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8th International Conference on Language and Development, Bangladesh 2009

Multilingual Education and Other Initiatives in Orissa for
SC/ST and Minority Education

M K Mishra


Orissa has 62 scheduled tribes which constitute about 23 percent of the total state population.
The majority of them are concentrated in 17 districts of the state. The tribal people of Orissa can
be divided ethnolinguistically into the language groups of Austric, Dravidian and Indo-Aryan.

Tribal Literacy

According to the Census of India, the literacy rate among tribal people in Orissa is 37.37. Of the
literate population, males constitute 51% and females 23.47%. The total literacy rate of the
state is 63.00 out of which the male literacy rate is 73% and female literacy is 51%. The overall
gap of literacy is 38%, in which the gap in male literacy is 41.25% and the gap in female literacy
is 54%.

While tribal literacy in Orissa was 9.46% in 1971, it was 13.96% in 1981. It rose to 27.10% in
1991 and during 2001 it was 37.37%. This indicates the slow progress in literacy among tribal
people in Orissa over the last three decades. At this rate how long Orissa will take to achieve
100% literacy is anybodys guess.

In seven districts with tribal populations the literacy of tribal people is below 40%. Literacy of
tribal people in Orissa has been a major challenge because of multiple issues besides the
problem of the gap between home and school languages.

Schools in Tribal Areas

According to the Orissa Child Census (OCC) 2005 conducted by OPEPA, there are 11,479 schools
having more than 20 students of linguistic minority groups. The total number of such students
in these schools is 673,622. Nearly two-thirds of them (454,391) speak the Santhali language
(58,287) and other tribal languages (396,104).

School Type Based on Linguistic Distribution

The OCC 2005 report says that there are 3,421 schools in tribal areas which are monolingual
and 2,499 schools with more than 90% tribal children. In as many as 5,919 schools with tribal
children, there is a substantial gap between home language and school language. Further, there
are 6,014 schools teaching 50-89% children with linguistic diversities. This indicates that Orissa
has linguistic diversities which have not been addressed in school education for which the
achievement levels of tribal children in language and mathematics is low. Surveys show that
only 10 out of 100 tribal students pass the matriculation exam.

Proceedings, 8th International Conference on Language and Development, Bangladesh 2009

Out-of-School Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) Children

According to OCC 2005, 11 districts contributd nearly 80% of the total out-of-school SC and ST
children during 2005.The districts with such out-of-school children were:

Mayurbhanj (40,708)
Nabrangpur (28,217)
Keonjhar (21,797)
Koraput (21,517)
Rayagada (18,791)
Malkangiri (17,161)
Kalahandi (13,608)
Sundargarh (11,177)
Baleswar (10,700)
Gajapati (10,037)
Kandhmal (9,244)

The OCC survey found that ten districts have over 90% of children speaking various tribal
languages. Along with Kalahandi, these 10 districts also account for 80% of the out-of-school
children. This indicates that the districts with linguistic diversities have most out-of-school
children. This has important implications for tribal education.

Dropout Rate

However, after adopting the cluster approach to tribal education, the number of out-of-school
children was reduced during 2008-09. Tribal education and literacy have shown little
significant improvement during the last three decades. The major reasons are inadequate
schooling facilities in tribal areas, poor infrastructure, single-teacher schools, unsuitable
curriculum and instructional materials, untrained teachers, gap between home and school
languages, and lack of academic resources for teachers in tribal areas.

The Vision Document 2020 published by the School and Mass Education Department indicates
that inappropriate medium of instruction, imperfect teacher-pupil communication, unsuitable
curricula and textbooks, incompatible formal school environment and less community
participation are some of the causes which impede the learning of tribal children and result in
high drop-out rates. Tribal children alone constitute 27% of the total school drop-outs in Orissa.

In South Asia, India is the only country with constitutional provision for the education of
linguistic minority children in their mother tongue:

Article 46 State to promote the educational need of the weaker sections of the
society (SC and ST)
Article 350-A Adequate facilities for instruction in mother tongue at the primary
stage of education to children of linguistic minority groups
Article 21-A Free and compulsory elementary education of equitable quality for all
children up to 14 years of age

From 1994-2003, the Department of Education introduced the education of disadvantaged
groups and promoted tribal education as a step towards universalizing primary education and
ensuring equitable quality education for all children irrespective of social category and gender.
The National Policy of Education 1986 and Programme of Action 1992 also envisage promotion
Proceedings, 8th International Conference on Language and Development, Bangladesh 2009

of education of SC and ST by introducing teaching in mother tongue at least in the primary

Regarding the education of children through their mother tongue, the National Curriculum
Framework (NCF) 2005 reads as follows:

The mother tongue is a critical conduit, that social, economic and ethnic backgrounds
are important for enabling children to construct their own knowledge (Foreword, p 4).
The fact that knowledge is constructed by the child implies that curricula, syllabi and
textbooks should enable the teacher in organizing classroom experiences in consonance
with the childs nature and environment, and thus providing opportunities for all
children (Executive Summary, p 8).

Five guiding principles of NCF 2005 are:

1. Connecting knowledge to life outside the school
2. Shifting learning away from rote methods toward meaning and communication
3. Enriching the curriculum to provide for overall development of children rather than
remain textbook centric
4. Making examinations more flexible and integrated into classroom life
5. Nurturing an over-riding identity: How does the tribal child become a true citizen of

Multilingual Education (MLE) in Orissa

Social disparity in Orissa is clearly visible in the inter-district disparity in terms of literacy.
While literacy in one district is as high as 75%, literacy in tribal districts is as low as 25%. Why
MLE? It builds on the knowledge and experience that children bring to school, based in language
and culture of the child. It increases learners access to education in the majority language,
within a second language learning programme. It develops self-esteem, confidence and cultural

MLE is a new area of pedagogy introduced in NCF 2005 which indicates that multilingualism is
not a weakness but a strength as it helps bridge the mother tongue with other languages. It is
through the mother tongue that children construct their knowledge. So unless the child is
provided inputs in his or her own language, child-centered education is impossible. MLE
connects the mother tongue with the state language and foreign languages to ensure reading
and writing with purpose and meaning. MLE also promotes the cultural experience that children
gather as they understand the world around them.

How does MLE work? It:

Begins with the mother tongue (L1, home language) as a medium of instruction
Builds strong bridges to other languages, while maintaining the use of L1 for as long
as possible
Builds on what we know about how children learn best (from the known to the
Builds on the childs prior knowledge, using his or her world or real knowledge and
moving to new knowledge
Allows the child to construct knowledge
Uses the language the child knows best to teach reading and writing skills
Allows the child to learn academic concepts in the mother tongue.
Proceedings, 8th International Conference on Language and Development, Bangladesh 2009

On 8 July 2006, the State Tribal Advisory Committee chaired by Sri Naveen Patnaik, Chief
Minister, Orissa, decided that Orissa would take up MLE programmes in schools in tribal areas.
This was to be done to provide quality education by using tribal languages as the media of
instruction. The State Language Committee (2005) under the School and Mass Education
Department, headed by Prof D P Pattanayak, Ex-Director, Central Institute of Indian Languages,
Government of India, Mysore, recommended the use of the mother tongue in schools by the
linguistic minority community. The Committee also suggested the preparation of curriculum
and instructional materials in tribal languages, adopting the thematic approach suggested in the
syllabus of NFC 2005. Depending on community demands, ten tribal languages were selected for
mother tongue medium of instruction in the first phase. They comprise eight major tribal
languages including Saora, Santal, Kui, Kuvi, Oram, Kishan, Koya and Munda, and two
endangered tribal languages: Bonda and Juang.

The State Government decided to adopt MLE in 2006 and prepared a roadmap through a
national seminar involving the stakeholders. It was decided that MLE would be taken up in ten
languages for a period of five years from 2007 to 2012. The approach would be additive
language maintenance in which the mother tongue would play an important role even after the
introduction of the second language (Oriya) or the third language (English).

Preparation for MLE

The year 2006-07 was the year of preparation in which views of international experts were
solicited and curriculum and instructional materials were prepared by teachers from tribal
communities. Teachers were selected from the ten tribal language groups through a visioning
test and they were trained on the MLE approach. Schools with hundred percent monolingual
tribal children were identified. Curricula were designed based on cultural themes after
discussions with senior members of the tribal communities. NCF 2005 was the guiding principle
for the curriculum framework and preparation of instructional materials. Two mega-strategies
were adopted for cognitive development of the children: Cognitive Academic Language
Proficiency Skills (CALPS) and Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills (BICS). Instructional
materials were prepared based on the CALPs and BICS by adopting the cultural theme web.
Community culture was the foundation of curriculum construction such that experiences of the
children could be reflected.

According to Jim Cummins, learning by a child in her own environment develops her BICS. This
helps the child to develop her cognitive ability in her own sociocultural context. In child-centred
pedagogy the same experiential knowledge is the foundation for development of CALPS. These
two aspects form the basics of learning at home and at school. These two mega-strategies have
been adopted for preparing the theme web. While BICS helped draw themes from the cultural
context and environmental experience of the children, CALPS is about learning alphabets and
words with accuracy. Language learning in the classroom, therefore, has two track systems.
Track I contains CALPS, skills-based development, and confidence and competence through
practice with engagement. Track II contains meaning-based contextualized learning
emphasizing creativity and rooted in the learners background and culture.

Identification of MLE Schools and Teachers

Those schools which had only monolingual tribal children in Class I were selected. The criteria
for opening of MLE schools were:

Schools with only monolingual tribal children speaking their mother tongue
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Schools should have either primary or upper primary classes
The school should have at least four teachers
School should have at least five classes
Village Education Committee (VEC) and community should have their consent to use
the mother tongue in the school as medium of instruction.

Teachers for MLE were identified from among the existing teachers and belonged to the same
language community as the children. They were ready to work in MLE schools for at least five
years and showed their eagerness to teach in Classes I and II. The teachers were identified
through a workshop and transferred to the MLE schools. For the Bonda and Juang communities
teachers were not available. Hence, educated youths from these communities were engaged by
the VECs with the approval of the district collector. The District pays their monthly

Formation of State Resource Group

A state resource group was formed comprising linguists, educationists, anthropologists and
tribal language experts including teachers from the ten language groups. Resource persons from
international agencies also provided their technical support on MLE. A District Resource Group
(DRG) and language resource group were formed in ten languages taking the help of language
resource persons and teacher educators. The DRG and language resource group were trained on
MLE. MLE officials from UK, Canada, Bangladesh and Nepal have visited Orissa. MLE officials
from Andhra Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand have also visited the State. The State MLE
officials participated in international MLE seminars and conferences during 2006-08.

Curriculum Development and Preparation of Instructional Materials

Curricula were developed and instructional materials were prepared in tribal languages based
on the guiding principles of NCF 2005. This was a six-month exercise taken up at state and
district level workshops from July 2006 to May 2007 for Class I and July 2007 to February 2008
for Class II. Training manuals for master trainers were prepared and some teachers were
trained on MLE for fifteen days. MLE was implemented in Class I in 200 pilot schools in the
2007-08 academic year. The transition plan of MLE over a period of five years is shown in the
table below.

Transition Plan for Bridging of Languages in Primary Stage 2007-08 to 2012

Language and
Pre-sch 1 1st Grade 2nd Grade 3rd Grade 4th Grade 5th Grade
MT language Language Language in Language in Language in
MT as subject MT as subject
learning (oral) in MT MT MT MT
Maths Number MT Math in MT Math in MT Math in MT Math in L2 Math in L2
Environment Environment Environment Environment Environment Environment Environment
studies I & II Studies Studies Studies Studies Studies Studies
in MT in MT in MT in MT in MT/L2 in L2
Oral 2rd lang
language Reading and Developing Language in
and written
learning writing in L2 fluency in L2 L2
Third language Oral L3 Reading
learning (80%) + Oral L3+ writing and

(English) written L3 written L3 comprehens-
(20%) ion in L3

Proceedings, 8th International Conference on Language and Development, Bangladesh 2009

The above table indicates the bridging from tribal language in Class I to Oriya by Class V over a
five-year period by maintaining education in the mother tongue. The National Curriculum
Framework envisages a paradigm shift from teacher-centered to children-centric learning, as
shown in the table below.

NCF 2005 calls for these changes Multi-strategy approach can facilitate these changes
From To How What
Teacher-centric, stable Learner centric, flexible Teacher designs learning Listening to stories
designs process experiences that are given to Shared reading experiences
the learner, thematic Maths: number stories

Teacher direction and Learner autonomy Language experience Choice of reading

decisions approach, story chart Creative writing

Teacher guidance and Teacher facilitates, Teacher creates learning Construction of texts using the
monitoring supports and centers for small group work learners words
encourages learning Word trees, word mobiles
Passive reception in Active participation in Work stations with Games for practice
learning learning individual reading, peer to Five-step reading method
peer reading, retelling the Critical thinking questions such as
story, children creating what if where the answer cannot
dramatic versions of the come from within the text but from
story, use of puppets within the imagination and
creativity of the child

Learning within the four Learning in the wider Thematic approach brings Themes and theme webs
walls of the classroom social context the childs world into the
Knowledge as given and Knowledge as it evolves Small group work Child created texts
fixed and is created
Disciplinary focus Multidisciplinary, Thematic approach
educational focus
Linear exposure Multiple and divergent Theme webs Use of cultural themes alongside of
exposure Road 1
Appraisal, short, few Multifarious, Informal simple grading Teacher continuous monitoring,
continuous scales used for appraisal of making use of portfolios
reading, portfolios

Curriculum Development and Preparation of Instructional Materials

The community was involved in curriculum design to ensure:

local literacy: oral and written
focus on seasonal and environment themes
interrelationship of knowledge
reflection of cultural values
accurate representation of tribal culture and relationship with land and nature

The cultural themes were identified by the MLE resource groups and validated by the
community members to organise the content for preparation of instructional materials. For
Class I, for example, they identified 30 culturally important themes and prepared the theme web
for language and mathematics.

Proceedings, 8th International Conference on Language and Development, Bangladesh 2009

Daily Routine in MLE Schools for Classes I and II

Period 1: Initial work and attendance taking (15 minutes)
Period 2: Moral lessons (15 minutes
Period 3: Mother tongue complex/combined letters (10 minutes)
Period 4: Left out L2 letters, alphabet chart (10 minutes)
Period 5: Word webs, L2 lesson plan [TPR, Supporting Game, See Listen and Say, Oriya Rhyme,
Picture Talk, Reading in L2] (30 min)
Period 6: Activities supporting this (10 minutes)
Period 7: Maths primer/number chart (30 minutes)


Period 8: Listening to stories
Period 9: Shared reading (BB + Exp Chart Story + Story Chart)
Period 10: Silent reading
Period 11: Creative writing
Period 12: Cultural maths (theme web)
Period 13: Environment studies (theme web)
Period 14: Activity centers (Reading Corner, Science Table, Math Activity Center)
Period 15: Cultural songs and dances
Period 16: Cultural crafts and games

Track One Materials for Class II

Combined/complex letters MT chart
Combined/complex letters L2 chart
Left out letters
Word webs
Bridging books (a, b, c, d)
Math book
Number chart

The instructional materials prepared for the two tracks are:

Track I Track II
Alphabet chart Big book
Alphabet book Small book
Number chart Story for listening
Number book Experience story
Math book Environment study
Games and sports, moral education
Songs, tales, riddles

Academic Annual Plan for MLE schools

The whole year is divided into 30 weeks. Each week contains one theme and theme webs are
prepared accordingly. Instructional materials are provided to the schools to teach with the MLE
approach. The calendar of activities is formulated before the session starts. The curricular year
Proceedings, 8th International Conference on Language and Development, Bangladesh 2009

is divided into three terms. Each term contains ten weeks and thus three terms cover the 30
weeks. Each week is subdivided into six days and thus a total of 180 academic days are offered
for teaching and learning. Teachers need not worry about writing the daily lesson plan since
they already have the annual plan prepared before the school starts. There is a village
curriculum and multiple instructional materials are available for use by the children and the

For monitoring and evaluation, there is a monthly academic sharing meeting of MLE teachers.
The community takes responsibility to provide support to schools, and parents and teachers
discuss childrens achievement since they all belong to same language group.


Children got back their voices as their enrollment and retention improved. They started talking
in their language and understood the content and connected the classroom knowledge with
their experience. They started reading and writing and identifying letters from sentences.
Literacy became easier and the result is visible. Students from other classes are also interested
in learning (e.g., reading big and small books, listening to stories, working in the math book).
After six months of schooling in Class I the child is able to read a sentence and identify the
words and letters from the sentence with meaning, if it is in his or her mother tongue. Children
can think and create if given a context.

Teacher Response and Sustainability

Tribal teachers took the lead in curriculum design and preparation of instructional materials.
They generated their own cultural themes for the curriculum. Some were assertive about their
language and were enthusiastic about the language revitalization efforts. We have been quite
successful in implementing MLE in Class I and started Class II this year. Teachers from tribal
communities have been posted in MLE schools. It is seen that community interest and demand
is strong for mothertongue education. The State Tribal Advisory Committee chaired by the Chief
Minister is serious about MLE in Orissa.