Vidyashakti: Biliteracy and empowerment in India. The continua of biliteracy in action

Viniti Vaish, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation compares bilingual programs in two schools in the slums of New Delhi. In both these schools the media of instruction are the L2 of the children. It attempts to answer the question: why is the Nagar Nigam Bal Vidyalaya more successful in making the students proficient in Hindi than the Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya is in making its students proficient in English? A qualitative, ethnographic approach has been used to answer this question. I conducted participant observations, interviewed teachers, parents and policy makers and collected artifacts from the classroom. The conceptual framework of this work attempts to situate this study in the realm of postcolonial theory. Instead of literary criticism this theory has been used to analyze the unique language situations in India. The research design is Hornberger and Skilton-Sylvester's (2003) Revised Continua of Biliteracy which has not only provided a structure for the chapters and their subsections but also the discussion points for biliteracy practices. My findings are that due to decontextualized literacy practices that emphasize memorization, copying, translating and mere decoding, coupled with the context in which the children of the SKV live, they become only functionally literate in English. However, this is a great step forward for such a subaltern community and this dissertation valorizes this achievement in a developing country. On the other hand due to fluent teachers, Hindi being the language of Delhi, and the unique sociocultural relationship between Hindi and its dialects, the children of the NNBV become fluent in Hindi. This dissertation suggests a viewpoint from the periphery, called ‘periphrism’, to explicate issues of reconstructing local pedagogies. Peripherism is a counter-discourse that reveals the inadequacies of applying Eurocentric theories to developing countries and suggests that each sociocultural situation balances local knowledge in a unique language ecology that must be seen in its own terms.

Subject Area

Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Vaish, Viniti, "Vidyashakti: Biliteracy and empowerment in India. The continua of biliteracy in action" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3138083.