Three-day event on ‘need for multilingual education strategies and policy in India’ concludes

  • Reveals the incremental impact of multilingual teaching practices in understanding and retention of knowledge / development of skills among students
  • Dialogues among academicians and policy makers to address areas of work and improve policies across the school systems

12 February 2020, Hyderabad: The final dissemination event for the Multilingualism and Multiliteracy(MultiLila) research project concluded today at the English and Foreign Languages University. The three-day event was attended by state government and education sector representatives from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Patna.

MultiLila is led by the University of Cambridge with co-investigators from the University of Reading, The English and Foreign Languages University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) Bangalore, in co-operation with the British Council and other key Indian partners, including the Language and Learning Foundation. The four-year (May 2016 – April 2020) longitudinal project has been funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council and Department for International Development.

The dissemination event marks the completion of the MultiLila project research that was undertaken with the aim of better understanding the development of multilingual children’s learning and cognitive abilities in a range of contexts.Facilitated by shared interests of India and UK institutions, the project set out to gather credible evidence to enable better policy making, inform debates around language in education and help improve teaching practices in the language-rich context of India.

The project has collected data on over 1800 primary school students (Standard IV and V) across three research sites in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bihar. Data has been collectedthrough a variety of tests completed by the learners, questionnaires completed by teachers and head teachers and classroom observations across the three sites.

The dissemination event shared the findings about growth in multilingual children’s linguistic, mathematics and cognitive abilities and the factors that appear to have influence on student’s learning and retention capabilities. Key insights from the dissemination event revealed the following:

  • The number of languages a child speaks at home and whether any of them are also used at school has an effect on the child’s school and cognitive skills.
  • Children learn best in a language they understand. Decisions around appropriate language use in schools / classrooms go hand in hand with effective teaching practices – it is important to not separate these two, so as to improve learning outcomes.
  • Teachers and learners are consistently using a mix of languages in the classroom, regardless of the stated medium of instruction. This mirrors the multilingual reality of India and is not to be discouraged. There are ways that differentlanguages can be used simultaneously, more systematically and purposefully to aid learning.Teachers need support with developing these skills of systematic language mixing.
  • Teacher-centred practice which did not encourage children to demonstrate their understanding or skills in a meaningful way was the norm in the classroom observations conducted. For better outcomes, we need to shift teaching and learning to the learner.

In light of the findings, multiple discussions over the first two days with teachers aimed to devise practical ideas and resources towards resolving some of the existing challenges identified through the research. Today, government officials and decision makers incharge of education policymaking were engaged to discuss changes that will provide greater support to teachers and learners and improve learning outcomes across non-EMI schools.

Prof. E. Suresh Kumar, Vice Chancellor, The English and Foreign Languages University, referred to his personal experience of studying in a vernacular medium and acquiring English language proficiency in a multilingual context. The Vice Chancellor dwelt on the process in acquiring second language proficiency growing up in a multilingual context through procedural syllabi taught in a controlled classroom situation. Terming the level of achieving proficiency in such contexts as discerning experiences for a learner, the Vice Chancellor told that the learners gain interchangeable linguistic insights. The benefit is concrete and loud in the process of learning different languages and understanding the cultural underscores, he said. He wished that the “MultiLila” project will prove to be of great help in raising teacher awareness in dealing with the language anxieties and inhibitions of the primary and advanced learners. He felt sure that this will result in opening up challenging areas of research in language learning and teacher education.

Prof. Ianthi Maria Tsimpli, University of Cambridge, said, “The multilingual diversity of Indian classrooms has been a lesson for UK and internationally-based researchers. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds in India bring rich life skills and a strong multilingual and multicultural heritage, which enhance the learners’ cognitive skills. Bringing these skills to a classroom where multilingual, learner-centred approaches are used can improve the learning experience and the learning outcomes.”

Barbara Wickham, OBE, Director India, British Council, said,“Today, we work with States across India to support their economic growth and knowledge ambitions through teacher training and skills programmes for young people.In this vein, our association with the MultiLilaproject aims to identify challenges and explore ways to address these and improve learner outcomes.We are looking forward to the final result of this initiative undertaken by multiple India and UK partners.”

Further information about the project can be found here:

For further queries, please contact:
Apoorv Aphale | | 98339 98772 | Marketing Manager – West India | British Council Division

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About the University of Cambridge

Founded in 1209, the mission of the University of Cambridge is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. To date, 90 affiliates of the University have won the Nobel Prize.

The University comprises 31 autonomous Colleges, which admit undergraduates and provide small-group tuition, and 150 departments, faculties and institutions. It is a global university: its 19,000 student body includes 3,700 international students from 120 countries. Cambridge researchers collaborate with colleagues worldwide, and the University has established larger-scale partnerships in Asia, Africa and America.

The University sits at the heart of one of the world’s largest technology clusters. The ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ has created 1,500 hi-tech companies, 14 of them valued at over US$1 billion and two at over US$10 billion. Cambridge promotes the interface between academia and business, and has a global reputation for innovation.

For more detailed information, including a History of Cambridge University and How the University works, visit About the University:

About the English and Foreign Languages University
The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), a Central University under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, has a global outlook, and specializes in the study of humanities, with a focus on teaching and researching languages and literatures. Headquatered in Hyderabad, the EFLU has two regional Campuses in Shillong (1973) and Lucknow (1979). EFLU is one of the five Central Universities in India, and one of the two in South India, which has been granted Graded Autonomy in 2018 by the University Grants Commission. The University has been placed 19th in the India Today Best Government University No.1 among Government universities for teacher-student ratio. THE WEEK Hansa Research Best University Survey 2019, placed the University 8th in the category of All India Central Multidisciplinary Universities.

About the British Council
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive a 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.