Language and learning: the challenges of primary education in India

Language and learning: The Challenges of Primary Education in India – Plenary by Dr Rukmini Banerjee at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Dr Rukmini Banerjee, Pratham Education Foundation

Dr Rukmini Banerjee, Pratham Education Foundation

Personally my favourite session of the conference, although I would have to admit to a degree of bias as many of the locations mentioned in the presentation including Bihar and the North East are precisely those areas where the British Council East India projects I’m involved with are working: however, I think it was clear from the audience reaction that this was a very highly-valued session. 

Dr Banerjee provided a range of examples which were microcosms of interaction with language and our often stumbling educational interventions to deal with them. They included her account of language breakdown between visitor and children in a Jharkhand school, children in the slums of Mumbai ‘navigating language continuums’ where mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters might all speak different languages and contexts where the printed word documents become highly valued, frozen and never used. Most memorable to me was her description of the visitor to an Assamese school unable to speak any of the children’s languages who was escorted to the river by the kids and taught to fish – with follow up work in the classroom in visuals and multilingual writing. A brilliant way to conclude such an interesting conference…….

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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