For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser.

Multilingual Education

A pillar of learning and intergenerational learning.
12:00 AM Mar 11, 2024 IST | SHEIKH GULZAR AHMAD
multilingual education



Our country has taken a giant leap in the area by introducing the National Education Policy, subsequently followed by the National Curriculum Framework for school education and the Foundational stage separately at a time when 40% of the world’s population does not have access to education in a language they speak or understand. In some countries, this figure rises to over 90%. Our two curriculum frameworks and other MoE guidelines conveyed through NCERT and SCERTs across the country are making a mark under the shadows of International Mother Tongue Day today and momentum is being built to use a child’s mother tongue at the foundational stage of his schooling.


Disruption of learning across the globe

The disruption of learning during COVID-19 school closures put a massive strain on learning. Before the pandemic, 57 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries could not read and understand a simple story by the end of primary school. In 2022, this figure rose to 70 percent. In some countries, over 90 percent of students were not taught in a language they speak and understand. So, the conclusion drawn from here tells us that poor learning outcomes may be a reflection of inadequate language of instruction policies.


Why do we need a Mother Tongue?


Occasions like International Mother Language Day 2024 is an opportunity to remind the international community that multilingual education enhances learning when the language of instruction is the learner’s first language. The use of learners’ languages for literacy and learning provides a solid pillar for education and for the transfer of skills and knowledge to additional languages. Learning in a child’s first language facilitates understanding and interaction, and further develops critical thinking. It strengthens self-confidence and self-esteem and stimulates active participation. In addition to boosting learning, multilingual education contributes to opening the doors to intergenerational learning, the preservation of culture and intangible heritage, and the revitalization of languages. It enriches multilingualism on the web and is essential for digital literacy. Multilingual education also helps in acquiring life skills, especially in the context of emergencies, crises, and natural disasters.


Multilingual education doesn't merely teach words; it intricately strengthens the brain. Language acquisition engages complex cognitive processes, improving memory, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking. The benefits are enduring, with studies indicating that multilingual individuals may have an edge in cognitive flexibility and delaying cognitive aging. The cognitive benefits gained from multilingual education extend across the lifespan.


Use of Mother Tongue and the Curriculum Frameworks in India:

We in India are toeing the line and in light of The National Curriculum Framework 2023, it is affirmed that Language lies at the center of human cognitive, social, and cultural experiences. Proficiency in languages gives individuals the capacity to comprehend, analyze, and relate to their locality, nation, and world. “All efforts will be made early on to ensure that gaps between the language spoken by the child and the medium of teaching are bridged. In cases where home language/mother-tongue textbook material is not available, the language of the transaction between teachers and students will remain the home language/mother-tongue wherever possible….” [NEP 2020, 4.11].

According to NCF-FS (2022), The medium of instruction will be the home language (L1) in the Foundational Stage to the extent possible. Where not possible, measures will be taken to support the child’s formal use of L1 in teaching-learning activities, and to build bridges from L1 to the school languages. Children will be immersed in multiple oral languages as early as possible, which will be enhanced through interactive activities (e.g., conversation, TPR, poetry, songs, drama, narration of experiences).

Status of Kashmiri as a Mother Tongue: Unlocking Opportunities Through Language Diversity.

Kashmiri belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It is an Indo-Iranian language, derived from Sanskrit Kashmiri is mostly spoken in Kashmir Valley in Jammu and Kashmir. It is also spoken among the Kashmiri diaspora worldwide. About 57% of people in Jammu and Kashmir speak Kashmiri language. In the rest of the country, there are also Kashmiri-speaking people. In Pakistan and PoK 0.8% speak Kashmiri, In North America 0.01%, in Europe, 0.05% in, the Middle East 0.05% speak Kashmiri as per Google search. Out of approximately 6 million Kashmiri speakers, the vast majority are concentrated in Jammu and Kashmir. The presence of Kashmiri speakers across the globe is still very minimal, classifying it as a smaller minority language. Initiatives are needed to revitalize Kashmiri language education both domestically and internationally. With updated census data still unavailable, estimates suggest the global Kashmiri-speaking proportion may now be higher. However, focused language policies and promotion efforts can further spread awareness of this language worldwide.

At the UT Level steps need to be taken to Implement Multilingual Education. In this regard, the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) is taking the lead in Teacher Education, Curriculum Development, and Community Engagement. Under the National initiative NIPUN Bharat Mission, teachers are being engaged in material development for the foundational stage in the Kashmiri Language, steps are being taken to engage parents and other members of the society to join in implementing Kashmiri as the medium of instruction in the foundational stage. We need to appreciate success Stories from Multilingual Communities and use the same to introduce Kashmiri to our situations.

The SCERT Kashmir is committed to facilitating programs, policies, and initiatives for teachers and people of different generations to communicate in their native languages. It is believed that multilingual education fosters understanding, respect, and appreciation for diverse cultural perspectives. We are planning to review the old tradition of storytelling which could lead to language exchange, older generations can pass down traditional knowledge, values, and stories to younger generations while also gaining fresh insights and perspectives from the youth. This collaboration of old and young as conceived shall enhance communication skills, strengthen familial bonds, and preserve cultural heritage within communities. Moreover, multilingual education is expected to empower individuals to navigate an increasingly globalized world by equipping them with the linguistic skills necessary to engage with people from various backgrounds.

Challenges and Solution:

There are many languages spoken in Jammu & Kashmir and each community wants to use their language as the medium of instruction and needs a serious reflective thought. The resource allocation in terms of infrastructure and specialized speakers/Teachers of language also needs attention. There is a linguistic bias that needs to be addressed also to remove the impediments in the introduction of Kashmiri as the language of instruction. The solution is in the introduction of a language formula as per Nep-2020 and the same is explicitly conveyed through the National Curriculum Framework-2023 for School Education and Foundational Education-2022.


By embracing multilingual education, we weave an endless tapestry of knowledge, connecting the wisdom of the past with the innovations of the future. Governments, communities, and individuals need to promote and protect linguistic diversity and support minority language publishing, education, and cultural programs. SCERT as the lead teacher education institute in the UT of Jammu & Kashmir has to be the torchbearer in this matter and project some pathbreaking initiates to rejuvenate the energy in the Kashmiri teacher educators and allied stakeholders so that the Kashmiri Language is put to use and the basic skills like speaking, listening, reading, and writing become a common nuance to implement the use of Kashmir language at all levels.

Sheikh Gulzar Ahmad, Academic Officer, SCERT-KD.