Building bridges: multilingual resources for children

Why schools should teach young learners in home language
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There are increasing calls to provide first-language-first education to immigrant children from immigrant parents who have moved to the developed world. Related to the emphasis on a child's mother tongue is the implicit validation of her cultural or ethnic identity by taking languages which were previously considered "non-standard" and making active use of them in the classroom.

Multilingual Education in that sense underscores the importance of the child's worldview in shaping his or her learning.

MLE proponents stress that the second language acquisition component is seen as a "two-way" bridge, such that learners gain the ability to move back and forth between their mother tongue and the other tongue s , rather than simply a transitional literacy program where reading through the mother tongue is abandoned at some stage in the education. Based on the theories of Multilingual Education that are spelled out here, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa have adopted a thematic approach to multilingual education.

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Using a seasonal calendar within a relevant cultural context has provided a space to the tribal children of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh to rediscover their culture through their language. The Multilingual Education in this approach emphasizes first language first in the child taking the socio- cultural curriculum in to classroom culture and then bridge to second language. In addition to the basic theory of Paulo Freire on critical pedagogy, Gramscian theory on education, Lev Vigostky's scaffolding and Piaget's theory of cognition is applied in the Multilingual Education.

Bridges Out of Poverty as an Economic Development Tool

The unique thing in this approach is to involve the community in creating their own curriculum and minimise the theoretical hegemony, thereby creating a new set of people who believe in the ethics of creating and sharing knowledge for the society than to limit it to the theoreticians. Odisha is a multilingual state having more than 40 ethnic languages among the 62 scheduled tribes, along with the Modern Indian Languages like Hindi, Bengali and Telugu.

To address the language- education of ethnic minorities children in schools, the Odisha government started Multilingual Education programme, ten tribal languages.

7.2. Multilingual Classroom Dictionary

Culturally responsive curriculum and textbooks were prepared for class I to Class V to maintain mother tongue-based multilingual education to educate the tribal children. The state government appointed teachers from the same language community in the schools to teach the tribal children. It allows learners to make suggestions, ask questions, answer questions and create and communicate new knowledge with enthusiasm. It gives learners confidence and helps to affirm their cultural identity.

It dulls the enthusiasm of young minds, inhibits their creativity, and makes the learning experience unpleasant.

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All of which is bound to have a negative effect on learning outcomes. A crucial learning aim in the early years of education is the development of basic literacy skills: reading, writing and arithmetic. Essentially, the skills of reading and writing come down to the ability to associate the sounds of a language with the letters or symbols used in the written form.

These skills build on the foundational and interactional skills of speaking and listening. When learners speak or understand the language used to instruct them, they develop reading and writing skills faster and in a more meaningful way.

Building Bridges

Introducing reading and writing to learners in a language they speak and understand leads to great excitement when they discover that they can make sense of written texts and can write the names of people and things in their environment. A learner who knows how to read and write in one language will develop reading and writing skills in a new language faster.

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In the same way, learners automatically transfer knowledge acquired in one language to another language as soon as they have learned sufficient vocabulary in the new language. For example, if you teach learners in their mother tongue, that seeds need soil, moisture and warmth to germinate. You do not have to re-teach this in English.

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When they have developed adequate vocabulary in English, they will translate the information. Research has shown that in learning situations where both the teacher and the learner are non-native users of the language of instruction, the teacher struggles as much as the learners, particularly at the start of education.

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It also enables more flexibility, innovation and creativity in teacher preparation. In short, it leads to a better educational outcome.

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The programme started in March and continues to involve governments, experts, academics and others in tackling issues concerning multilingual education and the role of English in Sub-Saharan Africa. The British Council values multilingualism.