Language Tools and Database for Schooling

The primary difficulty in providing tribal population (at present nearly 9 crores) access to education, and bringing any semblance of quality to what goes in the name of education, arises from the language situation. In India, most states were created on linguistic basis, and the language of the state became the natural medium of schooling in the respective states. The Census of India lists nearly 200 ‘other’ languages with a population of 10,000 or above. Most of these ‘other’ languages are the language spoken by the tribal communities. The teachers appointed to schools in the tribal villages are in most cases drawn from outside the respective speech community. Often, the children do not understand the language that the teacher uses as the ‘medium’ of education; and invariably, the teacher does not understand the words that the children drawn from their daily life and use in the school environment.

The Academy noticed this situation, after analyzing the results of our non-formal school work in tribal villages, run over a period of ten years, involving nearly 18000 primary school children. We decided to create ‘pictorial glossaries’ in 16 tribal languages to help the teachers in identifying the communication gaps between them and the students they teach. We also created a 6000 words dictionary for 5 tribal languages of Gujarat for the same purpose. This has had a very significant effect on the quality of the class-room work. Bhasha successfully carried out a National Level Linguistic Survey described as People’s Linguistic Survey of India, covering all States and Union Territories and documenting 780 Living Indian Languages. The People’s Linguistic Survey of India is being published by Orient Blackswan in 50 Volumes in English, Hindi and Regional Languages.

The Adivasi Academy has prepared Pictorial Glossaries and Dictionaries for several tribal languages in India. The Pictorial Glossaries were distributed in several schools across Gujarat as Study Material under the scheme of Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan. The corpus of the word stock compiled from the dictionaries will be placed in digital format in form of multilingual audio-pictoral software which can be used in various platforms, aiding to improve the teacher-student relationship and attempt to reduce the issue of language as a form of hindrance in education in Tribal Children.

The benefit of this project for the educational empowerment of the tribal communities, as well as for the safeguarding of the forest habitat and resolving the long standing land conflicts will be enormous.