My International Field ExperienceBefore leaving for India, each fellow in the cohort developed research questions which we would explore while in country. As a teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages, I was naturally curious about language policy in India. My research question and reflection are as follows.Research Question:
How is multilingualism supported at St. Mary's H.S.S. in Trivandrum, India?
What is the language(s) of instruction?
What are students' native languages?
What kind of multilingual ecology is available in the school?
How is language proficiency assessed?
India is a multilingual society. According to https://india.gov.in/india-glance/profile, there are 22 different languages that have been recognized by the Constitution of India. The 2001 census recorded 30 languages which were spoken by more than a million native speakers and 122 which were spoken by more than 10,000 people. The most prominent native languages spoken are Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, and Punjabi.
The language of instruction is largely dependent on the type of school you visit. There are 4 types of schools in India: central government, state government, private with government aid, and private. The two schools I visited were private with government aid and they were English-medium. That means that the main language of instruction is English. However, students were able to choose an additional language such as their state language or Hindi. Students' native languages were their state language (in the schools I visited those were Kannada and Malayalam).
Another IREX fellow visited a school in Hyderabad, where she met a preschool teacher who spoke about 4-6 languages in order to accommodate her students in their mother tongue, while simultaneously teaching them English. This is a stark difference between my school, which has a largely monolingual staff. Most of the print environment in the schools was in English. There are not any standardized language proficiency exams which can pose a problem because teachers are not able to discern if the student is struggling with the content, language, or both.
See my blog below for more insights during the trip.
This is not an official U.S. Department of State website. The views and information presented are the grantee's own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program , IREX, or the U.S. Department of State.
Similarly, the views and information are my own and do not represent the Buffalo Public Schools.