Nirantar recently participated in the 5th International Conference on Language and Education at UNESCO, Bangkok, where we presented a paper on ‘Breaking the Barriers of Languages in India’. One of the participants from Nirantar, Prarthana, has described her experiences below of being a part of this platform and has shared her learning from this space.
“I was really pleased when I came to know about our abstract getting selected for a conference of this magnitude! On one hand, I was excited to share our field experiences of language teaching at such a large platform but on the other hand, I was also feeling more conscious about presenting our paper at such a huge platform. Before the presentation, I was listening to other sessions on Mother Tongue-based language learning in Myanmar. It was really inspiring to see that different researchers were presenting their work in their own unique way. Many of the speakers were sharing their experiences in English without being too conscious about their fluency. It was inspiring to see the support from senior researchers and other participants towards the presenters and their efforts, views and experiences got more appreciation instead of their command over English language per se.
During the conference, participants had come from different countries with their unique regional English language. Such kind of inclusive environment helped in building the confidence of the participants from diverse backgrounds.
My presentation was about our experiences of working with young girls and women in the area of language acquisition. We discussed that teaching-learning environment in the mainstream education is not inclusive.
Many times children from marginalised groups have to remain isolated in the schools. Various stigmas are attached with their region, language, and religion, which puts immense pressure on the girls. Once they drop out, it becomes challenging to bring them back to school or to provide access to basic courses to bridge their learning gaps.
Nirantar has analysed the life of rural women and young girls from feminist perspective. After working with marginalised groups for years, an array of resource materials have been developed from gender point of view by promoting local culture and languages.
Stories, poems, festivals and life experiences of women are used as a resource in the text books. Girls are able to relate more with such materials because it includes myths, life stories and context, which is seldom mentioned in the formal text books.
In the literacy centres, more focus is given on learners, their experiences, language, and culture. Girls are encouraged to write about their daily life experiences in their own words and analyse their lived realities.
In our learning centres, never-enrolled and dropout girls are enrolled and it was challenging to get them involved in the learning process. All of them have experienced discrimination and exploitation at various levels in the education system. Capabilities and talents of these girls have been challenged by both family and outside world. By the time they reach adolescence, they develop low confidence and feel intimidated by education and schools.
The need to work on these layers of suppression while working on issues of education amongst adolescent girls was emphasized in our paper.
After listening to language sessions, I realized that in my own country, standard and fluency of the language are considered more valuable than the idea itself. Language, especially
Language, especially usage of English, is directly linked with power, opportunities, caste, gender and class. People look down upon those who are not able to speak fluent English or who are not familiar with this language. Many times people are judged on the basis of regional influences on their spoken English.
While listening to researchers and other experts during the conference, I was continuously thinking about the influence of colonial English language in India. I was inspired by the inclusive environment of this conference, where people were encouraged to speak in their own regional English, without thinking much about their accents.”
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