Welcome to CLIL@India!
We are a first-of-its-kind project to formally introduce the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach to India. CLIL is an approach to education that combines teaching content (subjects) alongside languages in an effort to develop multilingual proficiency while improving overall learning outcomes.
While multilingual education has been around for a while, the CLIL approach was formally articulated in 1994, notably by Prof. David Marsh of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland to address the then uniquely European problem of monolingualism. Even at the time, the benefits of multilingualism over monolingualism had been extensively documented in scientific disciplines as diverse as neuroscience, linguistics, psychology, and organisational behaviour. Today we have evidence to suggest that people who know more than one language exhibit better school performance, higher mental health resilience, and a keener sense of cultural empathy. This makes them more likely to be better adjusted and more productive members of society.
So why use an approach that came up in Europe over two decades ago to address challenges with regard to multilingual teaching/ learning in India? The strength of CLIL is that it is minimally prescriptive. Prof. Marsh himself says, “the conceptualization of CLIL [is] ‘essentially methodological’” – so it is more a practice or method than a theory. What is more, the essence of the CLIL approach is the variety of its implementation models. In some ways, India’s situation is already better than our European counterparts. It isn’t uncommon to meet bilingual and trilingual Indians in everyday life even without much conscious government policy (we will discuss India’s three-language policy in another blog).
That said, the state of linguistic proficiency could do with some improvement. India’s best performing states – Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu – ended up with some of the worst performing students in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) evaluation of 2009. India has since boycotted participation in the triennial international learning aptitude test, citing the linguistic and cultural discrepancy argument. It is expected to participate again in 2021.
Closer home, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016 showed that only 42.5 per cent of Standard III students could read at Standard I level. The survey – the largest of its kind – covered 589 rural districts, 17,473 villages, and 350,232 households, for a total of 562,305 children in the age group 3-16.
Clearly there is a problem with our language education.
The CLIL@India project is a small step in trying to rectify this problem. There is an abundance of evidence to show that learning outcomes improve when students learn in their mother tongues. On the flip side, students of regional language medium schools can gain English skills, making an improvement in their future employability. The project will pilot and introduce this approach in a selection of schools in Punjab, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. This blog and our website will document our efforts, successes and failures. So feel free to engage with us, and share your ideas about the project!