Future Of Learning: In Multiple Languages

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 reiterates the three-language formula, stating that “wherever possible, students should be taught in the mother tongue/regional language/local language till Class 5.”

India has 122 major languages – diverse by region, dialect and a lot more. Officially, we have 22 official languages, of which English is just one. For such a vast country and peoples, insisting on education in a language students may not be familiar or comfortable with is not just exclusionary but also limited.

The earlier education model had a two-language system, with the first language (L1, usually English) being compulsory and sometimes the mode of instruction. The optional second language (L2) could be Hindi, Kannada, Sanskrit, French, etc. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 reiterates the three-language formula, stating that “wherever possible, students should be taught in the mother tongue/regional language/local language till Class 5.”

It is widely observed that learning in home languages offers learners a more comfortable transition from home to school, particularly at early ages (i.e., foundation and preparatory levels of schooling). The transition of an early learner – from learning experientially with parents and known adults at home in a free-flowing manner to learning in a fixed curriculum based new setup with stranger instructor/s and co-learners - can be very daunting and challenging, even for the most active. Add the burden of interacting in a relatively new language that they are not comfortable in and the probability of losing interest in learning in this setup becomes greater. Letting the learner continue instruction in their home language as they get to school gives them the comfort and confidence to engage in the new setup. They are more confident in class interactions, asking questions, offering answers, and engaging with peers.

Importantly, the NEP 2020 also addresses the need to create high-quality bilingual textbooks and teaching/learning materials for science and mathematics in clause 4.14. There are those who believe subjects or topics taught in a student’s home language as medium of instruction can’t be later chosen in English. This has been proven erroneous. Research has shown that when a learner learns concepts and skills in their home language, they do not need re-instruction after moving to a different language. As their vocabulary in the new language grows, they will express their learnt skills and concepts in the new language. Bilingual textbooks help enable students to think and speak about these subjects in their home language/mother tongue and in English. Hence, it is extremely important as it addresses any gaps particularly in subjects vital to any life or economy. And furthermore, it provides opportunities to students who may not have had the chance to study these subjects due to language constraints in the past.

India’s National Statistical Organization (NSO) recently issued its report on education for 2021. The findings suggest that only one out of four students attend school with English as the medium of instruction across pre-primary, primary, middle, secondary and higher secondary levels of schooling; while the other three attend in a regional or local language as medium of instruction. This bolsters the NEP 2020’s goals as well as case. In terms of a demographic classification, the vernacular (native or home language) learners are particularly from the aspirer, next billion and struggler households. This audience that is the focus of edtech companies such as LearnHat is ripe for targeting. In particular, the aspirers (household income of Rs 5 – 10 lakh) and next billion (household income of Rs 1.5 – 5 lakh) are going to significantly increase spends on Edtech after having had their first taste of Edtech/online learning (accelerated in time) because of COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is important to understand their needs, asks and aspirations when it comes to learning, particularly that of learning in their home language.

Ii is understandable that the aspiration of English-medium learning is to do with better opportunities and career prospects. But forcing young learners to this will only build a negative perception. Starting learning in a vernacular setup and slowly introducing English as a co-medium of instruction can go a long way in truly ensuring a student learns well and is not afraid to express in the short and long run. Our mission ambition is to make learning easier and a comfortable experience for students and learners and instruction in vernacular languages (home languages) is a culturally sensitive, sure pathway to doing so.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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