Project Rationale and Task-Design
India is a country of multiple languages, diverse cultures and with a complex range of social demographics. The multilingual reality is etched out in the social domain as a continuum where Indians can function from being monolinguals in their mother tongue (or a stronger language), especially in the written mode, to being multilinguals and practice code-switching as a natural means of oral communication. This is also reflected in formal contexts like that of administration, business and higher academics, barring a few contexts like in the English classroom where monolingual identities are what is expected, practiced and legitimized. However, this sudden jump from a multilingual mode of functioning to keeping languages separate in the educational domain becomes rather challenging for a vast majority of learners for whom though English is a lived reality only in the classroom, it is a language of social aspiration and mastery of this language is seen as an escalator towards success and higher job prospects. So, it becomes imperative that knowledge of this language is made available to the vast majority of young Indian learners who aspire to achieve academic and professional success by acquiring communicative competence in English.
Hence, in this study we explore cognitive executive function ability and multilingual repertoire of learners from low socio-economic status (SES) and who study under challenging circumstances. We assess their linguistic and mathematical abilities in two languages – language of medium of instruction (or mother tongue) and English. This study is a step towards finding evidence for the assumption that if academic skills are well developed in learners’ mother tongue (or the stronger language) then transfer of those skills and success in English would be more strongly felt than learners whose academic skills are expected to grow in English without a recourse to the knowledge of their stronger language.