Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Tapping technology for multilingual learning

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Technology for multilingual learning

Context

As the theme of International Mother Language Day 2022, it has much relevance in reshaping Indian higher education.

India’s unique cultural and linguistic diversity

  • According to the Language Census in 2018, India is home to 19,500 languages or dialects, of which 121 languages are spoken by 10,000 or more people in our country.
  • 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. 
  • Our linguistic diversity is one of the cornerstones of our ancient civilisation.
  • Impact of globalisation: While languages are among the key bridges that ensure cultural and civilisational continuity, globalisation and Westernisation have impacted not just the growth but also the survival of many of our dialects in this rich cultural and linguistic tapestry.
  • Therefore, International Mother Language Day has special significance to the Indian context.

Endangered languages

  • In November 1999, the UNESCO General Conference approved the declaration of February 21 as International Mother Language Day, in response to the declining state of many languages.
  • According to the UN agency, at least 43% of the estimated 6,000 languages spoken in the world are endangered.
  • UNESCO has been striving to protect the cultural and linguistic diversity of member-states through pro-active international measures.
  • It is our collective responsibility to revive and revitalise the 196 Indian languages which fall under the “endangered” category.

Role of technology: This year’s theme

  • Globally, the role of technology came to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic when school shutdowns forced educators and learners to adapt themselves to online education.
  • The theme of International Mother Language Day in 2022 — “Using Technology for Multilingual Learning: Challenges and Opportunities” — is one of special relevance to us.
  • The central idea is to leverage technology to support and enrich the teaching-learning experience on a multi-lingual level.
  •  It also aims at achieving a qualitative, equitable and inclusive educational experience.
  • Inevitably, the widespread use of technology would fast-track development.
  • Multilingual education predicated on the increasing use of one’s mother tongue is a key component of inclusion in education. 
  • Seen in its entirety, this is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”.

Direction of NEP

  • The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 encourages the use of mother tongue as the medium of instruction till at least Class five but preferably till Class eight and beyond.
  • The use of mother tongue in teaching is bound to create a positive impact on learning outcomes, as also the development of the cognitive faculties of students.
  • There is a pressing need to create and improve scientific and technical terminology in Indian languages.
  • We have been able to create a large English-based education system which includes colleges that offer courses in medicine and multiple disciplines of engineering.
  • This impressive system paradoxically excludes a vast majority of learners in our country from accessing higher education.

Way forward

  • The need to build an effective multilingual education system across diverse streams and disciplines becomes all the more imperative.
  • In this context, the collaboration between the AICTE and IIT Madras to translate some courses on the central government’s e-learning platform, Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) into eight regional languages such as Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam and Gujarati, is commendable. Such tech-led initiatives will serve to democratise higher education.
  • At the same time, the decision of the AICTE to permit B. Tech programmes in 11 native languages, in tune with the NEP, is a historic move.
  • Our policy-planners, educators, parents and opinion leaders must bear in mind that when it comes to education in mother tongue and local languages, we can take the cue from European countries as well as Asian powers such as Japan, China and Korea, among others.

Conclusion

Co-existing over centuries, borrowing from and nurturing each other, our languages are interwoven with our individual, local and national identity.

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