The richness of languages

We need to reflect on technologies and its potential to support multilingual teaching and learning at all levels
"As the best creature in creation, only human beings can share different theories and ideas with each other about International Mother Language Day."
"As the best creature in creation, only human beings can share different theories and ideas with each other about International Mother Language Day." [Creative Commons]

February 21, 2022 is observed as the International Mother Language Day. It is observed to foster multilingualism for inclusion in education and encourages us to support the concept and the use of mother tongues both at school and in everyday life.

The day was approved by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999.

The organization believes in world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, science, and culture. It believes education based on the first language or mother tongue, must begin from the early years as early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning. UNESCO observed the day first time in the year 2000.

The day reminds us about the unfortunate incident on 21 February 1952 when four students of university of Dhaka sacrificed lives for the sake of their mother tongue.

Multilingualism was encouraged during the international year of languages in 2008 with the goal of promoting unity in variation and global understanding. UNESCO was selected as the year’s primary agency to promote Multilingualism by the UN general assembly.

The International Mother Language Day (IMLD) celebration aims to inform UNESCO’s work on languages and multilingualism across all of UNESCO programme sectors.

UNESCO’s support to multilingualism includes the development and intergenerational transmission of indigenous knowledge and languages and the safeguarding of indigenous cultural heritage.

UNESCO also leads the Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) and coordinates its implementation through the Global Action Plan of the Decade (SDG4).

Through globalisation, many languages are under threat of disappearing altogether but they are a crucial aspect of preserving cultures around the world. About 7.5 hundred Crores people in the world love to speak their mother tongue. Humans are the best creatures on earth.

As the best creature in creation, only human beings can share different theories and ideas with each other about International Mother Language Day.

At least 43% of the world’s estimated 6000 spoken languages are endangered. Every two weeks, a language completely disappears, and the cultural and intellectual heritage is gone with it. 40% of the people in the world don’t have access to education in a language that they understand.

Therefore, celebrating International Mother Language Day is important because it ensures these languages are not forgotten, as well as keeping the culture, heritage, and history of countries intact.

People should be proud of their mother language and want to have the drive to learn more. This year’s theme of IMLD was ‘using technology for multilingual learning: challenges and opportunities.

It highlights enhancing of the role of teachers in the promotion of quality multilingual teaching and learning. We need to reflect on technologies and its potential to support multilingual teaching and learning at all levels.

Technology has the potential to address some of the greatest challenges in education today. It can accelerate efforts towards ensuring equitable and inclusive lifelong learning opportunities for all if it is guided by the core principles of inclusion and equity.

Multilingual education based on mother tongue is a key component of inclusion in education. During COVID-19 school closures, many countries around the world employed technology-based solutions to maintain continuity of learning. A recent UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank and OECD survey on national education responses to COVID-19 school closures of 143 countries showed that 96 percent of high-income countries provided remote learning through online platforms for at least one education level compared to only 58 percent of low-income countries.

In low-income contexts, the majority of countries reported using broadcast media such as television (83%) and radio (85%) to support continuity of learning. The survey also identified that teachers lacked skills and readiness for using distance teaching.

Many learners lacked the necessary equipment, internet access, accessible materials, adapted content, and human support that would have allowed them to follow distance learning. Moreover, distance teaching and learning tools, programmes and content are not always able to reflect language diversity.

The overall aim of IMLD 2022 is to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 by recognising the role of teachers in promoting multilingual teaching and learning through technology. More specifically, IMLD 2022 aims to:

Consider the potential role of technology, including traditional media such as radio and television, in supporting multilingual teaching and learning. Action is needed to ensure the design and delivery of technology-enabled multilingual teaching and learning at our level -SCERT.

The day’s observance is a call on policymakers, educators, teachers, parents, and families to scale up their commitment to multilingual education and inclusion in education to advance education recovery in the context of COVID-19. We have taken many steps to promote multilingualism in consonance with NEP-2020, NIPUN Baharat flagship programme also known as FLN mission.

In this connection the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) has entered into a missionary mode where modules are prepared in mother tongues, materials are translated and learning outcomes are made available in the mother tongue. We are in a race with time to meet the key performance indicators of the flagship programmes and the deadlines set by SDG4.

The SCERT is proposing a good number of programmes for HOIs, teachers and other system level functionaries in a blended mode to enhance the potential and capacity of teachers, teacher educators to keep the system of teaching and learning smooth in difficult times like pandemics or any other exigencies.

This is a preparatory exercise to meet the challenges and opportunities of twenty-first century and to enrich the workshops, orientation programmes, trainings, materials and technological tools to strengthen multilingual teaching learning process with special focus on mother tongue. I conclude with this beautiful quote of Nelson Mandela

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Sheikh Gulzar Ahmad, Academic Officer SCERT-KD

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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