Multilingual Education in Indian Context

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSES2012164

Semester and Year Offered: Winter semester (4th semester) -2019

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Shivani Nag

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: No pre-requisite.

Course Description: Multilingualism in a classroom or in a given geographical location can be characterized not only in terms of the different linguistic groups who co-exist but also in terms of the number of languages understood and spoken by a single individual. Yet surprisingly, it is ‘multilingualism’ and not ‘monolingualism’ which, both as an educational aim as well as an approach, has required determined persuasion and a sustained movement. The current course is aimed to encourage students to engage with different contexts of multilingualism and Multilingual Education pedagogies, understand the theoretical and ideological underpinnings of the MLE models and practices, and appreciate the possibilities of MLE as a transformative pedagogy. The course will largely draw from socio-cultural theories of learning and critical pedagogy perspective to engage with MLE models and practices.

Course Objectives:

  1. To recognize the varied aspects of multilingualism in Indian classrooms, different processes of learning languages within and outside classroom spaces and the context specific use of languages.
  2. To understand the relationship between language, culture and thought.
  3. To understand the different multilingual education models in India
  4. To critically review the aims and practices of existing multilingual education models in light of their ability of democratize classrooms and use multilingualism as a pedagogic resource.


Course outcomes- On the completion of the course:

  1. Students will be able to recognize multilingualism in a classroom in terms of:                                      1.number of languages brought to classroom by all students together,                                            2.number of languages each student brings to class with different levels of comfort in each-3.comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, thinking                                                                      4.context based preference for languages.                                                                                  5.distinguish btw different processes of language learning in formal classroom spaces & informal        spaces outside informed by differing modes of exposure to languages (academic texts, participation
  2. in social activities, via media, other cultural artifacts)
  3. Students will be able to explain the relationship between language, culture and learning as proposed by the socio-cultural learning theorists and recognize the role language not only as means of communication but an active cultural tool of mediation located in socio-cultural historical context.
  4. Students will be able to distinguish between MLE approach as different from 3 language formula and Mother Tongue as Medium of Instruction.
  5. Students will be able to explain different MLE models in terms of- number of languages that the model accommodates; stages and processes whereby different languages are introduced; pedagogic practices; emphasis on transition or maintenance; early exit vs. Late exit; transitional or two-way.
  6. Students will be able to distinguish between the assimilative vs. transformative potentials of MLE practices and conceptualize MLE practices exploring transformative potentials of multilingualism.
  7. Students will be able to articulate questions around power relations between and within languages, examining whose language gets accepted as MoI and also whose language (gender, caste, region, etc., ) gets identified as the standardised languages.


Brief description of the units

Unit I: Multilingualism in India and Role of Language in Learning

  1. Linguistic diversity in India and the nature of Indian multilingualism
  2. The implications of multilingualism for Indian classrooms
  3. Socio-cultural perspectives on learning-concepts of tools, mediation, participation & Language as active cultural tool of mediation


Unit II: What is Multilingual Education?

  1. What is Multilingual Education – (MLE)? –aims and context (concerns regarding mismatch between home and school language; human rights perspective; threats to linguistic diversity; cognitive benefits of multilingualism)
  2. Models of MLE- (Transitional, Immersion and Maintenance)
  3. Examining a few of the key MLE models/initiatives in India- (Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and/or any other)

Unit III: Can MLE be for all? MLE as transformative pedagogy

  1. Critically examining the scope and implication of ‘bridge/transition’ models of MLE
  2. Imagining multilingualism as a culturally sensitive pedagogic resource and its potentials for creating democratic classrooms
  3. Relation between language and power- why should MLE be for few? Critical pedagogy perspective


Assessment Plan (weight, mode, scheduling) for the course:

S. No.


Individual or group



Presentation and short write up based on language mapping (educational spaces, community contexts, etc.)





Mid Term- written assignment (term paper)- Based on MLE models & practices discussed in unit II





End Term- written assignment (term paper)- - Innovative MLE practices based on unit III.





Class participation + Reflective Journal (based on engagement with and sharing of literary texts, folk stories/songs, & ethnographic accounts , reflection of own schooling and other language related experiences).



20% (10 + 10)




Unit I:

  • Jhingran, Dhir (2009). Hundreds of home languages in the country and many in most classrooms- coping with diversity in primary education in India in Mohanty, A. K.; Panda, M.; Phillipson, R.; &SkutnabbKangas, T. (Eds) Multilingual Education for Social Justice. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan pg. 250-267.
  • Pattanayak, D.P. (2007). Multilingualism in India. New Delhi: Orient Longman
  • Chapter 1 – ‘A demographic appraisal of multilingualism in India’
  • Chapter 4- Multilingualism &school education in India: Special features, problems & prospects
  • Mohanty, A. K. (2010). Languages inequality and marginalization: Implications of the double divide in Indian multilingualism. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2010 (205), 131-154.
  • Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (1999). Linguistic diversity, human rights & the free market. In K. Miklos, R. Philipson, T. Skutnabb-Kangas, & T. Varady, Language: A Right & a Resource- Approaching linguistic human rights (pp. 187-222). Budapest: Central European University.(2015, November 1). Dispatches from Bastar: Three dispatches from the tribal area of Abijhmad, Bastar, India. Retrieved from (3 pages)
  • Premchand (1938).Idgaah. Retrieved from- (Hindi) & English translation of Idgah- Retrieved from- (Translation by Kushwant Singh)
  • Cole, M., & Scribner, S. (1978). Introduction. In M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman, Lev Vygotsky- Mind and Society (pp. 1-14). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


Unit II:

  • Mohanty, A. K.; Panda, M.; & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2009). Why Mother Tongue Based MLE? New Delhi: National Multilingual Education Resource Consortium. pp.1-2.
  • Mohanty, A. K.; Panda, M.; Phillipson, R.; &SkutnabbKangas, T. (2009).Multilingual Education for Social Justice. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan
  • Part I- Introduction (by A. K. Mohanty) pp. 3-20.
  • Chapter 3- MLE for global justice: Issues, approaches, opportunities (by ToveSkutnabb-Kangas), pp. 36-59.
  • Chapter 4- Designing effective schooling in multilingual contexts: going beyond bilingual "models".(by Carol Benson), pp. 59-76.
  • Chapter 5- The tension between linguistic diversity and dominant English (Robert Phillipson), pp. 79-94.
  • Chapter 17- Overcoming the language barrier for tribal children: MLE in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, India (by Mohanty, Mishra, Reddy & G. Ramesh), pp. 278-294
  • Chapter 18- Language matters, so does culture: beyond the rhetoric of culture in multilingual education (M. Panda; & A.K. Mohanty), pp. 295-312.
  • John, S.V. (2017). Unleashing potential in multilingual classrooms: The case of Bastar in Chhattisgarh State, India. In Hywel Coleman (Ed) (2017). Multilingualisms and Development: Selected proceedings of the 11th language & development conference. London: BC; p. 181-188
  • Dange, V. (2010). News from MLE, Chhattisgarh. Swara1 (3), 7
  • MTB MLE Program for the Adivasis of Assam (retrieved from


Unit III

  • Panda, M. (2012). 'Bridging' and 'Exit' as metaphors of multilingual education: A constructionist analysis. Psychological Studies, 57 (2), 240-250.
  • Rege, Sharmila (2016 ). Education as Trutiya Ratna: Towards Phule- Ambedkarite Feminist Pedagogic Practice. In Uma Chakravarti (Ed) Thinking Gender, Doing Gender, New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, pg. 3-31.
  • Agnihotri, R. (2009). Multilinguality and a new world order. In A. K. Mohanty, M. Panda, R. Philipson, & T. Skutnabb-Kangas, Multilingual Education for Social Justice: Globalising the local (pp. 268-277). New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.
  • Agnihotri, R. (1995). Multilingualism as a classroom resource. In K. Heugh, A. Siegruhn, & P. Pluddemann, Multilingual Education for South Africa. Johannesburg: Hienemann. (pp. 3-7).
  • hooks, bell (2017). Language: Teaching new worlds/new words. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge, pp.167-177.
  • Agnihotri, R.; Gupta, A.S.; & Khanna, A.L. (Eds) (2017) Trends in Language Teaching. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan
  • Chapter 3- Innovations in Research and Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms (By Mukul Saxena), pp. 31-45
  • Chapter 4- ‘Speaking of food- apple... ice cream… posto… pesta… roti…’(by Rimli Bhattacharya), pp. 82-97Videos:Khamakha (A short film by Aarti Badgi). Retrieved from- )Scenary (by Biswa Kalyan Rath)- Retrieved from-
  • Multilingual Classroom by RamakantAgnihotri- documentary on Multilingual Classroom teaching Written and Produced by ZackieAchmat Produced for : The national language project and the linguistics department of university of Cape Town).
  • Speaking, Reading, Writing in a Multilingual Classroom –                                                                                                                           

Suggested/Additional Readings

  • Freire, P. &Macedo, D. (1987).Introduction. Literacy: Reading the word and the world. SouthHadley, MA: Bergin &Garvey.
  • Mohanty, A. K. (2010). Languages inequality and marginalization: Implications of the double divide in Indian multilingualism. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2010 (205), 131-154.
  • Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (1988). Multilingualism and the education of the minority children. In T. Skutnabb-Kangas, & J. Cummins, Minority Education: From shame to struggle (pp. 9-44). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  • Panda, M., & Mohanty, A. (2009b). Socio-cultural construction of mind and language. In A. Shukla, Culture, Cognition and Behaviour. New Delhi: Vedam Books, pp. 191-205
  • Nag, Shivani (2018). Transformative potentials of multilingual education models in Odisha, India. European Journal of Education Studies, Vol. 4 (4), 320-339.
  • Garcia, Ofelia (2010). Misconstructions of multilingualism in education: Global Perspectives. Swara, MLE Newsletter, Vol. 1 (3), pp. 2-5.
  • Benson, Carol (2017). Multilingual Education for all: Applying an integrated multilingual curriculum modell to low income contexts. In Hywel Coleman (Ed). Multilingualisms and Development: Selected proceedings of the 11th language & development conference. London: British Council, pp. 101-114.