Dr. Ramesh PokhriyalAbout 43 per cent out of 6,000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Out of these, only a few hundred languages are used in the education system and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world. We must understand that language is a means of communication and identity to the individual and the community. If I state in the words of Swami Vivekananda, “Teach the masses in the vernaculars, give them ideas; they will get information, but something more is necessary; give them culture.” Every language is a reflection of the culture, a way of thinking and living of a society. Language plays a cohesive role in development while stimulating cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. Along with strengthening cooperation, inclusive knowledge societies and preserving cultural heritage, language helps attain quality education.India has unparalleled linguistics with fittingly cultural diversity and language is accorded as a powerful instrument. Thereby, under the astute leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ministry of Education has undertaken multiple initiatives to recognize and promote use and dissemination of mother tongues to encourage linguistic diversity multilingual education in the realms of education.The Government of India has introduced a scheme known as the ‘Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages of India’ (SPPEL). The Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) Mysore, under this scheme, works on protection, preservation and documentation of all the mother tongues/languages of India spoken by less than 10,000 people i.e., endangered languages. In the first phase of scheme, 117 endangered languages/mother tongues have been chosen from India for study and documentation on priority basis. The University Grants Commission has also initiated two schemes for protecting endangered languages, namely ‘Funding Support to the State Universities for Study and Research in Indigenous and Endangered languages in India’ and ‘Establishment of Centres for Endangered Languages in Central Universities’. Along with CILL, the Commission for Scientific & Technical Terminology (CSTT), Mahatma Gandhi Antar Rashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, Central Institute of Hindi, Centre for Urdu Language Literature & Culture (CULLC), National Council for Promotion of Sindhi Languages (NCPSL), and National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) are also doing magnificent work in the promotion, preservation and conservation of Indian languages.Further, in consultation with the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Navodaya Vidyalayas have recently organised an online course on Teaching, Testing and Evaluation for Regional Language Teachers of NVS. The course focuses on executing NLP (Natural Language Processing) tools for language teaching and improving linguistic skills through science, social science, and Mathematics. This is well-aligned with ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ to bring National Unity and Integrity. Further, in the Nishtha teachers training programme, about 23 Lakh teachers have completed the course in 10 languages.Aligned with Ek Bharat Shreshth Bharat, NCERT has started with Bhasha Sangam initiative for schools and educational institutions. The initiative aims to provide multilingual exposure to students in the 22 Indian languages listed in Schedule VIII of India’s Constitution. NCERT has designed short dialogues consisting of simple, commonly used sentences in 22 languages for students of all classes to promote, preserve, and conserve India’s regional languages. Another landmark initiative has been the establishment of the Digital Language Lab in the Kendriya Vidyalayas. The Lab is a platform for comprehensive and interactive digital content catering to listening and speaking skills. Through the language labs, the Kendriya Vidyalayas will facilitate and engage students via computer-based exercises and activities to become the language. In the first phase 276, Digital Language Labs were established in Kendriya Vidyalayas (one in each Kendriya Vidyalaya) with English software. In the second phase, comprehensive solution for Digital Language Lab has been established in 100 Kendriya Vidyalayas as per availability of space (room) and funds with software to learn Hindi, English and Sanskrit Languages. These initiatives are well aligned with the National Education Policy, which promotes multi-linguism. It is believed that Multilingualism has excellent cognitive benefits to young students. Thus, students will now be exposed to different languages starting from the Foundational Stage onwards. Strenuous efforts will be made to ensure that the existing gaps between the child’s language and teaching medium are bridged. Learning a language is not just learning the alphabet, the meaning, the grammar rules, and the arrangement of words, but it is an extensive part of enhancing cognitive skills while imbibing society’s culture.The writer is Union Minister for Education.
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