Understanding Multilingualism in India's Classrooms

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We live in a multilingual world where English serves as the lingua franca for education, trade and employment. It is also seen as an essential skill for someone wanting to succeed professionally or academically in the 21st century. Existing language policies focus on giving more equitable access to high levels of English language proficiency to make opportunities inclusive and open to all socio-economic groups. However, it has been felt that knowledge of English alone is not enough and hence the need for a language policy that helps to position the role of multiple languages in a more positive and protected context.

Multilingualism in India is a product of its history and a reflection of its diverse cultures. The multilingual, multi-ethnic and multicultural character of India necessitates the inclusion of several languages in the curriculum for school education. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has formulated a language policy which addresses all levels of education and integrates it in a national plan of education. The three-language formula is a consensus which highlights the need to blend the local, the national and the international and seeks to promote a culturally integrative policy.

This study, a self-initiative by Macmillan Education India, aims to understand the complex dynamics of social, economic and geographical contexts in the delivery of multilingual education in India. It allows us to examine the attitudes of teachers towards home language based multilingual education. The study also analyses the potential advantages and challenges of such linguistic diversity which can impact the everyday lives of Indian learners in educational institutions across India.

This study is meant to be a useful reference for the wider community of scholarship to understand the hybrid use of language in a multilingual classroom and the different ways in which it can be used to promote learning. This will be beneficial for institutions and individuals who are involved in measuring or seeking measurable outcomes from educational interventions.