In elementary school, the new National Education Policy emphasises the importance of teaching in the mother tongue. However, since the linguistic basis of Odisha’s adivasi groups consists of 21 spoken languages separated into 74 dialects, the job looks to be extremely difficult.
Odisha’s decade-long experience with multilingual education, on the other hand, may be useful in meeting the problem.
The state government’s ST and SC Development Department has already begun work on a project dubbed “Samhati” to solve the linguistic challenges that tribal students face in early grades or elementary school. The initiative is being implemented by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI) in collaboration with the Academy of Tribal Language and Culture (ATLC) in Bhubaneswar.
Across the state, the agency oversees 1,732 residential educational establishments. The department provides free housing to around 4.5 lakh tribal and Scheduled Caste kids from basic through secondary school, as well as 85 boarding facilities. The government now hopes to reach around 2.5 lakh students in 1,450 elementary schools throughout the state under Samhati.
In addition, the Department of School and Mass Education oversees 1,500 schools in 17 tribally controlled districts where students are taught in tribal languages. There are 3,328 instructors and 222 language teachers on staff to provide instruction in indigenous languages.
Santhali, the sole tribal language mentioned in the eighth schedule of the Constitution, is taught in its unique ol chiki alphabet, whereas the other tribal languages use Odia scripts.
More than 302 textbooks and 2,500 supplemental reading resources, including story books and picture charts, have been prepared in 21 tribal languages, according to the Odisha School Education Programme Authority (OSEPA).
Although it is simple to prescribe the mother tongue as a medium of teaching up to Class V, putting it into practise is very challenging.
Odisha has 62 tribal communities, including 13 especially vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs), making it the country’s state with the most diversified indigenous populations.
“Because the ST and SC departments operate residential schools, kids from all tribal tribes are enrolled in each school. Unlike monolingual groups in ordinary schools, these students are multilingual. As a result, recruiting instructors for each tribal tongue in a single school is impractical, according to a researcher.
According to academics, the Odisha government should force teachers to learn new indigenous languages throughout their training time to solve this vital problem.
Now, under Samhati, it has been determined to impart functional knowledge of tribal languages and ways of connecting with tribal kids to all primary school instructors. Initially, 1,000 instructors would be required to acquire these language skills.
“Mother-tongue-based education is a positive step forward. The world is seen through the eyes of a tribal student who speaks his own language. The most essential component of mother-tongue education is that it contributes to the preservation of endangered tribal languages. According to Paramananda Patel, a tribal language scholar, “if language is conserved, culture would be retained organically.”
Except for three to four tribal languages in Odisha, all other tribal dialects, according to Mr. Patel, are endangered. According to him, some tribal languages have fewer than 100 speakers remaining.
“We have already developed bilingual dictionaries in 21 languages and distributed them,” stated SCSTRTI Director A.B. Ota. A trilingual competency module has also been designed to aid in the learning of tribal languages.
Experts have stressed that tribal languages must be standardised before being employed as a medium of instruction in elementary schools.
The Saora language, for example, is spoken in four distinct locations with minimal diversity. For textbook preparation, the Saora must be standardised. According to the researchers, dialectical surveys should be conducted to finalise the language for textbook production.
Efforts are now being undertaken to create tribal language textbooks that are aligned with state board syllabuses, government textbook guidelines, and the National Education Policy.
The SCSTRTI has recommended establishing an integrated language laboratory to conduct research and answer practical concerns that may arise during the implementation of mother tongue-based education.
Source: The Hindu