Multilingual teaching, learning and assessment of English in India’s primary schools


Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at Cambridge in partnership with the British Council.

This fully-funded studentship is available from October 2024. Further details about the value of an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP award are available on the DTP’s studentships page.

Closing date: 5 December 2023

Project overview

Language education in India is a politically contested issue of national importance. In several studies, the learning outcomes in school skills of primary school children in India, particularly children attending government schools are lower than expected. Although several factors can be held responsible for these findings, some studies have focused in particular on assessing the role of language policy in schools and specifically the shift to English-medium of education in several government schools of India. These findings need to be considered against the backdrop of the new National Education Policy of India which promotes the use of home language / mother tongue / regional languages for school skill development in primary schools alongside the development of English. At the moment, however, this is an unfulfilled, albeit essential goal. This research project aims to address this important gap in recognizing and destigmatizing the use of multiple languages in the classrooms of linguistically diverse societies of the Global South. While multilingualism is the norm in these contexts, there is a need to develop and test the effectiveness of multilingual educational materials (textbook and assessment content) for language learning, use and assessment. To this end, the objectives of the research project would be to:

  1. Develop a set of materials that complement the textbooks for English and a content subject (e.g. Environmental Science), following a structured and planned approach to the use of multiple languages in the classroom
  2. Use and evaluate the materials working with groups of learners and their teachers as part of a short-term intervention study and compare with a control group of learners who would continue using the resources already available
  3. Consider the implications and replicability of the approach in other, similar contexts in India. Teachers will attend a training session where the rationale of multilingual resources and lesson samples will be discussed and used as models for further educational material development for the duration of the study. 

The project will include government schools of India across one or two different states, obtaining evidence from different languages and educational contexts, given India’s rich linguistic diversity.  Assessment of children’s progress will be carried out at three time points, pre-, during and post-intervention.

The role of the British Council as the partner organization is crucial for this project for a number of reasons. As the UK government’s education and cultural relations organisation overseas with long-term, unparalleled expertise in language teaching and assessment, established school and teacher networks and access to relevant ministries in state and the central governments of India regarding language and education policy, they are the best fit for this project. 


The main supervisor will be at the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at the University of Cambridge while two supervisors from the British Council, one in the UK and one in India will be named. The partner organisation (British Council) will offer the team’s knowledge of teacher education and how resulting outputs of the study might be integrated into future initiatives. Training on the context will be provided, drawing out both documented knowledge and more tacit knowledge from team members across India. The British Council will also be able to facilitate links between the CDA student and a network of experts in India who specifically focus on multilingual education and/or learning in government schools. The researcher will also benefit from the British Council’s place on / proximity to education policy tables at the central and state government levels.

How to apply 

We invite applications from candidates from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Applicants will ideally have a strong (Distinction level) postgraduate degree (MA or equivalent) in Applied Linguistics, Education (with a focus on language teaching and learning) from an established academic institution in the UK or internationally. Applicants should also have high-level proficiency in at least one Indian language in order to work with the development of materials for India’s educational context. Prior experience of working with language education, developing teaching and assessment materials and working with teachers and young children would be required. Applicants should meet the eligibility criteria for Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC studentships.

For an informal discussion about the opportunity and how you might frame your approach to the CDA project, please contact Prof. Ianthi Tsimpli in the first instance.

You should apply to the Theoretical and Applied Linguistics Postgraduate Programme by 5 December 2023 (midday, UK time), indicate your interest in being considered for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP studentship and submit a completed copy of the OOC DTP Application Form at the same time. Please see the advert on the Cambridge jobs site.