Practice of multi-lingual education (MLE) is a tool for inclusive education in border areas especially where the inhabitants speak languages different from Telugu. Border districts, adjoining neighbouring states present diverse scenarios of the challenges and responses of the government schools to make schools more inclusive and culturally responsive. This also highlights that some linguistic communities are more resilient and strong to retain their language than others.
Srikakulam has a significant number of people speaking Oriya and Savara tribal languages. The three-language policy in border mandals of Srikakulam offers Odiya, Telugu and English. Earlier the three-language policy included Hindi, which is currently replaced by Telugu. Oriya medium schools have Oriya and English from class I, while Telugu is introduced from class VI.
While the Savara tribe in Srikakulam is smaller in number to insist on the implementation of Savara language in schools, the Oriya community is trying its best to continue Oriya medium at least at lower level of schooling. There were 11,953 students in Oriya medium schools in Srikakulam district during the year 2014-15. There were 575 Oriya language teachers in 305 schools covering these 11,953 children.
MLE programmes for Oriya linguistic minorities is an inter-state collaborative exercise. Not only government but also non-governmental organisations are part of promoting the state efforts of supporting linguistic minorities. Text books of Odiya language are provided by Odisha government, while the subject text books or non-language text books of the state syllabus are translated into Oriya by AP Government.
There are delays in procuring the Oriya language text books from the neighbouring state government and also in translating the subject text books into Telugu. Whenever the state syllabus changes, the delays are longer in providing subject text books translated into Oriya. Non language text books translated into Oriya are made available from August to November, while the schools open in June.
Progress and quality of teaching when non-language text books translated into Oriya are not available, depends on the teacher’s ability to translate from Telugu text books. Since the Oriya teachers end up translating on their own, a lot of time is lost and usually the syllabus is not completed. There is backlog for some part of the academic year. The problems affect the quality of the teaching-learning process if the strength of teachers is inadequate.
Choice of school and access to education in one`s mother tongue is observed to be determined by several factors - purpose of education, level of education and government preference for medium instruction in employment matters. It depends on how the purpose of school education is perceived, whether for literacy or for a career. It is also dependent on what the level of education one expects to achieve –up to elementary school, high school, college education or beyond.
Additionally, it depends on how the medium of instruction is perceived to be affecting one’s chances of finding a government job. Many of the perceptions are also influenced by how much a household is prepared to invest in the child’s education. It is a combination of these factors which influence the type of school (government or private school) a household chooses. Access to education in mother tongue is affected by one or more of these factors.
The outcomes of these choices not only affect one’s right to education in one`s mother tongue but also show patterns of gender and economic status. Shift to a language other than one’s mother tongue is voluntary or coerced depending on the desire to fulfill one`s dreams and the preparedness to accomplish that. More girls are seen studying in Oriya medium than boys because they are not likely to study beyond primary school or high school and are also likely to marry someone from the neighbouring state.
So, the girls study in government Oriya medium schools while some boys could go to Telugu medium school run by government or private agencies. Although more difficult than Oriya, those aspiring for government jobs are willing to study in Telugu because it is preferred by the government. Owing to limited access to Oriya medium schools after Class V, most of these children join Telugu medium schools from Class VI as they cannot commute long distances for Oriya medium high schools in the district. Shift to Telugu medium schools is not easy transition for many children. Of 1069 children appeared for Class X test in the district during 2013-14, 107 students failed in Telugu language.