to school language and other languages.

Dr. Rath articulated that there was need for a ‘monograph on MLE’ that would discuss possible outcomes and prescribe a detailed action plan for the future of MLE in the country. He indicated that TSG in consultation with various academic bodies should develop a document soon. He invited all members to share their experience and expertise and provide support in the matter.

After a round of introduction, Mr. Binay Pattanayak, Chief Consultant, TSG gave an overview of MLE in tribal areas under SSA. His presentation highlighted the Constitutional


obligations in Articles 46 and 350 A for emphasis on Mother Tongue based education for children from disadvantaged communities, especially for tribal children. He also made references to the National Policy of Education 1986 and Programme of Action 1992, which envisage promotion of tribal education. The Position Papers of UNESCO (2003) and World Bank (2004) also called for Mother Tongue instruction as a means of improving educational quality by building upon the knowledge and experience of the learners and teachers. In addition, he highlighted the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 and Position Papers on Language teaching that argue for a renewed effort to implement the three-language formula, emphasizing the recognition of children's home language(s) or mother tongue(s) as the best medium of instruction. The multilingual character of Indian society should be seen as a resource for the enrichment of school life.

At this point, Dr. Rath stated that the Right to Free & Compulsory Education Bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha. Once it is passed, it will address many problems on priority basis, including Mother Tongue based education wherever possible. The Bill would solve problems related to teacher shortage, teacher training, quality education and universal retention in schools.

In spite of strong policy level advocacy, several systemic challenges have hampered progress of MLE in the concerned tribal areas. Lack of trained, skilled and motivated teachers, shortage of adequate and quality teacher training, need for attitudinal change towards education for tribal population, better facilities for students and teachers, community support and involvement and also better monitoring and evaluation are the major challenges in many states.

To indicate the implications of such systemic limitations, the overview capitalized on the findings of a study undertaken in 2005 by Mr. Dhir Jhingran that depicted the predicament of tribal children in general classrooms wherever the school language differed from the home language. It provided evidence of children’s complete failure to comprehend simple sentences, communicate with the teacher, solve simple mathematical operations, participate in pedagogical processes, leading to frustration and lack of motivation towards learning. However, it was also seen that wherever there was a tribal teacher speaking children’s language, the situation changed in favour of children. Similarly in terms of students’ performance it was seen that children


struggled in all the areas of learning in the absence of communication in Mother Tongue.

Children could not even score single marks in reading comprehension tests.

In this connection MLE programme provided a comprehensive solution as it aimed to

develop appropriate cognitive and reasoning skills through a programme of structured language

learning and cognitive development, enabling children to operate successfully in their native,

state and national languages. This also promises a strong foundation in the first language

followed by sound learning in additional languages in an organic manner. At the same time it

allows children to maintain local language and culture while acquiring the state language skills.

The overview also highlighted the genesis of MLE in India by touching upon its

continuous evolution from the education of tribal children in pre – DPEP and DPEP time (1990s)

till the present initiatives under SSA through series of state (AP, Orissa, Chhattisgarh), regional

(NCERT), national (CIIL, MHRD), and international (JNU in collaboration with NCERT,

UNESCO, UNICEF) conferences on MLE. In this process, State authorities with support from

MHRD, NGOs, Universities, and MLE experts were able to undertake socio-linguistic surveys,

to draw baselines in children’s learning levels and local learning resources, support mobilisation

from community level to policy makers, language documentation including orthography

development, curriculum & related material development, capacity building of trainers &

teachers, effective implementation along with its overall monitoring, evaluation and review. This

framework for MLE has made it a comprehensive quality improvement package.

The following activities are supported annually under MLE in states such as Andhra

Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh.

Initiatives for promoting MLE for tribal children by initiating with the children’s Mother Tongue and slowly bridging with state’s official language and English.

Development of wide range of textual materials/ primers in children’s Mother Tongue based on their experience and culture for use in classroom.

Orientation of teachers (mostly non tribal teachers) on attitudinal issues

Development of specific modules for training of teachers in tribal areas (AP, Gujarat, Orissa). Some other States organize 2-3 days special capsule for teachers teaching in tribal areas within the annual general teacher training module.

11 states are using primers for transacting instructions to tribal children for better transitions from home to the State language.

The States are advised to use bridge materials wherever required.


Dr. Rath, Secretary, SE & L opined that this overview provides us ample information to realize that MLE has evolved over the years as a useful tool to provide meaningful education to children with language disadvantages. This also enables these children to acquire skills and knowledge in the school language and English while using and strengthening own language and culture. Secretary invited observations and suggestions from the experts to strengthen the ongoing MLE activities in different states.

Prof. Rajesh Sachdeva, Deputy Director, CIIL, Mysore said that MLE is just not an idea for tribals alone but is needed for all children and adults. Quoting the recommendations of NCF 2005 he emphasized on the need for MLE approach for all states in the country. He also highlighted how CIIL has undertaken steps to strengthen the Multi Lingual Resources in different states in collaboration with different resource institutions from different parts of the world. He also indicated that CIIL, Mysore conducts conferences from time to time to expose researchers and practitioners to alternative ideas related to MLE.

Mr. Dhir Jhingran, Asia Region Director, Room to Read, stated that the MLE initiatives in the country carry mixed experiences. The optimistic ones are that more and more personnel in the concerned states are getting exposed to ideas and solutions for implementing MLE in an organized manner and lots of material has been developed in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. Also it is good to note that classroom practices in selected schools of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa have found appreciation from visitors. He complemented MHRD for organizing this consultation on MLE and said that this would help researchers, managers and practitioners to network properly and help each other on a regular basis. At the same time he felt that Central Government had not supported the MLE activities on a regular basis in terms of providing frameworks, space for regular consultations, technical support and its evaluation. He indicated that the Right to Free & Compulsory Education Bill should have discussed strategies for issue based support to tribal rich states along with support mechanisms. Without Ministry’s regular support MLE activities in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have not taken off as per the requirement. This is a serious problem and Ministry should ensure that regular consultations on MLE are held on a regular basis. Ministry should design some dos and don’ts and non- negotiables. There is a need for evaluating MLE activities in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Also


Ministry should strategize regarding how to guide other states in a systematic manner. He emphasized on the need for a concrete action plan.

Dr. Ajit Mohanty, Professor, ZHCES, JNU said that lot of work has been done for MLE in tribal areas. However research needs to guide policy decisions. He felt that sufficient research has not taken place in India on MLE. He indicated that there are positive advantages of Mother Tongue based education as his research on Bodo children in Assam showed that tribal children starting basic education in Mother Tongue did significantly better in Assamese and English in higher classes. In the absence of Mother Tongue education there is a lot of wastage in education as children fail to acquire the basic skills and confidence. Also this contributes significantly to children being ‘pushed out’ (drop outs) from schools. He emphasised the need for a language policy in education that recognizes the importance of MLE and also defines the approach to the same. MLE should not only be confined to Multi Lingual Education, but also should promote use of use of multiple languages in the society as the 3 language formula is not sufficient for the tribal children. They are expected to learn their mother tongue, school language, Hindi and English. The Policy should reflect this element and should aim at facilitating use of multiple languages. He also indicated the need for formulating a framework for facilitating transition from Mother Tongue to Second Language (L2) and Third Language (L3).

Dr. Mohanty stated that JNU in collaboration with NCERT, UNICEF and UNESCO had organized an International Seminar on MLE in 2008 to facilitate discussion on issues and strategies related to MLE in India. Now there is need for defining an appropriate framework that can hold good for the issues related to MLE in the increasing number of states. Based on his long term research career Prof. Mohanty indicated that strategies need to be designed for facilitating inter-state collaboration for MLE so that wastage of money in developing similar materials in two states can be avoided. A National Resource Centre has been planned to be set up at JNU to facilitate research in MLE, and coordination with states. Such an NRC can coordinate in the area of training of trainers, teachers and also in material development. He felt, if UNICEF supports this initiative, it can be a useful initiative.

Dr. K Sujatha, Professor, NUEPA informed that she had been associated with education of tribal children in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal since DPEP times. She also indicated that several initiatives have been undertaken in the country since 1940 for


promoting mother tongue based education in different states. However with change of administration the issue of sustainability remains a challenge in several states. Also there is a need for additional resources to improve quality of such initiatives. She said that there was a need for designing strategies in plans both at national and state level as language is not just a medium for interaction but also it is emotion of every individual. There is a need for evaluating the ongoing MLE programme in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. She shared her proposal for the same and informed the House that Andhra Pradesh state authorities have agreed to support that.

Prof. Ram Janma Sharma, Head, Department of Languages, NCERT said that NCERT has taken up the issue of Multi Lingual Education in a serious manner. Two national seminars have been organized in Patna and Banaras where there was a universal consensus that tribal children’s education should start in their Mother Tongue only. NCF 2005 has taken care of several important issues related to MLE. Prof. Sharma emphasized that 3 language formula should be used as a strategy to strengthen the 150 odd languages in the country. He also supported the view of Prof. Mohanty to say that if we don’t teach in children’s language than drop out increases.

Mr. Samphe Lhalungpa, Chief for Education Programme, UNICEF said that he agreed with all the suggestions of different experts. MLE is an important component of UNICEF’s quality improvement initiatives. In this regard he said that there was a strong need for formulating policy related to MLE. Also Centre should strive for continuous capacity building of the practitioners in different states. We should think about how to scale up the pilots in different states. An appropriate language policy or a framework can support all these initiatives. He also stated that UNICEF networks with resource agencies, researchers, managers and practitioners both at centre and state level. He indicated that UNICEF would continue to support MLE activities at different levels to strengthen the initiatives on a continuous mode.

Dr. Upender Reddy, SAMO, SSA Andhra Pradesh said that SSA Andhra Pradesh has successfully taken up MLE by developing textbooks based on tribal context and culture in eight tribal languages for classes I to IV. The State aims to cover all mono-lingual classes under this programme in 2009-10. He expressed concern that most parents believed that English medium schools help in providing better education. Hence enrollment in government schools keeps on decreasing in many areas. The Right to Free & Compulsory Education Bill would play a role in


strengthening this. The Right to Free & Compulsory Education Bill should say that up to class V education should be in Mother Tongue.

Mr. Nikunja Dhal, Commissioner-cum-SPD, Orissa said that Orissa had implemented MLE in 167 schools covering around 4000 children in 2007-08. Culture and content specific material has been developed for these schools. Now the programme runs in 435 schools and they are planning to include standard III in MLE programme. In this effort the State follows NCF 2005. The major challenge before the State is how to scale up. They also have issues related to getting qualified teachers and scripts for these languages. Out of the 10 languages the State has worked on, nine tribal languages do not have their own scripts. The State had to use Oriya script for these tribal languages. He requested the Secretary to think of constituting a resource group at the central level which can guide the states from time to time on MLE. He expressed concern that SCERT struggles to bring out textbooks even in one language on time. Hence without central guidance and help it was difficult to develop and use quality materials in different languages. Dr. B K Panda from NUEPA indicated that they had undertaken a study on Baige and Gondi tribal children. This study found that Mother Tongue based teaching is very crucial for tribal children.

Ms. Cecilia Barbieri, Education Officer, UNESCO, New Delhi emphasized that a framework was needed on language as language is a cultural identity. UNESCO has promoted MLE in several countries including India through its position paper, MLE kit, seminar proceeding and audio visual documentations. She felt there was strong need for research and advocacy for MLE. From her African experience she said it is very important to advocate the MLE framework as many parents do not understand the value and importance of mother tongue while thinking of their children’s education. UNESCO would join hands in this venture by arranging resource support and technical inputs.

Ms. Pramila Manoharan, Consultant, UNICEF, Orissa said that the MLE consultation was useful in discussing emerging issues and ongoing activities. She pointed out that the SSA framework should emphasize the importance of introduction of mother tongue in early years. She indicated that UNICEF is collaborating with OPEPA in material development and capacity building. She also seconded the views of others regarding the necessity for a National Resource Center. Dr. Mahendra Mishra, State Tribal Coordinator, OPEPA, Orissa said that more money should be allotted for education of tribal children under the innovation head of SSA. Dr. Minati


Panda, ZHCES, JNU, said that MHRD should circulate policy documents to help concerned states in their preparation for MLE.

Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, eminent educationist and Rajya Sabha member thanked Secretary for organizing a consultation on MLE and appreciated the voices of the MLE experts drawn from various institutions. She also expressed her satisfaction over an intellectual discussion on the 3 language formula and said that MLE needs to be tied up to the 3 language formula. She cautioned that 3 language formula in a Federal structure needs to be interpreted in a different manner as it does not apply equally to all people, especially to tribal children whose home language is different from the school language. This aspect needs to be understood by district personnel and also practitioners.

Dr. Vatsyayan said that it is important to understand how a school interprets the difference between a language and dialect, language and script. In this regard the framework should clarify pure pedagogic and linguistic complexities involved in MLE. A Group needs to be set up to work on it. Regarding the essence of MLE, she said that we need to feel that “individually I am a Gondi, Kondh, Santhali, Bodo and Baige tribe simultaneously. I am tribes of different types”. Understanding cultural anthropology and orality of tribal languages is very important.

She emphasized that there was need for synergies among different Ministries such as Culture, Education and other related Ministries for focused interventions in MLE. For effective coordination there should be attempts to form Regional Committees along with National Committee on MLE. Dr. Vatshyayan also talked about effective strategies for life related pedagogy and schooling that respects oral wisdom on India. She quoted unique examples like mangroves, water conservation techniques, and related knowledge resources, which are home grown and sustainable. She also quoted Gandhi and J. P. Naik to question the nature of oceanic spreading of various practices without internalizing the meaning and objectives of those interventions and said that in a sensitive approach like MLE, that aims to empower a tribal child as totally local and totally global, more and more people should understand the spirit of MLE. She also warned that when an avalanche is moving in form of Malls and English medium schools, it is high time that we understand this issue critically and strengthen our basic education and development through appropriate measures.


Dr. Vatsyayan said NPE ‘86 says, the local learning resources should be explored as much as possible and should be used in the school. She gave the example of arithmetic and algebra in a saree and said that MLE should capitalize the local learning resources as much as possible. This can empower the community, its culture and knowledge base in a big way. She also opined that the India International Center would like to host a National Workshop on MLE.

Dr. Rath, Secretary (SE & L), MHRD thanked each expert for their useful suggestions on a complex issue like MLE. He opined that it was a useful brainstorming. He assured the participants, that he would formalize the constitution of a National Resource Group (NRG) on MLE in the light of the NRG of SSA on quality. This NRG should meet at least once every three to six months to discuss various emerging issues and strategize for better implementation of MLE. The NRG should design non–negotiables for MLE interventions, monitor interventions and provide technical support to the concerned states. He also said that we should not wait till the Policy is suitably revised. We should use the existing policy till then. At the same time we should discuss about the need and possibilities for Policy renewal. More critical than this is the formulation of a Framework for MLE. Every State needs to look at own policy in this regard and devise strategies for designing appropriate frameworks for implementation. Issues need to be understood at different levels from state to school level. We should plan for MLE workshops in collaboration with NCERT & NUEPA not only at national level, but also at regional levels. Dr. Rath also suggested the need for constituting a small committee including members from NCERT, NUEPA to formulate a MLE framework and Action Plan. We should also design strategies to scale up the ongoing MLE pilots in the states. A small committee in the Ministry should work on all these points and finalise a framework, outline of NRG and concept note and strategy for workshops at national and regional levels. Dr. Rath thanked all the experts for their active cooperation in the consultation.

The meeting ended with a vote of thanks to the Chair.


Annexure 1

List of participants

1. Dr. Arun Kumar Rath, Secretary, DSE & L, MHRD (Chairperson)

2. Dr. Kapila Vatshyayan, MP, Rajya Sabha (Guest of Honour)

3. Ms. Pramila Manoharan, Consultant, UNICEF, Orissa

4. Prof. Rajesh Sachdeva, Deputy Director, CIIL, Mysore

5. Mr. Samphe Lhalungpa, Chief – Education Programme, UNICEF, Delhi

6. Ms. Cecilia Barberi, Education Officer, UNESCO, New Delhi

7. Prof. K. Sujatha, NUEPA, New Delhi

8. Dr. Minati Panda, ZHCES, JNU, Delhi

9. Prof. Ajit Mohanty, ZHCES, JNU, Delhi

10. Mr. Dhir Jhingran, Asia Region Director, Room to Read, Delhi

11. Dr. Kirti Kapur, Department of Language, NCERT

12. Prof. Ram Janma Sharma, Head, Department of Language, NCERT

13. Mr. G. Venugopal Reddy, AMO (Tribal education), RVM (SSA), Andhra Pradesh

14. Dr. N. Upender Reddy, SAMO, RVM (SSA), Andhra Pradesh

15. Dr. B. K. Panda, NUEPA, New Delhi

16. Mr. Nikunja Dhal, Commissioner – cum – SPD, OPEPA, Orissa

17. Dr. Mahendra Mishra, State Tribal Coordinator, OPEPA, Orissa

18. Ms. Sarita Mittal, Director, DSE & L, MHRD, New Delhi

19. Mr. Binay Pattanayak, Chief Consultant (Pedagogy), TSG – SSA, Co-ordinator