Tapping technology for multilingual learning

As the theme of International Mother Language Day 2022, it is of great importance in the transformation of Indian higher education

As the theme of International Mother Language Day 2022, it is of great importance in the transformation of Indian higher education

I am convinced that expression in the native language underlies the cultural identity of an individual or community. For centuries, India has been home to hundreds of languages ​​and thousands of dialects, making its linguistic and cultural diversity the most unique in the world. In fact, our linguistic diversity is one of the cornerstones of our ancient civilization. As I always emphasize, our native language expresses our vision and aspirations, our values ​​and ideals, and our creative and literary efforts.

In his speech a few years ago, former UNESCO Director-General Koichira Matsuura stressed the importance of the mother tongue when he noted that “the language we learn from our mothers [mother tongue] it is the birthplace of our most secret thoughts. ” He aptly described every language as “as valuable and distinctive as every indispensable human life.”

Endangered languages

While languages ​​are one of the key bridges that ensure cultural and civilizational continuity, globalization and Westernization have affected not only the growth but also the survival of many of our dialects in this rich cultural and linguistic tapestry. Thus, International Mother Language Day is of particular importance to the Indian context.

In November 1999, the General Conference of UNESCO approved the proclamation of 21 February as International Mother Language Day in response to the decline of many languages; this has been observed worldwide since 2000. UNESCO seeks to protect the cultural and linguistic diversity of its member states through such active international measures. According to the UN, at least 43% of the world’s approximately 6,000 languages ​​are threatened with extinction – a alarming figure!

This year’s theme

The theme of the International Mother Language Day in 2022 – “The use of technology for multilingual learning: challenges and opportunities” – is especially relevant for us. The basic concept is to discuss the role of technology in the development of multilingual education. The basic idea is to use technology to support and enrich the teaching and learning experience at a multilingual level. It also aims to achieve a quality, equitable and inclusive educational experience. Inevitably the widespread use of technology will lead to rapid development. As UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulo noted in her message, “Technology can provide new tools to protect linguistic diversity. Such tools, for example, by facilitating their dissemination and analysis, make it possible to record and preserve languages ​​that sometimes exist only in oral form. ”

Multilingual education, based on the wider use of the mother tongue, is a key component of inclusion in education. To emphasize the importance of the native language in laying the foundation for my intellectual development, I have always compared it to sight and glasses to other languages. Glasses can only work if you have eyesight. When applied in Indian classrooms, the multilingual approach also creates new ways of learning, addressing emerging challenges on a regional and global scale. In general, this is in line with the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi “Saat dog, Vika dog, Vishvas dog”.

Globally, the role of technology came to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic, when school closures forced educators and students to adapt to online education. In a matter of weeks and months, this has become the new norm around the world, although it has caused many new problems. These include the necessary skills for distance learning, internet access and, importantly, the adaptation of materials and content in different languages. Although central and state governments are taking active steps to promote digital learning, it is our responsibility to ensure that there is no digital divide.

The direction of the NEP

It should be noted that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is a far-sighted document that encourages the use of the mother tongue as a means of learning at least until the fifth grade, but preferably until the eighth grade and beyond. By drawing up a roadmap for the future, the NEP seeks to adapt the teaching and learning process and modify it, making it holistic, value-based and inclusive. The use of the native language in teaching necessarily has a positive effect on learning outcomes, as well as on the development of cognitive abilities of students.

There is an urgent need to create and improve scientific and technical terminology in Indian languages. This would help transform the educational experience by making existing knowledge systems in a number of disciplines accessible to students. It would be appropriate to recall the words of the famous physicist Sir K.V. Roman, who with great clarity and foresight remarked that “we must teach science in our native language. Otherwise, science will turn into intense activity. It will not be an activity in which all people can participate. “

Helps students

Sir CV Roman’s observation has prophetic truth when we see this in light of the fact that we have been able to create a large English education system that includes colleges that offer medical courses and several engineering disciplines. This impressive system paradoxically excludes the vast majority of our country’s students from access to higher education. Thus, the need to create an effective system of multilingual education in different currents and disciplines is becoming increasingly necessary. It is important to keep in mind that in a survey conducted by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in 2020 with more than 83,000 students, almost 44% of students voted to study engineering in their native language, emphasizing the important need for technical education.

In this context, cooperation between AICTE and IIT Madras to translate some courses on the e-learning platform of the central government, Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) in eight regional languages ​​such as Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Canada, Bengali, Marathi , Malayalam and Gujarati, are commendable. Such technology initiatives will serve to democratize higher education. At the same time, AICTE’s decision to allow B. Tech programs in 11 native languages, according to the NEP, is a historic step that will open the door to students for a wide range of opportunities; The languages ​​are Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Malayalam, Bengali, Assamese, Punjabi and Odia.

In addition, learning (your) native language underpins building a sense of self-worth and identity. Although I believe that all languages ​​should be respected equally, there is a tendency among some educators and parents, which should be noted with regret, to be lenient with education in Indian languages ​​rather than learning English. As a result, children’s access to their mother tongue is limited, leading to a kind of socio-cultural infertility, especially if no corrective action is taken. We need to teach our children not to consider English language proficiency a measure of intellectual superiority or a prerequisite for success in life.

Examples to follow

Our policy planners, educators, parents and opinion leaders should keep in mind that when it comes to education in native and local languages, we can follow the example of European countries as well as Asian countries such as Japan, China and Korea. among others.

According to the language census, the results of which were widely presented in 2018, there are 19,500 languages ​​or dialects in India, of which 121 or more are spoken by 10,000 people in our country. It is our collective responsibility to revive and revitalize the 196 endangered Indian languages. Let us not forget that every language is a cultural crucible that stores the knowledge and wisdom of our collective consciousness – our values, traditions, histories, behavior and norms, proverbs, sayings and idioms. Coexisting for centuries, borrowing and educating each other, our languages ​​intertwine with our individual, local and national identities.

M. Venkayya Naidu is the Vice President of India

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