Multilingual Education in Odisha, India

Multilingual Education in Odisha, India

Strategies of Tribal Education for Intervention

The Plan for Odisha under the District Primary Education Programme.

Schools must not hurt students--good schools do not blame students

for their failures or strip students of the knowledges, they bring to the classroom.

Joe L Kincheloe

On Critical Pedagogy

To understand the issues and challenges help the system to plan and implement the programme effectively. The education of tribal children inOdisha is such a case for discussion. A thorough understanding of the ground realities can be possible through research and field experience.This discussion is a blend of the two. Based on the long-term field experience coupled with the study of education issues in tribal areas, help explore the system's fact, and accordingly, the intervention can also be useful.Amacro analysis cannot help the system where the belief of considering all children is equal without understanding their socio-economic condition and their opportunities to develop their capabilities. It is necessary to understand the scheduled tribe children from their actual conditions in which they struggle for their everyday life; their home and school condition, teaching-learning environment, and the achievement they need to have. In 1996, the school's education in five tribal districts of Odisha was enumerated through aStudy conducted by the NCERT, New Delhi, throughDPEPbased on which the district plans were prepared. This article is a baseline to understand the stark realities of scheduled tribe children and the intervention made for twenty years. The subsequent chapters of this book are the translation of this chapter about policy, teacher preparation, curriculum and textbook production in tribal languages, and Multilingual Education in Odisha.

Generally, 'Tribal Education' is understood as the education of tribal children. The education of tribal children has been safeguarded in the Constitution of India. Until 1994, the issues of education of tribal children have not been addressed except the scholars and academic institutions have studied it.There must be hundreds of articles and books on tribal education, but there was no evidence of the plan and implementation of tribal education in the country. NCERT and some SCERTS have tried to initiate the work, but these sporadic approaches were closed down in the wave of mainstreaming the tribal. The polarity of Universalisation of a mainstream education based on nation-state monolingual ideology on the one hand and the contextualisation of tribal education depending on the issues and challenges faced by the people on the other have created a significant rift which was prevalent until 1994. When the Government of India introducedDistrict Primary Education Programme 9 DPEP) in 39backward districts of India in1994 and formulated its implementation plan with the help of the word Bank, the issue of Tribal Education got aprime space in the educational intervention. Education of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) was prioritised to foster equitable quality education in the country and the most disadvantaged mainstream education groups. The DPEP Guidelines formulated by India's ( 1994) government adopted education of tribal children as a specialFocus Group, which helped the states formulate their decentralised, local area plan in a participatory method to meet the issues and challenges. This article is the outcome of that plan adopted in Odisha to understand the issues and challenges of tribal education in a holistic manner encompassing the children, community, teachers, language, curriculum,textbooks,teacher training, supervision, and evaluation integrated manner. In the first phase, only five tribal districts were adopted in the DPEPin Odisha. Therefore, the statistics presented in this article are limited to five districts. However, planning for tribal education needs a whole range of issues and challenges to be realised by the educational planners in a participatory way. The tribal community and the teachers serving in these areas is essential. This article, therefore, represents the big picture of tribal education. Some people believe that 'language 'is a significant issue in the education of tribal education, which is not valid.Even though the language issue is addressed, without the holistic plan for language education in tribal languages alone cannot resolve tribal area schools' problems. Therefore, a holistic view has been adopted in the planning of tribal education.

The District Primary Education Programme envisages tribal education and girls' education in India's backward regions to reduce social disparities. Orissa is a state with acute problems to be addressed in the field of tribal education. By field experience in the tribal areas, I have witnessed the following seven significant issues and problems in tribal education.

They are:

The physical location of the village and the attitude of tribal parents.

Teacher-related problems

Problems of the tribal students.

Teaching-learning materials and the primers.

The irregularities in the educational institutions.

Lack of inspection/supervision.

Social and Cultural problems.

The Physical Location of the Village

1. The tribals inhabit the forests in a scattered manner. Most of the tribal villages have a population below 200. It becomes impossible to open separate schools in each habitation where the required student's strength is not available. On the other hand, tribal habitations remain segregated by some physical barriers like rivers, nalas, and forests. These physical barriers create an interruption for a tribal village's children to attend school in a neighbouring village. For instance, in Kalahandi District, there are about 714 villages where there is no primary school within one -kilometre radius. However, in 522 villages, the population is estimated to be below 100. In such a case, the tribal children are deprived of schooling facilities.


The Scheduled tribes constitute the most backward group among the weaker sections in Orissa. There are 62 tribes in Orissa, with 70, 32,214 constitutes 22.21 per cent of the State's total population. These figures of the 1991 census provide valuable information on the demographic structure of the population.

The tribal's constitute 47 per cent in Gajapati District, 56 per cent in Rayagada, 21 per cent in Kalahandi, 21 per cent in Bolangir, and 12percent in Dhenkanal District of Orissa. The high concentration of the Saora tribe in Gajapati and Kandh tribe in Rayagada with their typical ethnolinguistic formation added with inaccessible hilly tract are the major causes of their cultural retention.

The literacy rate of the scheduled tribe's population in the State is 18.10 per cent, of which 27.93percent are male and 8.29percent are female. The lowest rate of female literacy rate in Orissa is in Koraput (1.93percent ) and Kalahandi (4percent ). Southern Orissa constitutes the highest tribal population in the state, with a low percentage of literate people. According to the 1991 census, the literacy rate for the ST population in Orissa, is 22.31 per cent, as against the state literacy rate of 49.09 per cent. The state's ST female literacy rate is 1021 per cent, which is lower than the ST male literacy rate of 34.44 per cent.

Orissa's tribal people earn their livelihood through marginal agriculture, slash and burn (podu), depending on forest land products, and wage labour. Most of the tribal people have a low economic profile and lend a miserable life.

2.Economic Condition: The tribals depend on forests for eight months and agriculture for four months. The children of 4 to 6 age groups are helping their parents in the collection of forest products. In this situation, parents do not desire to spare their children or their labour power and allow them to attend schools. Children at the age of 3 start to help their parents generate activities depending on their physical ability. This, of course, goes against child rights. However, non-literate parents do not know what the child's right is. Instead, they engage their children in sibling care and seek help for forest products, which is part of their socialisation. There is no such activity in tribal areas which are unproductive. When going to the forest, a child must come with productive things useful to their everyday life.

3. The attitude of the parents: Tribal parents are illiterate. Their illiteracy does not permit them to understand the long term values of education. As education does not yield any immediate economic return, they prefer to engage their children in remunerative employment, which supplements the family income and strengthens the family economy. Further, a few parents, who have become aware of education's values, fail to accord education to their children as they cannot afford finances for it or do not have that atmosphere to scaffold their children in learning.

4. Village Education Committee (VEC): In Orissa, VECs have been constituted to manage and monitor the schools' functioning. Till now, people are not aware of the role of the VECs. Neither the villagers nor the members of the VECs take an active interest in enhancing the enrolment and attendance of children in primary school.

5. Teacher Related Problems: The relationship between teachers, schools, and the villagers is quite negligible. In tribal villages, villagers have virtually no relationship with the teachers. Teachers do not get any accommodation facility in the village, which makes them irregular, which hampers the usual routine. Further, the villagers' passive attitude and simplicity provide ample scope to the teachers to act according to their sweet will. One may question why at all; the parents do not care for the schools. The parents believe that teachers are engaged to educate their children. They send their children to school at the cost of their everyday productive activity.

2. Teachers posted in the tribal areas are mostly non-tribal. They come from the plain areas and serve in tribal areas to get a job. Once they enter the tribal area, they have a different ethnic stereotype about the tribal people, culture, and language. They consider the tribal culture as 'uncivilised' in comparison to their 'civilised' culture. The home language of the tribes is different from the school language and teacher's language, and the medium of instruction is also not intelligible to the students; the teaching and learning in such schools could be a pretended labour, than actual teaching. Sometimes, teachers in tribal areas are untrained; therefore, the teaching is not taken up properly. However, it does not matter. Whether the teacher is trained or not, once the communicative language is absent in the classroom, whatever the teacher made, it becomes a futile exercise. In such a situation, teachers often blame the parents and students that they cannot understand their teaching language, but what could they do if they cannot understand them.In tribal education, this is a significant issue that has been unresolved till today.

3.The lack of special incentives for the teachers in tribal areas serves as demotivating factors for the teachers and degrades their efficiency. Teachers feel that their children would be illiterate in tribal areas. Therefore though they serve to save their job, they do not contribute to the learning and make their self-present in the school to safeguard their job.

4.Attitude, belief, and concept about tribal children and tribal culture are invisible issues that the teacher shows. Knowingly or unknowingly, they fell prey to their stereotypes and take the upper hand by blaming the students and parents. Teachers' preconception that tribal children are average students; they do not take special care in promoting tribal education.

5.The teachers' preconceived notions that the tribal children cannot grasp anything beyond nature, forest, and agriculture create barriers in expanding primary education among the tribal areas.

6.The non-tribal teachers adopt an attitude of indifference to tribal languages, traditions, cultures, and lifestyles. They fail to perceive the human values ingrained in their folk cultures. When they try to impart education by neglecting these human values and culture, they fail to win the students' hearts and consider them average students. This makes the tribal children more passive, and they find a classroom is a dreadful place where they have to sit for six hours without any work.

7. The ideas of the non-tribal teachers about a familiar environment and culture are narrow and hollow. Thus, they fail to cite examples from the surroundings and make the concepts complicated for the tribal students. The inbuilt creativity of tribal children remains unknown to the teachers.

8. Teachers face a vast gulf between the language used in the books and the native uses while teaching the tribal students. They opine that the textbooks' content is beyond the students' comprehension, so teaching becomes futile.

9. No specialised training on tribal languages, cultures, or current problems is imparted to the teachers serving in tribal areas. A uniform teacher education curriculum prepares the teachers to teach in the school uniformly, and they hardly understand that the environment, language, and culture constitute the foundation of learning. Tribal children learn in their socio-cultural environment. They know much critical knowledge in their community, but this experiential knowledge is of no use to the teachers to connect those with the textbook knowledge. Therefore, the textbook's unfamiliarity and content and its teaching bear no meaning to the tribal children.

10. Children's engagement in household works agriculture and parents' indifference towards their children's studies deprives the teachers of rendering their services in the classroom. In the different seasons of the year, parents and children are engaged in productive work resulting in high seasonal dropouts. Dropout results in the nonfunctioning of school, and teachers feel discouraged and disheartened. The two different views of parents and teachers never meet together to resolve the dropout issue.

11. No effort is made on the higher authorities and the common masses to curb the frequent absenteeism among the teachers. The lack of a frequent and recurrent inspection mechanism no doubt aggravates the situation.


The survey conducted in Koraput and Kalahandi districts shows that only 12percent to 30percent of tribal children attend the school. The reasons for this massive non-attendance are as follows:-

Elder children, especially girls, help their parents in household work in home and field. They also go to the forest to collect firewood,forest products and tending goats and cattle.They also discharging sibling care responsibilities I home to help their parent to work in the field. There is an absence of a favourable environment or inspiration for students at home to pursue study. Parents migrate from the village to earn their livelihood because of drought or other natural calamities.

Teachers do not facilitate the children to learn and are unable to understand the children's psychology. The content and language of the primers are beyond the overall ability of the tribal children. They do not find any reflection of their socio-cultural environment in the books. The school environment is uncomfortable and meaningless for the children. Teachers' negative attitudes discourage children from coming to school.Textbooks are supplied irregular manner in the middle of the session. The school timings hamper the routine household work of the tribal children.

Besides, a dearth of health care facilities for the children suffering from malaria, skin diseases, and anaemia.

Teaching Learning Materials

Even if cultural differences are marked on a regional basis in Orissa's state, the government has prescribed uniform primers at the primary school stage. Among the 62 tribes found in the state, 32 tribes have their language, and for them, the Oriya language appears to be alien.

The National Education Policy, 1986 has insisted on teaching the children in their mother tongues at the primary level, but this has not been implemented for the tribals. The curriculum designers have thoroughly neglected the tribal language and culture and have ignored the problems of tribal children.

So far as study materials are concerned, the following problems came to light:

1.The language used in the books is beyond the understanding of the tribal children.

2. Teachers abiding by the academic language do not allow the tribal children to speak in their language or do not communicate in the tribal languages. As a result, teaching seems to be artificial for tribal children.

3. The contents of the teaching materials in primary school are less practice-oriented and are more factual and abstract.

4.Teaching at primary schools ignores the local nature, culture, and environment.

5. There is a dearth of study materials and kits in the classrooms.

6. The teachers do not adequately utilise the kits that have been provided to the schools under the Operation Black Board Scheme.

7.Books are not supplied to the schools at the session beginning by the Tribal Welfare Department and the Textbook Press. This irregularity found in the supply of books creates problems both for the teachers and students. Further, stipends are not given in due time. fails to work out the idea of utilising the local architects, painters, and artists' services at a low cost to prepare some of the children's educational kits.

9. If given scope, the children can build up their museum.


1.The school buildings are in broken condition and hence not attractive.

2. Lack of care and repair makes it challenging to sit in the collapsing classrooms.

3.Children of 2/3 classes are accommodated in a single classroom.

4. Neither the villagers nor the VEC takes an active interest in preserving and protecting the school building. They preserve the impression that it is the Government outlook and not theirs.

5.No accommodation arrangement is being made for teachers either in the school or in the village.

6. The tribal habitations remain scattered. So, they do not fulfil the child population's needs to open a school within one kilometre. So, in the tribal areas, schools remain far away from the habitations.

7. The number of Ashram schools is scanty. Ashram schools are best fitted for tribal children. Even the multilingual situation is found in the Ashram schools; no effort is made to teach the children in their mother tongue.

8.In the primary schools, no effort is made to provide incentives and scope to music, dance, games, and paintings, which remain latent potentialities with a child.

9. In a school, a tribal child undergoes mental stress and strain. A fear-free environment is required for their proper development.

10. Physical barriers and communication difficulties also keep tribal children away from the schools.


1.School inspectors (at the block and district level) are not active in solving problems associated with the primary schools in the tribal areas.

2.The surveys notice that the block level inspectors have not inspected all the schools in their areas.

3.Inspectors do not provide equal importance to the schools of hill areas as they give to plain areas.

4.The tribal teachers remain indifferent to tribal education. They are also marked with some mental stress.

5.The non-tribal teachers adopt an apathetic attitude towards tribal school management.


The community life, the economy, the lifestyle, the traditions of the tribals, and their outlook of the world represent a value-based society with a naturalistic worldview. No tribal wants to exploit the other. They fulfil their need and not greed. Therefore tribal people themselves do not exploit the other.All these have got their humanitarian values and cultural significance. However, they have not found recognition in the ideas of local inspectors, teachers, parents, and policy planners. The root cause of this can be attributed to the stratification system and the tribal and non-tribal attitude. To date, full consciousness and a pro-tribal atmosphere have not been built up among the people.

The most crucial problem is the tribals have come to recognise the modernisation and the demands of time. However, they are not coming forward to bring reforms in educational status and economic standards. Society is indeed developing in the material world, but the ideological domain of the tribal is unaffected. They love to maintain their values and morals. The external values are distorting the tribal values.


Based on the above issues, problems, and challenges, some intervention strategies have been made to implement tribal education under DPEP. These are planned in the state to initiate tribal education in the five districts. Theme-wise intervention is discussed below:


1.A realistic linguistic survey should be done in the tribal areas regarding how many children belong to different language speaking communities and why they are not coming to schools the actual number of schools required for educational planning.

2.To open schools in those villages, where there is no school at all.

3. To open some Ashram schools in remote areas where the children can be enrolled

4.School buildings having at least 2/3 rooms should be built

5.To install tube wells and toilets near the schools.

6.To provide accommodation facilities for the teachers.

7.The school timings in the tribal areas should be fixed, keeping

In harmony with the collection of Minor Forest Production and agricultural seasons, school timings should be changed at the block level. The holiday patterns should be changed accordingly, keeping in view the cultivation period/MFP collection seasons.

To Increase the Potentialities of the Teachers

1. The teachers should be associated with the day-to-day lifestyle of the villagers.

2.To provide residential accommodation for the teachers.

3.To enhance the relationship between teachers and students.

4.To appoint trained young teachers in tribal areas.

5. Appropriate teaching should be imparted to the teachers on tribal culture, language, and


6. Teachers should be well trained on the use of bilingual materials in the classroom


A.It is necessary to organise gram sabhas by involving the panch, villagers, and their leaders. The issues involved in education need to be resolved by the people. In an illiterate society, teachers should ensure that the parents understand the values of education. It is also necessary to associate the villagers in the various cultural functions (Pujas, national celebrations, children's fairs, and meetings). The parents should also invite the teachers to join in the various festivals organised in the villages. The educational and developmental responsibilities of the school should be entrusted to the villagers. Mahila Samities should be set up to increase literacy among women and enhance the girls' attendance rate. The training programmes for teachers should highlight more of tribal problems. Consciousness should be created among the VEC members and parents to check the teacher's absenteeism. Special incentives and allowance should be provided to the teachers working in tribal areas. They should be transferred to bare areas after serving 3/4 years in tribal areas — specialised training to tribal teachers and special coaching to tribal students.The teachers should know the tribal environment and local tradition. The teachers should be given tribal language training. The Academy of Tribal Dialect and Culture, Bhubaneswar, is imparting a tribal language programme.

11. Social sourcebook for teachers may be prepared to develop the tribal knowledge such as folk songs, tales, proverbs, riddles, play songs, traditional games, dance, and music to impart the joy of learning through the folklore and bridge the gap of home culture and school atmosphere. The teachers should use the colloquial native language while teaching tribal children. The school timetable is co-opted with agricultural and social necessities, facilitating the parents' economic development and educational development.


In order to bring the children of 6-14 age groups to the fold of primary education, the following measures are to be taken:

1.To open ECCE centres in tribal villages.

2.To open a new school relaxing the number of students (where there are no schools).

3. The teachers should establish a healthy rapport with tribal students and create a positive environment.

4.The authorities should take care to supply the books at the proper time.

5.The parents should provide scope to their children to learn their lessons at home.

6.Instead of teaching the students about world view or national issues, ample scope should be given to local visits.

7.To keep harmony between school timings and daily routine work and agricultural work

8.The children should organise their traditional games, folk dance, and music in the schools.


1. The study materials needed for classroom teaching should be provided on time. The materials and the textbooks provided under Operation Black Board Schemes and Welfare Department should be utilised appropriately. Services of the local architect, painters, and artists should build-up required study materials.

2. Preparation of the textbooks and supplementary readers: The textbooks should be based on the tribals' traditional knowledge and folklore. The chart on page 287 shows the linkage that can be established between the tribal folklore and textbooks.


1. Several residential ashram schools are to be opened in tribal areas.

2.Constructing houses for the teachers.

3.VEC to take up the responsibilities of the school.

4.To open NFE Centres in the scattered tribal habitations.

5.To decorate the classrooms with the art of tribal girls.

6. To increase labour dignity in the children's minds by creating green gardens in the school compound.


Communal life forms fundamental characteristics of the tribal society. It finds manifestation through various festivals and cultural celebrations. If the teachers can participate in these occasions by giving due to the tribal culture, she can build up an excellent educational centre. In the tribal village, the teacher should be a leaner, more specifically a 'seeker' of local knowledge from the tribal culture, which would ultimately turn into global knowledge. The oral tradition in teaching must be an essential device to develop a tribal child's personality from its cultural environment, instead of creating an artificial blurred personality of the child dissociated from the home and school environment. To bridge the gap of the socio-cultural environment with that of the school curriculum, exploring rich tribal folklore can promote tribal education.

The next essays in this volume are the implementation of this plan imagined in 1996. Since the last two decades, the gradual development of tribal education in Odisha from 1996 is conceptualised and well conceptualised and well implemented in Odisha.

The tribal education programme in Odisha is a homegrown programme which was conceptualised from the top and involved level tribal organisation and villages in creating a demand for their education appropriate to their children. The guidelines ofDPEP were the first space created by India's government. The subsequent articles are the essence of the programme component introduced, planned adequately, implemented involving the tribal community and teachers through a gradual, steady process adopting the experiential knowledge. Therefore, whoever was involved in this process has learned a lot from the experience than to provide their theoretical expertise.The empirical evidence of tribal education has taught us to understand the issues, plan by the people who need it, implemented by the government as a part of its national objective to bring an equitable education ensuring quality adopting an alternative approach of education where the culture, language, community, knowledge, and solidarity have played their respective role. Each article in this volume is wholly developed through practice, both witnessing the success and shortcomings of further refinement. The readers will find invisible connections between the articles to unravel abig picture.These are not written without experiencing and experimenting. However, these articles imagine hundreds of tribal and non-tribal teachers, national experts, state resource persons, and the children involved in this movement to create a successful programme that turned in to a system in the state education department.Today the system is strong enough to pave a way to plan and implement tribal education in this country with its political will, bureaucratic support, and academic interest in the state.

After 25years, much progress has been made through DPEP, and SSAlike the development of infrastructure, provision of schools within one kilometer, and provision of textbooks supply on time.Even the access of children is also ensured, but the essential component of the provision of appropriate curriculum, teacher training on language and culture, and classroom environment has not been improved as it was planned.However,this was the ground reality of1996in Odisha's primary education based on which the intervention of DPEPand SSAwas initiated. In the subsequent chapters, the progress of education in Odisha in tribal areas will be discussed to understand that educational intervention is a steady and slow process that takes decades for a paradigm shift.

E mail:,


National Policy of Education 1986 Department of Elementary Education and Literacy Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, New Delhi

Programme of Action - 1992 Department of Elementary Education and Literacy Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, New Delhi

DPEP Guidelines 1994, Department of Elementary Education and Literacy Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, New Delhi District Statistical Hand Book 1996, Government of Odisha. Bhubaneswar