“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one”Malcolm Forbes
Education develops curiosity and exposes us to the vicinity of immense knowledge. Knowledge grows and changes as one feeds on it. The constant pursuit to capture, codify and communicate the infinite-ness of the world we live in has shaped education for long. This pursuit has shaped our civilization. Education has made our life more advanced and composite. The general theory of relativity has made us aware of time and space. Apples were falling from the trees even before Newton had the curiosity to think about why it was falling down and not going up. It has enabled us to learn about gravitation. It taught us how to achieve escape velocity and wander into space. The discovery of subatomic particles made us uncover new sources of energy which has changed the landscape of the world completely. The list is never-ending. Humans as a race posses the infinite capacity of the thought process.
But in this information era education has also become a means to an end. Education has been made into a tool to obtain employment. The right to education has become so fundamental that no one should be deprived of it. However, the problem of equating education and employment limits the scope of education to a mechanical process of remembering rather than a learning process. The reduction of education to obtain employment has inadvertently hindered the essence of holistic development of mind, body, and spirit.
Even in this there is an inequality, the education pedagogy designed today is for the jobs which are present in urban areas and for jobs which are classified as skilled. But this doesn’t have any relevance to the majority of the population. The rural population where livelihoods revolve around agriculture and husbandry, the current educational pedagogy is irrelevant as most of these jobs are viewed as unskilled.
In India, the estimated population in the age group 6- 15 is around 25 crores out of which the Scheduled Tribes (ST) population in the same category is around 2.41 crores. The level-wise enrollment of ST students from 1st grade to 10th grade is 2.36 crores. But the average annual dropout rate of ST students is 24.68%. Access to education has been improved over the years but the availability of quality education in the rural area is limited, especially in ST population.
In Chhattisgarh, 37% of 3rd standard children can’t even read a 1st standard text. 72% of 5th standard children can’t do basic division. Looking at Bastar, a tribal majority district, the lack of quality education becomes even more evident where 70% of the students don’t even understand the language of instruction i.e. Hindi.
The statistics paints a dire picture of the environment which can be tackled by assimilation of local knowledge into the pedagogy whereby creating contextual learning through the process.
At present in rural areas, where the predominant occupations are not similar to those of urban spaces, there is a lack of contextual education. The mainstream pedagogy needs to be redefined in the rural setting to create an alternate way of instruction without reducing the quality of learning outcome of students. In this regard, multi-lingual education is a significant element in the process that can help students to relate and feel comfortable with the pedagogy.
Learning through the mother tongue by understanding the context and relating it to the larger environment is Multi-lingual Education (MLE)
Teaching-Learning Materials (TLM) should be localized for the understanding of students. Language, Science and Mathematics concepts can be developed by congregating information from the local context. The tribal culture reference in the lesson planning and execution phase could make the kids have a better understanding of concepts. Contextual pedagogy can be used to incorporate MLE the into classroom environment which eventually builds the love for their own language as well as provokes their inquisitiveness to learn new languages. Historically, languages of the marginalized sections are viewed with an angle of discrimination which reduces the importance of their language where as speaking and learning mainstream instructional languages, Hindi and English are given a higher status in their mind. This over a period of time creates the indigenous languages being lost to a sinister invasive language.
However, with the help of a multilingual structure, we can decentralize education by giving enough importance to their own language which eventually becomes a medium for their whole learning process. Every child must have the access to the incredible world of multiple languages which allows them to have a learning environment capable of being nurturing and invigorating, protecting and intensifying, and unshackling.
The empty mind is always open to learning. Education is self-evolving and intensifying. No knowledge is limited to the status quo. It travels through an inevitable process of change. The flat Earth becomes round, planets start revolving around the Sun and Pluto ceases to be a planet. The purpose of education is relatively subjective. But it sets off a chain reaction of events, from gaining knowledge to dissemination of information, educating the self to educating the family, better employment to increasing the living standards which eventually leads to growth and development of nation, demystifying the dogmas and disregarding all the separation of caste, class, culture, customs, costumes, and cuisines. Eventually becoming spirited humans with strong morale is the underlying power of education.