Multi-lingual Indian children learn English faster, finds study

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Nov 15, 2013 01:43 IST

The competence and confidence in Indian languages strongly influences the ability of children to learn and read in English, according to a study of primary children in India which was conducted by the British Council and Pratham, a charity organisation.

The study, titled ‘English Impact Report: Investigating English Language Learning Outcomes at the Primary School Level in Rural India’, was released at the British Council here on Wednesday.

Rukmini Banerji, who led the report team at Pratham, said: “We believe that in a multi-lingual country like India we should think about reading in the broadest sense — reading in the regional or local language is as important as the ability to read in an international language like English”.

She added: “The evidence also shows that children’s competence and confidence in one language strongly influences their capability in other languages so it is vital that the power of these links is considered within the context of language teaching.”

The team contacted 600,000 children each year, making it the largest annual data set in India that collects information on children’s basic reading ability and arithmetic.

It is the largest source of data on basic English skills of children in India, Banerji said.

“Looking at the evidence it is essential that we review and rework our expectations and our teaching-learning practices to fit in with what children can do and what, as a country, we want them to learn,” she added.

Alison Barrett, Director, English for Education Systems, South Asia at the British Council, said: “Innovative research such as this gives us important insight into the Indian education system and allows us to better understand how we can improve English language teaching in the region.”

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