Soliga Siddhi: Lessons from the study of a textbook initiative for tribal students

  1. INTRODUCTION

 Chamarajanagar is the southernmost district of Karnataka state.  It has five taluks (Chamarajanagar (C.Nagar), Kollegal, Hannur, Yelandur, Gundlupet) and 461 villages.  The district has a large tribal population of about 31,000, consisting of the tribal groups Jenu Kuruba, Kadu Kuruba, Yerava and Soliga.  The Department of Tribal Welfare and Development (TWD) which addresses the special needs of the tribal populaceruns residential schools called Ashramshalas for children of these tribal communities.  There are 19 Ashramshalas (6 in C.Nagar, 10 in Kollegal, 1 in Yelandur and 2 in Gundlupet) which are residential, primary schools for tribals, near their settlements. Under the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP), Soliga Siddhi – a special book for Soliga children of Standard I –  was published in 1999 and distributed for use in Ashramshalas with a high concentration of Soliga children. The second book in the series, for the second standard, was brought out a couple of years later.  When the project was conceived, books for the third and fourth standards were also proposed, but these have not yet been published.

The present study was initiated by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) at the behest of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) – Karnataka [The official report was submitted by NIAS to Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, Karnataka, in December 2005.  This document, on which the final report was based, has been prepared by the author based on her field visits and interactions with the Soliga tribal people].  The purpose of the study was to:

  • Understand the extent to which Soliga Siddhi textbooks have been utilized in the tribal Ashramshalas of Yelandur and Kollegal taluks.
  • Comment on the desirability of bringing out textbooks for class III upwards and continue usage of the available Soliga Siddhi textbooks in classes I and II.

1.1. BACKGROUND

There are about 5,000 Soligas spread across ~20 settlements in C.Nagar district.  They are one of the foremost tribes of Karnataka state.  The language they speak is > 60% Kannada, lexically, but has distinct characteristics such as minimal use of mahaprana (extended vowel sound) and ottakshara (conjoint letters).  In the Preface to Soliga Siddhi Book 1, H G Govindagowda, then minister for primary and secondary education, has said that this book for the first standard was developed as teachers opined that Soliga children found Kannada language even more difficult to learn than Mathematics and it was felt that providing textbooks with words in their own language and dialect in the first and second standards would inculcate greater interest in studies among Soliga children. According to the minister, a unique feature of Soliga Siddhi was that the book was published after copies of the proof of the book were distributed to all teachers of Ashramshalas, their comments about each chapter invited, and their feedback examined and incorporated as necessary.

In his Preface to Soliga Siddhi – Book 2 for the second standard, then minister for primary and secondary education, H Vishvanath, has said that the book for the second standard was brought out after finding that the attendance of the Soliga children had increased after the introduction of the book for the first standard.

Soliga Siddhi sought to progressively introduce Kannada to the children by reducing the number of Soliga words from 90% to 75% to 50% and 25% from books 1 to 4, respectively, corresponding to classes I to IV. (Compare week days listed in Pg. 119 of book 1 and pg. 43 of book 2 as an example).  Soliga Siddhi 1 and 2 have also been conceived as composite books, containing all the subjects dealt with in classes I and II, namely Kannada, Mathematics and Environmental Science. Besides familiar language, concepts and settings, the illustrations for all subjects are also drawn from the environment familiar to Soliga children.

The National Curriculum Framework emphasizes the importance of education in the mother tongue and the Soliga Siddhi textbooks have been designed to assist children move progressively from their mother tongue to standard Kannada.  This study has made an attempt to assess the Soliga Siddhi initiative by taking into consideration the perceptions of Ashramshala teachers, Soliga parents and Soliga youth, as well as experts in language pedagogy, and to make a balanced recommendation regarding the future of this initiative.

1.2. STUDY METHODOLOGY

  1. The Ashramshalas in the following locations in Kollegal and Yelandur taluks, run by the TWD and one NGO (VGKK), were identified: Bailooru, BRHills, Ganigamangala, Hiriyambala, Jeerigegadde, Kanchgalli, Konankere, MM Hills, Nakkundi, Ponnachi, Puranipodu, Rachappaji Nagara.
  2. Questionnaires in Kannada were prepared for undertaking focused group discussions/ interviews with three categories of respondents, namely Teachers, Parents and Youth.
  3. Field visits were undertaken to each of the abovementioned Ashramshalas and the communities they catered to, and the research instruments were administered.
  4. Interviews were conducted with some of the members closely involved with the conception, design and development of the Soliga Siddhi
  5. The feedback was analysed in depth and recommendations were arrived at.
  6. A Draft Report was prepared and circulated among language pedagogy experts as a prelude to a meeting with them (current exercise).
  7. The expert panel’s feedback to be incorporated in the Final Report.

Two study teams, each working on the field visits for about a week, met around 25 teachers, 100 parents and 50 young people.  Parents were selected on the basis of their having/ having had school going children.  Youth were unmarried youngsters around 18 years or less. We also had limited, informal interaction with the children in school. Views were elicited from five persons associated with the design and development of SS.

  1. FINDINGS & OBSERVATIONS

The feedback from the Ashramshala teachers and the Tribal Welfare Department officials as well as the community consisting of parents and youth was evaluated to understand the ground reality and the views of the respondents regarding:

  • The extent of awareness about the Soliga Siddhi textbook (SS).
  • Extent of usage of SS and prospects for the future
  • Potential impact of SS on learning among Soliga children

Interestingly, the responses of the teachers across all schools were near-universal as were the responses of the members of the community within each village, though in the latter case the responses differed somewhat from village to village.  The figures of the field data analysis, therefore, may be considered to reflect the number of schools/ villages/ communities rather than number of individual respondents.

2.1 USAGE OF THE TEXTBOOK IN SCHOOLS

Only in the school run by the VGKK is the book being used for language instruction in classes I and II.  In the other schools run by the TWD, only one of the ashramshalas had copies of both books 1 and 2 in the SS series.  All other schools had at least one copy of SS book 2, but not book 1.  We found this to be the case also in the Block Resource Centre (BRC) of Kollegal and the Tribal Welfare Department (TWD), Chamarajanagar (C.Nagar).  The BRC Kollegal had more than two score proof copies and a few final copies of book 2, but none of book 1.  Only one school reported that they had been receiving fresh supplies of the book every year. While two schools had not received any books, one school had received only one copy of the book.

At present only two schools are using SS; 10 of the 12 schools, or >75% were not using SS and were not willing to use it either, but an equal number said that the initiative would benefit Soliga children.  Eleven of the 12 schools, and the TWD officials said that they would use SS textbooks if they got a directive from the government to that effect, while one school said that it would use SS along with Kali Nali textbooks.

Regarding training, only teachers in three schools appear to have received training to use SS, though there was near unanimity that training was necessary to use such books.  One school headmaster said that while there had been a session at the pre-publication stage to elicit the views of teachers, they had not been given any training as such, while another headmaster said that he was totally satisfied with the training that had been given to use SS.

2.1a Reasons

While the prime reason for not using the text books was the lack of supply of books (75%), 50% of the respondents also felt that the books were not attractive and interesting for the students.  In two of the schools, teachers cited opposition to the books from parents. Interestingly, in one school the reason for not using SS included, among others, difficulty in teaching using SS.  Another factor that also came in for comment from both the teachers and the officials was that the administration, apparently, was more interested in Kali Nali as all efforts were oriented towards promoting the standard Kannada textbook and there had been little follow-up on the SS experiment.

2.2. EXTENT OF AWARENESS ABOUT SS

2.2.a. Response from teachers and officials

There is near universal awareness about the SS experiment among the teachers interviewed.  All except one teacher, who is a recent appointee, have heard of it and all except three have seen the book.   All teachers, except two who had seen the book first in their Block Resource Centres (BRC), had seen the book in their respective schools.

The teachers were also clear about the reasons for the introduction of the SS experiment.  To a question about why they thought SS was developed (Appendix 1.a, Q 3), most teachers said that it was to ensure that Soliga children “come up like other children”, or progress on par with their peers.  The teachers also appreciated that SS sought to achieve its objective by talking about and presenting pictorially the environment familiar to Soliga children – in terms of lifestyle, occupations, forest trees, plants, animals and birds.

The TWD officials, who were in charge at the time of the launch of the SS experiment in 1999, have been posted elsewhere now. However, one official, who had chanced upon the book on one of his school visits, was aware of SS and had made inquiries about it on his own initiative.

Reasons for non-usage Percentage of Respondents
Lack of supply of books 75%
Books not attractive for children 50%
Parental opposition 16%
Difficulty in teaching using SS 8%

 

2.2.b. Response from the community (parents and youth)

While the parents, in general, were unaware of the Soliga Siddhi textbook (except for one young parent who said that she had used the textbook in school), the youth of two villages said that they were aware of the Soliga Siddhi textbook and had used it.  Some youth respondents, across the villages, said that they knew of the existence of the book but did not know of its contents.

 

2.2. UTILITY OF BOOKS SUCH AS SS

2.2.a. Response from teachers and officials

All the school teachers were willing to use SS as such, if required to, but their willingness was qualified.

  • An overwhelming feeling among the teachers and officials is that Soliga students are quite familiar with Kannada words and while the SS experiment is useful, it is not essential. While about 60 % of the respondents felt that Soliga children were on par with the rest of the class when it came to reading, writing, speaking and understanding Kannada, about 16% of the respondents said that the Soliga children crossed the initial hurdle in the first 3 to 6 months.  An equal number of respondents (about 8% each) identified the initial hurdle for the Soliga students as reading/ writing/ understanding.  None of the teachers said that the Soliga students found Kannada difficult to speak.  One teacher found the Soliga children to be quicker learners than other children.
  • Sixty six per cent of the teacher respondents felt that parents of Soliga children would hesitate or not accept SS as they prefer their children to learn ‘naadu’ Kannada in the interest of their progress.
  • Non-Soliga teachers, who are a majority (about 80% of the respondents), felt that it would be difficult for them to teach using SS. Even the Soliga teachers said that their students were adept at learning standard Kannada.  One Soliga teacher remarked, “I do not understand why Soligas have to be treated differently when we say that we are all one.”
  • The teachers and officials were unanimous that SS must not be continued beyond the 4thstandard, even if the experiment is re-introduced, and that the books must use progressively less Kannada from one year to the next.  A need was also expressed, by many teachers, for a dictionary of Soliga-Kannada words to be part of SS.

 

2.2.b. Response from the community (parents and youth)

Between 70% and 90% of the parents felt that use of Soliga words and familiar situations in textbooks must continue in the interest of preserving their culture.  For example, one respondent said that words like ‘ragi kallu’ and ‘mariabba’ were not in vogue nowadays as no one had any use for these kinds of implements and festivals.  Except in two villages, the parents were also overwhelmingly in favour of the schools playing a role in teaching Soliga language, songs and stories.  However, the parents were of the unanimous view that their children were comfortable with standard Kannada and, even in their school-going days, it was not language-related difficulties, but subsistence-related difficulties which affected their learning.  In fact, only a few parents in one village said that they had found the language used in school difficult to cope with in their first one or two years in school.

Though parents in 58% of the villages felt that the home language had a bearing on language learning at school, in 42% of the villages, the parents said that their home language would not affect their children’s language learning abilities in school.  However, across all villages, the parents felt that standard Kannada, or ‘nadu bashe’ as they called it, was essential for their children’s progress; their desire for retaining elements of ‘podu bashe’ had more to do with emotional attachment to their roots.  In one village they put it rather forcefully: “We do not want to have SS as textbooks even for the first and second standards, so there is no question of considering whether it needs to be extended for the third and fourth standards”, they said.

The youth in all villages recalled their first two years in school and the youth in one village even recalled that they had a textbook called ‘Soliga Dhwani’.  In 42% of the villages, the youth said that they had problems in the first two years of school; however, the problems were not with respect to learning as such.  Most of their problems were subsistence-related, while some were school-related such as insufficient teachers, non-availability of textbooks and writing materials, and lack of discipline.

More than 90% of the youth said that they had not found it difficult to understand the standard Kannada textbook that they had in school and they had no problem following the lessons taught.  In fact, in one village, the youth said that they found it difficult to understand the language used in Soliga Siddhi as some of the words, purportedly in the Soliga dialect, were unfamiliar to them.  It is pertinent to note here that a similar comment was made by a young person of another village about a word he noticed at random (‘mekehakki’).  In another village, where the present students are second or even third generation learners, a group of young parents, one of whom read aloud a particular chapter (Kusi Tanda Makkaga), found the language particularly hilarious.  The constant refrain, particularly among the young population was that they no longer spoke the ‘podu bashe’.

 

2.3. POTENTIAL IMPACT OF SOLIGA SIDDHI

 2.3.a. Response from teachers and officials

The teachers identified the obvious differences between the Soliga Siddhi textbook and the Kali Nali textbook that is used in most schools – in terms of language (words) used, size of the book and attractiveness – and largely measured the potential impact of the book based on these parameters.

Repeatedly, the teachers mentioned that the standard Kannada textbook for standards one and two was both more attractive and easier for children to read than SS.  While the usefulness of SS for Soliga children was not denied, time and again it was stressed that the Soliga dialect differed from region to region and the language spoken by the community in one region was not easily understood by Soligas in another region.  For example the Kannada word for ant, ‘iruve’, is variously referred to in Soliga dialects as ‘irumbu’, ‘irupe’ and ‘erupe’.  A TWD official mentioned that while the Soliga dialect of Bailooru and Hiriyambala had Tamil overtones, the Soligas of MM Hills and Ganigamangala spoke a different dialect.

One headmaster felt that the language used in SS could cause confusion among children of other communities who were studying together with the Soliga children and another teacher said that this could cause a rift between Soligas and non-Soligas.  While some teachers felt that the changeover from Soliga-Kannada to standard Kannada could become a hurdle for a few children at the middle school level, other teachers felt that when the changeover happened, children would forget what they had previously learnt and take to Kannada easily.

Except for one teacher, who felt that the line drawings in SS were useful for the children to colour, all other teachers felt that the Kali Nali textbook was more attractive as it was in colour.  The standard government textbook was also considered to be more activity based and, hence, easy for teachers to make the children understand the various concepts.  A view was also expressed that SS book 1 had too many pictures, was too elementary and would not serve to meet the requisite learning objectives.  It was also felt that the pictures of some of the animals were not proportional to their size. However, the typesetting and printing of the SS textbook were universally appreciated by the teachers and it was felt to be far superior to the Kali Nali textbooks.

Opinion was divided about the composite nature of the SS textbooks.  Some teachers felt that the book made their job easier, while others felt that children may be put off by the bulky appearance and may also feel bored to use the same book for all their lessons.

Some measure of the book’s impact as of date could be possible only in three schools as the rest of the schools have used the book for a year or less.  Of these three schools, while one school persisted with SS for three years before reverting to the general Kannada book, the other two schools continue to use SS for classes 1 and 2, albeit with the standard Kannada textbook.  The headmaster of the school that gave up SS after 3 years said that they found that the “intention that Soliga children may learn easily from SS is not appropriate” and that they learn better from Kali Nali.  The other two schools said that the book was useful for their students and one of the teachers in these schools said that SS had facilitated greater interaction in class as the students enthusiastically asked questions and participated in classroom, text-book based activities.[1]

 

2.3.b. Response from the community

The community – both parents and youth – was eager that their language should be “passed on to the next generation” and that their culture must “continue to flourish.”

Sixty six per cent of the respondents also felt that special books for Soligas would inculcate in their children a desire to study.  Recalling their fear when they entered school – the new teachers, the new environment and the new process of learning – one community member said that it would have helped if, in addition, they did not have to learn in a new language and had SS instead.  However, co-existing with this feeling of nostalgia was the predominant view (in all but one of the villages) that the present generation understood standard Kannada as well as any other community, having left their remote locations in the hills to seek their livelihood amidst townspeople.  There were questions such as “Why introduce wrong spellings such as “uli” for “huli”?”, “Won’t it become difficult to learn Kannada the correct way, later?” One respondent also felt that by the time children came up to the third standard, they would have been exposed to “Kannada of a better kind” and would prefer that.

 

  1. ANALYSIS AND SUGGESTIONS

 3.1. THE LACUNA IN IMPLEMENTATION/ EXECUTION

When the project was conceived, Soliga Siddhi textbooks were designed for the first four classes of primary school, with the number of Soliga words becoming progressively less from one class to the next and equivalent standard Kannada words becoming more.  It was envisaged that the Soliga student who dropped out of school due to fear of learning in a strange language would be encouraged to stay on by the familiar language, situations and environment projected in the SS textbooks.  However, the following observations point to a lacuna in implementation that led to the book being used for less than a year in 75% of the schools.

  • While SS for the first standard was introduced around the year 1999, the SS textbook for the second standard was introduced at least a couple of years later, as revealed by the foreword written for the respective books by two different ministers, belonging to different regimes. This fact was also reiterated by those closely associated with the design and development of the SS series of textbooks (The textbooks do not carry the date of publication).  As a consequence, the very notion of using the bilingual transfer model to assist the children in moving from their mother tongue, Soliga, to standard Kanndada, was given the go by.  The child who had used SS in standard I would have had to cope with a vastly different, standard Kannada textbook in standard II.
  • The books for standards III and IV have not been published. As a consequence, a child using SS in classes I and II is liable to find it difficult to bridge the gap at standard III as the proportion of Soliga words in SS –II was intended to be at least 75%.  Books III and IV would have reduced the number of Soliga words progressively to 50% and 25%, respectively.
  • Awareness of SS was widespread among the teaching community, but only one school reported receiving fresh stocks of books every year. While two schools had received no books at all, one school had received only one copy of the book.  Not surprisingly, the books were not available in most schools.  Only one school had both books 1 and 2.  Even the BRC and TWD did not have ready access to the SS textbooks.
  • It is also not clear how effective the coordination was between the implementing agency – the DPEP (District Primary Education Programme Office) and the other agencies concerned with tribal education in the district, such as the TWD.

3.2. THE ISSUE OF LANGUAGE

3.2.a. Diversity of dialects

That there are many dialects of the Soliga language was a fact reiterated repeatedly by the members of the Soliga community, the Ashramshala teachers and the TWD officials.  The words used in the Soliga Siddhi textbooks represent predominantly, though not entirely, the Soliga dialect spoken in a particular region.  The community members in other areas of C.Nagar district do not readily understand some of these words (See Sec.2.2.b).   A TWD official suggested that what may be required is an extensive, in-depth field research to identify words in vogue in the different Soliga dialects and development of textual matter using these words to target region-specific audiences.  With advances in digital printing technology, it may be possible to have small, yet economical, print runs.  The practicality of this official’s suggestion needs to be examined.  The TWD officials were willing to assist with the intensive and demanding research that this initiative would involve, if required to by the authorities concerned.

3.2.b. Comfort-level with Kannada among students

Opinion was equally divided among the parent community about the impact that the spoken language at home, or mother tongue, would have on the language learning abilities of their wards at school. The youth in two villages said that they found it difficult to switch from the home language to Kannada as spoken in school. However, >90% of the youth said that they had faced no difficulties in comprehending what they were taught in class, in Kannada, during their first two years in school.  Most parents and the youth listed subsistence-related problems as the hurdles to their education –

  • “Used to eat cooked tamarind seeds on occasion due to lack of food.”
  • “Had to travel on donkeys from Yelandur to Puranipodu.”
  • “Weather conditions determined whether or not we went to school.”
  • “In the struggle for existence, did not understand the value of education.”
  • “We had no one to teach us at home.”

Nearly 85% of the parents feel that their wards are studying well as there are better facilities than in their school going days.  Most parents cited regular food as the reason for improved attendance and hostel facilities as the reason for children to opt for higher studies.  Significantly, in one village, the youth recalled that their teacher was so good that none of them ever wanted to miss school.  The unanimous feeling of gratitude that the youth of that village expressed for their teacher suggests that a good teacher can motivate students to come to school surmounting problems.

3.2.c. Comfort-level with Soliga among teachers

Soliga teachers constitute only about 20% of the teaching population in Ashramshalas.  As a consequence, the teachers, though they can understand the Soliga dialect of the region they are working in, are not competent to teach in the language.  There is also little motivation to learn the local dialect, as their jobs are transferable.  Though training manuals were devised as part of the project, these manuals have not been published.  Some teachers appear to have undergone training to use the book, when it was introduced for the first time but periodical training/ refresher courses has not been part of the programme.   Teachers were of the unanimous opinion that they would need training if SS was included compulsorily in the curriculum.  One teacher, who had received training and also taught using the book for one year said that he had often asked the children to find out the meaning of the Soliga words from their parents and tell him.  A user manual and an appendix/ supplement of Soliga-Kannada words may need to be issued along with SS in order to help the teachers retain their status as knowledge-givers – an authority that should not be undermined.

3.2.d. Language as a measure of empowerment

As the parents’ response in Section 2.2.a indicates, there is a perception among them that to progress, one must be competent in the ‘nadu bashe’, which in this case happens to be standard Kannada. The findings in this section indicate that while the parents and youth clearly have a deep love for their language and will continue to speak it among themselves, they are proud of their capacity to also speak in standard Kannada when communicating with or dealing with the larger society they live in.  However, this desire for learning the regional language and the tendency to link the potential for progress to their knowledge of that language has to be examined in the context of:

  • The need to preserve linguistic diversity and inculcate pride in their heritage among linguistic minorities, and
  • The capacity of the children, when they first come to school, to bridge the gap between home language and school language lest it become a reason for their dropping out of school altogether.

3.3. INADEQUATE OFFICIAL INVOLVEMENT

3.3.a. Need for extensive linguistic studies and evaluation studies

Persons closely involved with the conceptualization, design and development of the book say that the Soliga Siddhi textbook seeks to interest the new student in the process of learning by introducing familiar concepts, flora and fauna in a language that is not strange to the child.  It also seeks to preserve elements of the Soliga culture and inculcate in the children a sense of history and pride. However, the community members repeatedly reiterated that the Soliga language was spoken differently in different regions (See Sections 2.2.b and 2.3.a). The teachers and officials corroborated this view. There is, hence, a need for extensive and in-depth research to precede the preparation of such books.  Though in-depth research has, apparently, been undertaken, it has not been extensive in that all Soliga dialects have not been taken into account.

The foreword to the second standard book informs us that SS-2 was being released, taking cognizance of the fact that SS-1 had resulted in increased attendance of Soliga children. However, no official records were available to indicate the impact of Book-1 on admission, attendance and academic performance in measurable terms. It is worth recalling here that the Findings in Section 2.3.a. indicate that 75% of the schools used SS for a year or less, and only two schools were using the books at the time of our Study.

3.3.b. Lack of follow-up

As the Findings in 2.1.a. indicate, most schools and even departments concerned with education found it difficult to trace copies of SS textbooks on their premises.  As the teachers themselves said, departmental enquiries always were about the students’ level of learning vis-à-vis the standard Kannada textbooks and the directives were also related to these books.  Directives from the top are necessary for ground level functionaries to perform certain actions, behave in a certain manner or attain certain goals that are pre-determined.  If Soliga Siddhi textbooks must be used, an internal mechanism may have to be instituted within the departments concerned to follow up on their usage and effective application of the books as a learning tool to achieve the intended objective of instructing in the mother tongue.

Particulars No. of Schools
Using SS and will continue to use 2
Not using SS but willing to use 1
Not using SS and not willing to use SS 9

3.4. THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL AS A PRESERVER OF CULTURE

An overwhelming majority of the community members – both parents and youth felt that the school had a role to play in preserving their culture and wanted the textbooks to include their songs and stories in their language.  However, the parents also said that their children faced no difficulties in learning from the standard Kannada textbooks in school and 90% of the youth supported this view as they said they had not faced any problems because of the Kannada language teaching they had undergone.  Less than 10% of the teacher respondents said that the Soliga children faced difficulty in either reading or writing or understanding Kannada.  No teacher said that Soliga children had difficulty in speaking Kannada.  The last fact not only illustrates that Soliga children are familiar with the spoken language of the land but also that they are not shy of speaking in the language.

 

3.5. RECOMMENDATIONS

 Based on this short-term study that was commissioned by SSA, it is our perception that as of now, while there exists a deep and widespread appreciation for the aspects of culture that the book preserves and promotes by using words and pictures to represent the environment, concepts and situations that are familiar to Soliga children, there has been little attempt to persist with the book as a learning device in the Ashramshalas.  The major reasons for this appear to be:

  • The lack of sustained official follow-up, both in terms of evaluation of children’s academic performance vis-à-vis SS and replenishing stocks of SS every academic year.
  • The Soliga Siddhi textbook was introduced (Book 1 in 1999) at a time when the prevailing ground situation with respect to the enrolment and attendance of Soliga children in school appears to have been different from what exists today. As no baseline study appears to have been undertaken of the academic performance of the children pre-Soliga Siddhi, it is difficult to decide how effective the initiative has been in drawing the children to school and retaining them there, and what impact SS has had on the children’s academic performance and learning competencies.
  • The words used in the SS books are not representative of the Soliga language as such as there are many dialects of Soliga, with phonological and, perhaps, morphological variations.[2]

Considering the above findings, we would like to make the following recommendations.  It is envisaged that existing data would be used, where available, and departments concerned with tribal education would help out with the field studies where necessary.

  • An extensive, house-to-house survey / Census may be undertaken to identify the number of Soliga children in the primary classes. If these figures are already available, they may be compared with the past few years to get a clear understanding of the situation with respect to enrolment and attendance of Soliga children in the primary classes over the past few years (In the years 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000, ST enrolment in Karnataka, under DPEP, has increased from 2.50 lakhs to 2.62 lakshs to 2.72 lakhs respectively)
  • A study, for individual administration to every Soliga child, may be designed by experts in language and pedagogy to test the language skills of the Soliga children. The academic performance of the students may suffice, though it may not be a wholesome indication of the children’s comfort level with Kannada (Learning achievement surveys of DPEP show that in most districts, the gap between achievement levels of ST children and other children has been reduced to < 5% and the situation is better in language than in mathematics.)
  • Based on the findings of the two studies mentioned above, a decision may be taken about the need for and efficacy of re-introducing the Soliga Siddhi

If it is decided to re-introduce the SS experiment, some or all of the following steps may be considered:

  • A compilation of the phonological variations of the words to be used in the textbooks, in the prevailing Soliga dialects in the various regions, may be undertaken.
  • Pedagogical and Soliga language experts may re-evaluate the existing SS books and include more elements of the Soliga culture, and other tribal cultures as well, such as a few select songs and stories so as to inculcate a sense of pride in their heritage among the students.
  • The illustrations in the existing book may be retained, though in colour.
  • Teachers may be trained to use the book in annual /bi-annual workshops, which may also act as a means of getting their feedback.
  • A teacher’s manual may be included as part of the book or issued along with the textbooks to both provide insights on the learning objectives of each chapter and to clarify the meanings of the Soliga words that are very different from normal Kannada, and, perhaps, give the various regional Soliga variations of the word.
  • Education in the Soliga language, beyond the IV standard, or Primary School, did not find favour with any section of the community or teachers or officials.

[1] A baseline study may be designed to measure the impact of the SS textbook on academic performance in the two schools that have been using them

[2] It may also be pertinent to consider here the larger question of whether Soliga must be considered a dialect of Kannada or a separate language by itself, and how far education in the ‘mother tongue’ may be stretched to include dialects of the major language branch.

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