Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development, Ambedkar University Delhi and Early Literacy Initiative, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad
Literacy begins at birth. The early childhood years (birth to age eight) are critical for the development of young children and significant for education related outcomes in later years, especially in language and literacy. Children do not come to the classroom as empty slates—literacy begins at home as they hear and participate in conversations, songs, rhymes, stories, shared reading, scribbling, etc.
It is important to respect and welcome children’s home language, socio–cultural context and literacy practices in the classroom. The school environment should complement the language and literacy processes and practices of children at home and build over it, not ignore or negate it. Despite the National Early Childhood Care and Education Policy (2013) and National Early Childhood Care and Education Curriculum Framework (2013) and various evidences suggesting the need for the congruence between children’s emergent language and literacy practices at home and in classroom, largely these two worlds of children do not interact much and work in silos. More recently, the Early Language and Literacy Position paper (2016) proposed that “skill development in learning to read and write is a necessary step but not a sufficient aim of language and literacy education. A more central aim should be to enable students to use language and literacy skills and practices to participate meaningfully and in an empowered manner in society. In a highly socially stratified society like India, this means building access to culturally powerful ways of using language and literacy for many of our students (p.8). The Position paper exhaustively lays out the developmental, social, linguistic and curricular landscape that defines the contours of language and literacy in India and based upon this, it also provides us with a detailed analysis of the various approaches for the teaching of language and literacy and lays out a “principle-based” approach for language and literacy pedagogy.
Researches and Model Programmes from the Indian context
While the ELL Position Paper (2016), the first of its kind that presents a comprehensive overview of the situation of early language and literacy in the Indian context, it is imperative that we also have an understanding of language and literacy from the Indian context. There have been some notable researchers documenting language and literacy practices in the Indian context and model programmes that have leveraged upon the features of the Indian languages. This conference will present some of these researches and model programme.
Among the various studies, one of the prominent is the longitudinal Indian Early Childhood Education Impact Study (IECEI). The study participants included a sample of children (approximately 14,000 during the first round of fieldwork) from three states of the country: Assam, Rajasthan and Telangana (erstwhile Andhra Pradesh). The study followed children at five different points in time (from age 4 to age 8) over the five years. Yearly observation-based assessment of the quality of early education children experienced (or not) over the four years was also carried out. While the results of the study had significant implications for the need for quality early childhood progammes for young children, data from the study also revealed extensively about language and literacy learning and pedagogy and teacher beliefs and practices in early childhood and early primary classrooms and the connectedness (or lack or two) across the two.
Another study, the “Literacy Research in Indian Languages (LiRIL)”, a longitudinal project researched children’s early acquisition of reading and writing in Kannada and Marathi. The study bi-annually tracked a cohort of 300-360 first graders at each site (since September, 2013) until the time the children completed grade three (March, 2016) to examine and understand how and why children acquire (or, fail to acquire) literacy during the early elementary years of schooling. The study has indicated significant findings not only on the literacy acquisition process by children, but also regarding classroom transaction of curriculum, teacher beliefs and practices, curricular materials and so on.
In addition to the two longitudinal studies, some model programmes have also been developed in the Indian context—also highlighted in the ELL Position Paper (2016). Notable among these programmes have been Eklavya in Madhya Pradesh (2002), Pragat Shikshan Sanstha in Phaltan, Maharashtra, Organization for Early Literacy Promotion in Rajasthan (Jayaram, 2008), Muskaan in Bhopal and NCERT ( i.e., their reading program). Also, given the large number of interventions by various organizations in the country (CARE India, Aga Khan Foundation, Katha, Bernard van Leer Foundation, Child Fund and so on), innovation in language and literacy practices is ongoing.
Objectives of the conference:
The previous section points to some researches and model programmes developed in the Indian context. In this conference we hope to bring together researchers and practitioners from academic institutions and civil society organizations to examine and understand the literacy acquisition process by young children and develop some recommendations in order to create an enabling environment for young children as they transition from home to preschool and from preschool to school.
- Examine and understand language and literacy practices in preschool and early elementary classrooms
- Share and discuss the models and practices of early language and literacy in India that attempt to bring together home and classroom language and literacy environments together and work upon the ways to scale up the good models.
- Promote evidence-based understanding of the concept of early language and literacy in the Indian context and share principles, approaches and recommendations from the position paper on early language and literacy.
- Collaboratively think on creating an enabling environment at home and in the classroom for children to develop early language and literacy skills.
Some of the themes for the conference are as follows:
- Language and literacy practices in preschools and schools
- Teacher beliefs and practices for language and literacy pedagogy
- Multilingualism and literacy
- Home and school literacies
- Children’s literature in classrooms
Format of the conference
The conference will include plenary/keynote addresses, paper presentations and also panel discussions. Time will also be devoted for discussion in each paper session. Recommendations from each of the session will be highlighted for the way forward.