Odisha all set to teach in tribal languages

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    In News

    • With National Education Policy mandate, Odisha bats for the mother tongue of tribals. 

    Major Highlights

    • Overall statistics: Odisha is home to 62 different tribal communities including 13 particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs), making it the State with the most diverse indigenous communities in the country. 
      • Some of the tribal languages have less than 100 speakers left.
    • What is the current issue?
      • The new National Education Policy lays emphasis on imparting teaching in the mother tongue in primary classes. But when the language base of Odisha’s Adivasi communities is as diverse as 21 spoken languages further divided into 74 dialects, the task appears to be quite challenging.
      • However, Odisha’s decade-long experiment in multilingual education may be helpful in this case.
    • Project Samhati: The ST and SC Development Department of the State government has already started working on a project called ‘Samhati’ to address the language issues faced by tribal students in early grades or elementary classes.
      • The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI) along with the Academy of Tribal Language and Culture (ATLC), are implementing the project.
      • Under Samhati, the department plans to cover approximately 2.5 lakh students in 1,450 primary schools in the State.
      • It has been decided that all teachers of primary level would be provided functional knowledge of tribal languages and ways of communicating with tribal students.
    • Ol chiki script: Of the 21 languages, Santhali, the only language which has been included in the eighth schedule of Constitution, is taught in its own ol chiki script while the rest of tribal languages have Odia scripts.
    • Odisha School Education Programme Authority (OSEPA): According to the Odisha School Education Programme Authority (OSEPA), more than 302 textbooks and 2,500 supplementary reading materials including storybooks and pictures charts in 21 tribal languages have been developed.

    Issues/ Challenges faced in effective implementation of the policy

    • Difficult to implement: Although it is easy to prescribe mother tongue as a medium of instruction up to Class V, it is very difficult to implement.
    • Need for standardizing: Experts have emphasised that before tribal languages are used as the medium of instruction in primary schools, these languages need to be standardised.
      • For example, the Saora language is spoken in four different regions with little variation. The Saora needs to be standardized for textbook preparation.
    • Need of dialectical surveys: Researchers opined that dialectical surveys should be carried out to finalise the language for textbook preparation.
    • Old idea but little implementation: Article 350A of the Constitution states that every state and local authority should endeavour to provide “adequate facilities for instruction in the mother-tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups”.
    • Convincing families: The commonest criticism of the policy to use the mother tongue in schools is that it widens the divide between those who can communicate in English and those who cannot.
    • No clear implementation plan: it might not be financially viable because of the lack of funds, and lack of “administrative doability” of the policy because of the lack of trained staff, including teachers, to implement the change
    • Challenge of many mother-tongues: India has several languages, the 2011 census identified 270 mother tongues and classrooms might have children with more than one spoken language.
      • It might not be possible for all languages to become the medium of instruction and it might not be possible for large parts of the country to implement this.
    • Lack of funds: The initial investment in bilingual programmes can be high because of the additional cost of developing new learning material especially for languages that have not been standardised or do not have a script.

    Suggestions to effectively solve the issues

    • Additional tribal language proficiency: the Odisha government can ask teachers to achieve additional tribal language proficiency during their training period itself.
    • Welcome step: The mother-tongue based education is a welcome step. A tribal student sees the world through his own language.
    • It helps save endangered tribal language: The most important aspect of mother-tongue based education is that it helps save the endangered tribal language.
      • If language is saved, the culture will be preserved automatically.
    • Bilingual dictionaries: A bilingual dictionary in 21 languages is already prepared and is ready for distribution among the people.
      • Trilingual proficiency module which will help a person learn tribal languages has also been prepared.
    • Syncing the syllabus: efforts are being made to develop textbooks in tribal languages in sync with the syllabus of State boards, government textbook norms and National Education Policy.
    • Integrated language laboratory: The SCSTRTI has proposed to set up an integrated language laboratory for carrying out research and addressing practical issues that may come up in implementing mother tongue-based education.

    National Education Policy, 2020

    • It focuses on improving the standard of education through various measures such as the introduction of new pedagogical and curricular structure, Early Childhood Care and Education, Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, Transforming Assessment for Student Development, Experiential and Competency-based Learning etc.

    Particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG)

    • It is a government of India classification created with the purpose of enabling improvement in the conditions of certain communities with, particularly low development indices.
    • Tribal communities are often identified by some specific signs such as primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness to contact with the community at large and backwardness.
    • Along with these, some tribal groups have some specific features such as dependency on hunting, gathering for food, having the pre-agriculture level of technology, zero or negative growth of population and extremely low level of literacy. These groups are called Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.

    Source: TH