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Impact of Medium of Instruction on Learning Outcomes

This project aims to understand the extent to which a linguistic mismatch between mother tongue and the medium of instruction affects the ability of tribal children to pick up core learning skills such as literacy and numeracy in primary schools.

Data from the Census of India show that Scheduled Tribes underperform not just relative to the educational attainment of the ‘general’ population, but even compared to the other large historically disadvantaged group, the Scheduled Castes. An important contributory factor to this poor performance may be the linguistic distance between the mother tongues spoken by the tribal population and the medium of instruction in school.

To investigate this mechanism, the researchers plan to conduct reading and writing tests of cognition in government primary schools in Jharkhand, a state with a significant tribal population and large linguistic diversity. These tests will be conducted in both the medium of instruction and the children’s mother tongue, and the difference in performance on the two should provide us with a direct measure of the cognitive difficulty arising from linguistic mismatch.

The tests will be complemented by a survey of the children’s households, to understand the social, cultural and economic background of their families. In particular, this should help separate out the confounding effect on children’s learning abilities, of variation in factors such as parental education levels, exposure to media, and the household’s social linkages.


Hemanshu Kumar

Hemanshu is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. With a Ph.D. in economics from the Delhi School of Economics, Hemanshu has earlier taught courses on economics and econometrics at DSE and at Northwestern University. He has also held various positions at IES Abroad, New Delhi.

His current research includes papers on caste connections and government transfers, and on social distance and educational achievement in India.

Dr. Rohini Somanathan

Currently a Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, Prof. Somanathan has many years of teaching experience in India and in the US. Her recent work includes research on identity politics and public goods, child learning in India with reference to schools and tutors, community contracts in villages in India and repeated voting and political inefficiency.

Mahima Vasishth

Mahima holds a Masters degree in Economics from TERI University. Her research interests include development economics and econometrics.

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