Wednesday, January 21, 2009

MTM education in RtE Bill

The Right to Education (RtE) Bill - about which I blogged the other day - says, "medium of instructions [sic!] shall, as far as practicable, be in child's mother tongue" (emphasis added).

As far as practicable; appropriate; wherever possible; adequate; substantial numbers; if there is sufficient demand; endeavour; within the framework of their education systems; pupils who so wish in a number considered sufficient.... Tove Skutnabb-Kangas gives many examples of these "opt-outs, modifications, alternatives, claw-backs" in her UEA-UNHCR talk in April 2008 in Geneva (slides 63-71) - I had blogged about this talk in October 2008.

From her recent keynote in Bamako, Mali, I copied her recommendations in a post on the Jharkhand forum. Here they are:

madhu prasad wrote:

> The pedagogically sound solution would be to retain the former as the medium of
> instruction but to introduce English as a subject, to be taught adequately
> and imaginatively, even from Class 1.

Yes, here are the main recommendations (slides 30-33) from a recent keynote by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, a language-rights activist:

Recommendation 1: the mother tongue should be the main teaching language for the first eight years

1a. All Indigenous/tribal and other linguistic minority children (hereafter, IM children) should have their first or own language (or one of them, in case of multilingual children) as their main medium of education, during minimally the first eight years (but absolutely minimally the first six years), in non-fee state schools.

1b. Even if the mother tongue might no longer be used as a teaching language after grade 8, it should be used orally in the classroom, and it should be studied as a subject during the entire education process.

Recommendation 2: good teaching of a dominant local or national language as a subject

2. IM children should have good teaching of a dominant local or national language as a second language, given by competent bilingual teachers, from grade 1 or 2. It should be studied as a subject throughout the entire education process. It should be studied as a second (or foreign) language, using second/foreign language pedagogy/methods; it should not be studied as if it were the children's mother tongue.

Recommendation 3: transfer from mother tongue medium teaching to using a dominant local or national language as a teaching language

3a. Some subjects can be taught through the medium of a dominant local or national language and/or an international language in the upper grades, but not before grade 7 and only if there are competent teachers.

3b. If necessary one or two practical subjects (physical education, music, cooking, etc) can be taught earlier through the medium of a second language, but cognitively and/or linguistically demanding subjects (such as mathematics or history) should be taught in the child's first language minimally up to grade 7, preferably longer.

Recommendation 4: additional languages as subjects

4. IM children should have an opportunity to learn other languages as school subjects, including a language in international use such as English, Spanish, French, Russian, Hindi, etc, if it is not a dominant local or national language mentioned in Recommendation 2 above.

This keynote - at the Bamako International Forum on Multilingualism (19-21 Jan), organized by the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN, the African Union) - is archived on her website.

The next three slides (34-36) give a slew of references to back up these recommendations. Skutnabb-Kangas concludes:

Research conclusions about results of present-day indigenous and minority education show that the length of mother tongue medium education is more important than any other factor (including socio-economic status) in predicting the educational success of IM students, including their competence in the dominant language....

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