Mother-tongue based Multilingual Education (MTB MLE) for Primary Grades

Unnati ISEC is into creating a model of MTB-MLE in primary schools for the last six years in the tribal area Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region. The work has been done for the Korku language of Korku tribe, the mother-tongue of over 1,50,000 persons in Amravati and Akola district in Melghat region.

This programme is implemented in Akot block of Akola district which has a sizable population of tribal communities mostly Korku.

Issue: There are 36 villages in these two blocks which are tribal and education of children in this area is a serious issue. A baseline survey which Unnati did, of status of achievement of Language and Arithmetic skills, brought forward that, despite of availability of schools, the status of learning of the children is poor.

Why is this situation?

Tribal children are not learning despite the availability of schools. Reasons we found-

  • Education system (district to local) is not been seen working on the issue methodically. During the field visits, UNNATI people observed that teachers need knowledge of the pedagogy addressing children's differential learning needs / styles. There is also a need to work on teachers’ prejudice (these children will not learn).
  • School curriculum, textbooks do not accommodate these people's culture which is different from the people who are staying on plains. So the connect between their life and education is missing, hence probably children do not enjoy education.
  • Their mothertongue does not have a place in school, as:
    • No educational material is available and used in school in their mothertongue
    • Teachers, with few exceptions, do not know children’s language
    • No special methods of teaching Marathi language to the children having different mother tongue is used
    The mismatch leads to the non-development of language proficiency in reading comprehension and writing skills in Marathi and in even their own native languages.
  • It may be noted here that, the home language of children in these 38 villages is different from Marathi, which is a language of school. Our survey notes that Korku is a language spoken in 53%, while Nimadi is spoken in 5% and Hindi is used in 7% of total surveyed 728 households. For these children Marathi becomes a second language in schools but the syllabus is designed where Marathi is considered to be taught as a first language.
  • Children's own language (Korku) is completely different from Marathi which is a standard language of education. Teachers do not know Korku and children, when they enter into the school, do not know Marathi. We have seen that this creates a major barrier in learning.
    Inferiority complex, loss of motivation and reduced opportunities for interaction (due to language differences) has a negative effect on learning. As a result, children tend to dislike schools and then their chances of drop out from school increase.

What we do

  • For development of “MTB MLE pedagogy, we run learning centres five days a week before the school time throughout the year in two villages. Rigorously trained local youths who know Korku language facilitate the learning of children in the centre, the purpose of which is to develop insights and add into our knowledge regarding the MTB MLE pedagogy.

    The perspective, pedagogy developed from UNNATI’ ISEC’s programme could be one of the answers to the issue of learning of children from Tribal and nomadic communities and for conservation of linguistic and cultural diversity by providing it a station of honour within a school’s processes.

  • School intervention programme (SIP): After five years of efforts in the area, we have now reached the stage to test in the school setting our intensively practice-based learning, knowledge and practices for effectively including children’s languages for developing literacy among children from tribal communities. Objective of this initiative is:
    Institutionalise the MTB LD&E approach in the school system by closely working with the schools and teachers.

    We are doing this initiative with 2 government schools in Akot block of Akola district, Maharashtra.

Our approach of MTB MLE

In our approach, in formal education at the primary grade extensive use of child’s mothertongue in teacher-pupil communication, literacy teaching method, educational material and children’s literature which continues for 2 years. Content for literacy and education is situated within child’s own living, culture, value and habitat. Engagement of parents in the child’s education process is critical. No insistence on producing Marathi / state language in writing for first two years. No insistence on usage of standard language in speaking and writing for first four years. The exposure to state language Marathi starts from the beginning in the form of listening, speaking activities extensively and limited in writing taking child’s readiness into consideration. From grade 3, start using Marathi formally in the class, but maintain Korku language usage in the pedagogy.