tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On the Importance of Mother-Tongue Early Childhood Education

This video tells the story of the work being done in adivasi (aboriginal) communities in India's Odisha state to develop preschool learning materials for children in their native language, Kui. Government preschools, where they exist in the region, offer curricula only in Odia--the state language. So when adivasi children come to school, they can't speak or understand the language of instruction, and as a result often dropout and never return to formal education.

(For more background, see this earlier Tuque Souq post: Child-Based Community Development)

In the film--called Ganugun Bati Ahangna (Learning with Dignity)--a 5-year-old girl named Jhili overhears her friend Geeta singing a song in Kui. Jhili wants to know where her friend learned this song, and Geeta tells her that she learned it in the anganwadi centre, a new kind of preschool where children are exposed to the fundamentals of education in their mother tongue. The classroom environment was fun and supportive, and Geeta decided to keep attending.

Jhili says that she once attended the government preschool, but there was no singing and dancing, and there was no instruction or activities in Kui. She received a meal and learned the alphabet in Odia, but because she could not understand her teacher, and because the school was so far away, Jhili dropped out.

In the next part of the film, an ebani (social worker) comes to talk to the parents of Jhili's village about the importance of early childhood education for children under six years of age, and how starting to learn in one's mother tongue--and in a supportive, culturally contextualized environment--adapts the child to the learning process that will enable her or him to have a successful life in school and beyond.

The parents agree to support the new preschool and send their children to be educated.

For more information, see the Facebook page of ECE-MT (by Odisha Adivasi Manch) and the Bernard van Leer Foundation, which supports this initiative in Odisha.