Child doing Flankers assessment task during MultiLila research project

University of Cambridge

Decisions about which language of instruction to use is an important topic around the world, with many debates about policy decisions to introduce English to teach across the curriculum – particularly in low- and middle-income contexts. The MultiLiLa research project aims to contribute vital evidence to inform these decisions.

The British Council was a key partner in the MultiLiLa project from 2016–2020, led by the University of Cambridge and funded by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) and the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office under the umbrella of the Global Education Challenge. 

In addition to the research, the project also undertook capacity building activities with teachers in Hyderabad. This led to the development of three films illustrating multilingual education in practice, available  here.

Further information about the MultiLiLa project can be found here

About the project

MultiLila was a four-year research project exploring the development of multilingual children’s school skills and cognitive abilities in EMI versus regional medium of instruction schools in India. The project tested learners’ cognitive, literacy and numeracy skills at two points in time between 2017 and 2020. It aimed to identify whether or not children who learn through the medium of a language which is not the same as their home languages have different levels of learning outcomes than children whose home and school language is the same.

Research was conducted in three sites in India: Delhi, Bihar and Hyderabad, with variables of gender and home environment also taken into account. The project included classroom observations which allowed an analysis of the teaching practices and classroom language use that the children experience.

The project collaboration included a strong consortium of partners – University of Reading (UK), the English and Foreign Languages University (Hyderabad), Jawaharlal Nehru University (Delhi) and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, (Bangalore). 

Project objectives

The MultiLiLa project aimed to:

  •  contribute evidence around the effect of language of instruction on learning outcomes and general cognitive ability
  •  continue the dialogue around the need for good practices in multilingual education strategies and policy in India, and the transference of good practices from India to elsewhere
  •  facilitate knowledge exchange with a wide variety of organisations and stakeholders
  • build capacity of young researchers working in India.

Key project milestones

The first dissemination event was held on 12 and 13 July 2018 in Delhi, raising awareness of the project and sharing initial findings with participants from the government, academia, NGOs and schools.

Video recordings from the event can be accessed online:

The Multilingualism and multiliteracy workshop: Multilingualism and educational challenges was held on 28 and 29 November 2019 at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge. The workshop was open to academics and researchers in the UK to discuss issues regarding multilingualism in India and the UK educational contexts and the challenges faced.

The final dissemination event was held from 10 to 12 February 2020 in Hyderabad. This three-day event was attended by teachers, trainers, researchers, government officials and NGO representatives. 

The final project reports were completed in August 2020 and are available to download below and on the main project website.

Findings and recommendations

A summary of key findings and recommendations is available below, provided in English, Hindi and Telugu. 

The final project reports were completed in August 2020 and are available to download below and on the main project website.


External links