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MLE Edu For Tribal

Bhubaneswar: The commitment towards the multilingual education or MLE-based learning ecosystem got a major boost after regularisation of 64 posts on July 26, 2021. In fact, the process was initiated way back in 2008 by appointing 100 MLE teachers on contractual basis.

Subsequently, the guidelines for engagement of tribal language teachers for MLE was held under the leadership of the Chief Secretary of Odisha on August 31, 2023, to face the challenges by the schools run by ST&SC Development, Minorities and Backward Classes Welfare Department as per the mandate of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RCFCE) Act 2009 and National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which emphasizes and accord highest priority on mother tongue-based education for better learning outcome of the children in elementary grade.

In fact, in Odisha there are 21 tribal languages and 74 dialects.

Interestingly, the SSD schools (schools run by ST&SC, M&BCW Department) often find tribal children of more than one language group in one classroom due to the provision of free boarding facility. The engagement of MLE (tribal language teachers) is a step towards addressing the language barrier and challenges the tribal children face in their classroom transactions, more particularly in Class I to Class III.

Subsequently the ST&SC, M&BCW Department has created 200 posts of MLE teachers out of its 5,530 regular posts of teachers in the 1,736 SSD schools across Odisha. Nearly 4.34 lakh students are studying in these schools out of which 90 percent belong to tribal communities. Likewise in another instance 27 regular MLE teachers for Gondi language in Nabarangpur district alone under the SSD schools was sanctioned on February 13, 2024 for the students of elementary classes/grades. Again on February 16, creation of 250 regular posts of tribal language teachers (MLE) in different tribal languages under the ST&SC, M&BCW Department were added making the MLE teachers in different districts to 577.

From the 250 posts created for the MLE teachers on the priority 73 posts of the tribal language teachers were allotted to different languages in different districts.

Meanwhile, the Academy of Tribal Language and Culture (ATLC) has published several books in tribal languages, but the “dialectory variations” among a particular community staying in different geographic areas of a district have cropped in and as suggested by linguists and anthropologists, a detailed linguistic survey of the tribals (including the PVTGs) has become imminent across the State to ensure an effective MLE-based learning ecosystem. With the MIL-based (Modern Indian Languages) based teaching process since 1954 during the post-Independent era, the influence of regional languages, have thus partially eroded the ethos of the MLE pedagogy and a time has come to be more sensitive towards the mother-tongue based learning process to make the tribal kids at ease in their schools.

Educationists, linguists and anthropologists associated with tribal socio-cultural and economic development in Odisha are of the opinion that a detailed language survey apart, there should be an opportunity to include the local educated tribal youth in the education system through SSD schools.

Employment clauses could also be relaxed for them and they could be given opportunities to have CT/B.Ed/OTET while working in-service and they could be going through rigorous summer/winter refresher courses as part of the NEP guidelines for the particular tribal languages/dialects.

While the MLE teachers are primarily meant to work as a bridge between the tribal students and the teaching process and make the students feel that they are not lost mid-way, in majority of the cases they end up having multi-tasking teachers and not exclusively for tribal language teaching. The headmasters concerned, in many cases are not patronising the MLE teachers on insisting the tribal language teaching and they should also be oriented a lot to change the ongoing system.

“The tribal language teaching system is mainly restricted to the lower classes, i.e. Class I to III. But to make the tribal students comfortable with their studies the MLE process must continue up to Class VIII and in some developed languages like Santhali the language could be used for the entire education up to Higher Secondary or even Graduation level, so that the MLE education ecosystem will achieve its goal and target in a real sense,” opined an expert, who has spent his entire career in tribal studies in Odisha.

Availability of books for higher classes and courses with the help from experts from various fields in tribal languages is also to be looked into as the students need to have quality text and reference books in their languages so that they can feel comfortable, proud, happy and fulfilling while pursue their studies in their own languages. It will, certainly change the educational landscape in the entire state and especially for spreading education among the tribal youths.

Secretary ST&SC Development, Minorities and Backward Classes Welfare Department Roopa Roshan Sahoo feels “there is a long way to go for ensuring MLE education for the students of all tribal groups in Odisha, but the Department has definitely done an outstanding work in appointing more and more tribal language teachers and enriching their experience with refresher courses so that they would be experts in “multiple tribal languages” and for better understanding of the tribal kids, and thus, enabling them to bridge the gaps in educational communication process.”