Dr. Pradeep Kumar Misra was one of the expert speakers at the recent LangOER workshop in Oslo. Dr Pradeep, who attended virtually from India, presented the current situation in India and the needs and benefits of making Open Educational Resources (OER) available in less used languages.
The following two paragraphs were written by Dr Pradeep, and are a summary of the presentation he provided to the project team during the workshop.
“The Indian government recently approved an open license policy to bring all the new digital learning resources as OER under BY-SA licenses. A number of OER Initiatives have already started, including: National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER), National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), eGyankosh, Project Oscar and NIOS: OER Repository. Among the population of 1.27 billion people in India, 228 million are enrolled as students at school level and 18.5 million at higher education level. Hence, a need and importance of OER as a cost-effective mechanism to provide quality resources becomes self-evident. Among different measures, languages have a very important and unique role to promote OER among academic fraternity in India. The reason is that India may be termed as a country of languages. The Constitution of India designates a bilingual approach for official language and Hindi and English are official languages in central government supported educational institutions. But this situation differs in states, as India has 29 states, and all the states have the liberty and powers to specify their own official language(s) through legislation. As a consequence, India has 22 officially recognized languages. The popular languages in India having more than 10 million speakers are Hindi (258-422 million), Bengali (83 million), Telugu (74), Marathi (72 million), Urdu (70), Tamil (61 million), Guajarati (43 million), Kannada (40 million), Punjabi (34 million), Malayalam (33 million) and English (12 million). The other interesting note is that English is often hailed as the language of upper classes and masses usually communicate in local Indian languages.
“Languages have a vital connection with use and promotion of OER in the schooling sector in India. The majority of students in India usually come from middle and lower socio-economic categories and mother tongue or regional language is the medium of instruction for most of them. These students need cost-effective OER but most of them are either reluctant or unable to use available OER due to language barriers. The reason is that the majority of available OER are in the English language. Some OER are also available in Hindi language, while OER in other popular Indian languages are almost non-existent. On the other side, students from upper socio-economic classes usually go to English medium schools and for them it’s easy to understand and learn from available OER in English. Instead, these students who have enough means to procure and pay for resources, prefer to use commercial educational resources considering the prevalent belief that free means less in quality. Comparing these two situations, one can argue that those who really need OER in India are unable to make maximum use of these due to language barriers. Considering that 80% of schools in India are government schools (usual medium of instruction Indian languages) and 20% private schools (usual medium of instruction English language), OER in popular Indian languages are needed more and benefit more to teaching-learning community. As a guiding principle, development and adoption of OER in popular Indian languages will be helpful to increase the popularity, credibility and acceptability of these resources among students and fulfilling the vision behind the OER movement that making educational resources freely available to all is a fundamental right”.