Why mother language matters in critical pedagogy?

| Updated: February 11, 2023 14:36:45

Walls of an school building in Bangladesh is decorated with alphabets and numbers. 	—Collected Photo Walls of an school building in Bangladesh is decorated with alphabets and numbers. —Collected Photo

Language matters. Why does the mother language matter in learning? It offers imagination, ideas, and deep insight and assists a child in being creative. Gandhi believed that "a proper and all-round development of the mind...can take place only when it proceeds with the education of the physical and spiritual faculties of the child."

Facing struggles, a child needs an order; however, it is better not to impose anything on a child. For a child, freedom is necessary for learning. Mother tongue helps to be powerful and creative. At heart, freedom and happiness are a precondition for a child's disposition, developing a child's inherent qualities of mind and character.

Sensational pedagogies make learning meaningful, personal, and connected to mind, body, and soul. Complementary to holistic pedagogy, sensational pedagogy is a cooperative form of learning that can contribute to whole-child development. And we know only pure sensation develops perception. Therefore, a sensational pedagogy helps learners experience learning as embodied, effective, and lived experiences. The assumption is that learning takes place in the feeling, sentient, and moving body.

There is a deep connection between the learning process and the relationship between sensation and pedagogy. Storytelling is the central part of holistic education and critical pedagogy. Here I narrate a story, as an example of creative learning that connects the learner to nature, the environment.

It was beautiful dawn! I heard some noises in my attic. I did not think they were ghosts or thieves. Instead, I thought it was MistySugar, our little cat Freddie. Maybe he was scratching the sofa or carpet instead of scratching pads, thumping, and bumping on the stairs. I was lazy to open my eyes. Closing my eyes, I just hushed him and whispered, Fredu, Fredu, Freddie, please stop making noise, but he did not. So, I got off the bed to find our cat, MistySugar, to see what was really going on. I found him standing in the corridor with erect ears and a worried facial expression. He looked at me carefully and tried to say something softly, mew… mew. As if he was trying to tell me, squirrels, squirrels out there! Mommy, mommy, go and check them!

It seems he is vigilant about the noise, squirrel's chirps. Then, there was a good chance that I had squirrels in my attic. I looked outside the bedroom window and found a young lighter brown squirrel chirping at the window sunset shade. I asked Freddie what had happened to him. Are you hungry?

The baby squirrel looked at me and started talking to me, chirps, chirps! Yes, I am! I imagine this little squirrel was trying to understand my language and what I am talking to him, and he felt attracted to my conversation. He made a series of chirps!!! I really need nuts, some nuts, please, please!!!... Moreover, he started running on the window sunset shade. He chirped and walked back and forth a few times. Then, he finally ran.

He reminded me of Bengali National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam's "Khuku O Kathberali," an excellent rhyme. It seems squirrels moved the poet too to write a wonderful heart-catching rhyme for the children.

In this rhyme, a little girl is asking in her mother language to a squirrel what he loves to eat the most: Squirrel, Squirrel, do you like to eat guava?

I find squirrels are most active in the morning and evening; they love to play in our backyard, sometimes at the front. They are beautiful, some are black, and some lighter brown. Our cat Freducinno enjoys these animals most; their every playful movement he likes. They run very fast as they are light. I saw our MistySugar Freddie loves to talk to them, khakk.., khakk. I am not sure whether he likes them or not.

Perhaps, MistySugar scolds them, sounding Khakk…khakkk…hey why are you in my home? Go away! Freddie might feel insecure as they often break the rules of his kingdom/ his Lakeridge home, his territory, and the lovely Riviera.

The squirrels make lots of noise. It sounds like a fast scurrying and running noise. They usually run outside the attic, sometimes near the roof's edge. Sometimes, they roll nuts, chew, and play in the garden. I often hear squirrels, seagulls, and birds chirping together in the backyard garden. I also found some beautiful brown rabbits playing in the backyard during the evening. Sometimes rabbit is sitting face à face of our MistySugar quietly. I watch them with great desire; they must stay here the entire day! Seeing these beautiful animals playing and running everywhere, all day long, I feel fantastic. They are entering, taking the exit, and re-entering our Lakeridge home, The Riviera!

"The Riviera," the Lakeridge home, is just beside Ontario Lake, West Rouge. This place is really a sweet animal home, natural heaven on earth. Like all animals, squirrels, rabbits, and birds have to go outside to eat and drink. There are many ecosystems on this earth, and this West Rouge, Lakeridge area, is one of them. Many living creatures live in Ontario Lake and roam around it with great safety, freedom, and pleasure.

I wonder! Where is heaven? Who says that it is too far? When I tell this story in a classroom, I can see the wonder in children's eyes. They rhyme with me as if they were present at Riviera, my Lakeridge home.

"Squirrels and birds are still shining,

 Like lightning in the dark!

I hear white-blue lightning,

Freddie keeps calling them darling, my darling!

Miller, a holistic educator, also believes that "students awake to life processes by connecting to the earth. The curriculum teaches students not only about environmental problem-solving but, more importantly, how we are fundamentally embedded in the earth's natural processes." In the preceding years, holistic education  emphasised the connection with the earth through gardening and farming programmes, science and outdoor math projects, guided nature walks to local conservation areas and other activities as a part of an environmental and community-building programme.

Holistic educators think that earth connections can revitalise children to the natural processes of life. For example, the wind, the sun, the trees, and the grass can help children be alive and awaken them. Along similar lines, I consider that informal education starts with the sweetness of the mother language. It includes other creative forms such as written stories, indigenous stories, narratives, visual art and oral recitation, major events and crises, and sensational pedagogies - smell, taste, and sound. It is essential to unlock children's creative minds to other ways of knowing, thinking, and doing. Thus, to be a voice, an agency in the classroom or community power of language matters. It offers a way of looking at how pedagogy is constituted by the learner's language, nature, and surroundings.

We must teach our children natural and informal ways to challenge their minds and broaden their horizons.

Pamelia Khaled is an expert in Curriculum and Pedagogy (CP), Peace and Conflict educator, Toronto, Canada.

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