Crusaders of a different kind

A school still remains ‘an alien and a daunting’ place for children who are pushed into classes where learning takes place in a language different from their own. So, what is wrong in learning a different language?

Experts and organisations like UNICEF have noted that much of the difficulty in learning, especially understanding sciences, is artificial. In an Indian context, children are forced to put away the linguistic skills they have already acquired as the barrier of English is erected between them and the object of learning.

Plan of action

A few efforts are on in the state to address this issue. Be it Baalabalaga School in Dharwad, Deenabandhu School in Chamarajanagar or creation of digital teaching material online, several initiatives have been taken up to make learning real and relatable. They have embraced a solution of teaching sciences in one’s native language, and the results are encouraging.

Those who cannot make time to visit these schools can get a taste of what
learning in Kannada means at arime.org. Here, the advocacy for learning sciences through Kannada is done by a techie, Prashant Soratur, who is part of the group behind the initiative.

“Currently, even the science concepts taught in Kannada have a heavy influence of Sanskrit, these words are not present in a child’s environment and hence it becomes tough. For instance, the chapter on the four-stroke engine in textbook uses Kannada words bhukti and sankuchana for suction and compression, respectively,” says Prashant.

Currently, more focus is laid on words than their meaning. Considering that the words are as strange as the English terminologies, what can be a solution? Prashant adds, heeruvike and ottuvike instead of bhukti and sankuchana would have been helpful, allowing for an immediate grasp of the concept.

As policymakers blame Kannada medium for shortcomings in education, the work done by these groups stands in stark contrast. What should be the priority then? It is not about sending children to school, but creating an environment where their cognitive faculties are not deemed irrelevant is very important.

A proven reality

Roopa TV, a Biology lecturer at a government college, says that most of her students come from Kannada medium and in many cases, she has to teach them using Kannada words.
When schools fail, parents have to chip in to bridge the learning gaps.

“During a revision at home or homework, I have to explain to my daughter what a particular word means in Kannada. The science concepts, too, I have to explain her in our language [Kannada] and she understands it better. If it is done in the school itself, the revision time is saved,” says a parent.

“The question on the medium of instruction between English and Kannada or native language exists only in former colonies like Asia and Africa,” says Vasanth Shetty, who is also a part of arime.org.
At his book store Munnota, experts from different professional backgrounds share their knowledge in Kannada.

These initiatives employ various teaching methods equipped with necessary resources ­— from visual media to games and interactive sessions — to make learning enjoyable for children.

Better learning

“This also encourages them to undertake experiments and learn science at home. As children have learnt in their mother tongue, they are well-versed with science concepts,” says Padma, headmistress of Mahila Mandali School, Bengaluru.

Vaishnavi, a primary school student at Mahila Mandali School, who aspires to be a doctor, says, “I got to know how things work from the reading material provided to us. From this, my interest in science has increased.”

P Shashireekha, a senior teaching faculty and headmistress at Kamala Nehru school, says using Kannada in classrooms establishes a harmonious relationship between students and the teacher.

Deenabandhu Teachers Resource Centre in Chamarajnagar produces educational cards, videos and a monthly newsletter—Anubhava— focussed on making science relatable to children, especially for those from rural areas. For instance, conversions from SI measurements like kilogram to traditional ones like ‘seru’ are shown.
Viewed from the other end, such a move also helps prevent alienation of a child from his or her roots.

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Crusaders of a different kind

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