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Children taught in mother tongue perform better: Study


New Delhi: Studies show that children learn the best in their mother tongue. For instance, according to a recent survey Telugu medium students surpassed their English medium counterparts and performed much better at the primary level in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Children studying in mother tongues face a lot of difficulties when it comes to higher studies and employment opportunities. Therefore, in a bid to analyze the potential link between medium of instruction and student performance at the primary level, the study used Math scores as a proxy for student achievement while taking into account various socioeconomic factors, The Hindu reported.

915 children from 233 schools from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (coastal districts and Rayalasema) were surveyed for the study which was conducted by Sree Kumar Nair, an analyst at the Bharati Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business.

“The objective was to understand whether the medium of instruction affected the learning outcomes at primary level. It was found that it impacted the achievement levels of students,” Nair was quoted as saying by the newspaper, adding that Math score was a good indicator as a proxy for cognitive development. The analysis was done using Young Lives longitudinal data of primary school children.

Despite the fact that English medium students came from a wealthier background and their parents were better educated, the Telugu students fared better even though they faced odds such as lack of proper infrastructure, lesser nutritional intake and teacher participation.

The findings of the study were important in view of government schemes like mid-day meal programme.

“Improving the infrastructure, ensuring better teacher participation and taking care of the nutritional deficit would benefit the disadvantaged students by ensuring higher learning outcomes,” Nair added.

Sankrant Sanu – an entrepreneur, writer and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon – tells NewsGram that a foreign language like English is the biggest hurdle in India’s development and that his own experience suggests that children would be much better learning in their mother-tongues not only at the primary education level but also in higher studies.

ALSO READ: ‘India can’t progress without promoting Indian languages’

While travelling through Indian villages, Sanu took some IQ test papers with him. His intent and assumptions were that he would find bright children in Indian villages and the results thereof surprised him. In his sample of over 100 students, both in rural and urban schools, he found that rural children surpassed the urban ones by a good margin. However, the fact of the matter was that a large number of these students would usually drop out after class 8, as most of the competitive exams were in English.

“Learning English is no duck soup, as it’s a very tough language and takes years of painful labour and patience to become proficient. Therefore, a student could be a math genius but just because of his poor English, he would be deprived of all the opportunities he deserves. Nothing could be more atrocious than this,” Sanu opines.

Moreover, English is the medium of instruction in IITs and IIMs which further hampers a person’s growth.

“It is a pity that while a child in South Korea can become a doctor after studying in Korean, a boy in a Tamil Nadu hamlet cannot become one after studying in Tamil. Studies show that children learn the best in their mother tongue. Original creative thinking cannot happen in a foreign language. The education system has become so divorced from reality… BPO is not innovation, it’s coolie work,” Sanu laments.

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Microsoft AI translates Chinese to English like humans

The researchers taught the system to repeat the process of translating the same sentence over and over

Microsoft to pay $250,000 to help them catch chip bugs. Wikimedia Commons
Microsoft to pay $250,000 to help them catch chip bugs. Wikimedia Commons
  • Microsoft creates a new kind of AI
  • This can translate Chinese to English just like humans
  • The translator makes little mistakes

A team of Microsoft researchers, including one of Indian-origin, has created an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered machine system that can translate sentences of news articles from Chinese to English with the same quality and accuracy as humans.

Researchers from the company’s Asia and US labs said their system achieved human parity on a commonly-used test set of news stories — called “newstest2017” — that was released at a conference recently, a blog post said late on Wednesday.

Microsoft acquired the start-up PlayFab. Pixabay
This Ai can expertly translate Chinese into English. Pixabay

According to Arul Menezes, an IIT-Bombay alumni and Partner Research Manager of Microsoft’s machine translation team, the team set out to prove that its systems could perform about as well as a person when it used a language pair — like Chinese to English — for which there is a lot of data.

“Given the best-case situation as far as data and availability of resources goes, we wanted to find out if we could actually match the performance of a professional human translator,” said Menezes.

To ensure the results were both accurate and at par with what people would have done, the team hired external bilingual human evaluators who compared Microsoft’s results to two independently produced human reference translations.

“Hitting human parity in a machine translation task is a dream that all of us have had. We just did not realise we would be able to hit it so soon,” said Xuedong Huang, Technical Fellow in charge of Microsoft’s speech, natural language and machine translation efforts.

Also Read: Microsoft Teams to have Cortana integration, other features

To reach the human parity milestone on this dataset, three research teams in Microsoft’s Beijing and Redmond, Washington, research labs worked together to make the system more accurate.

“Much of our research is really inspired by how we humans do things,” said Tie-Yan Liu, Principal Research Manager with Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing.

The team used dual-learning method. Every time they sent a sentence through the system to be translated from Chinese to English, the research team also translated it back from English to Chinese.

Microsoft Kaizala
The accuracy rate is high too. Wikimedia

That’s similar to what people might do to make sure that their automated translations were accurate, and it allowed the system to refine and learn from its own mistakes. Dual learning, which was developed by the Microsoft research team, can also be used to improve results in other AI tasks.

Another method, called deliberation networks, is similar to how people edit and revise their own writing by going through it again and again. The researchers taught the system to repeat the process of translating the same sentence over and over, gradually refining and improving the response, Microsoft said. IANS