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The role of mother tongue-based multilingual education for revisioning and achieving meaningful education for all

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Abstract:

It can be taken as axiomatic that a child’s first language is their language of learning. Yet, young children learning in a language that differs from the language of instruction (LOI) in formal schooling comprise one of the fastest growing segments of the primary school aged population. Ethnolinguistic minority children remain one of the most excluded from meaningful opportunities to participate in formal education. This paper underscores the inadequate attention afforded to language of instruction (LoI) within Education for All (EFA) planning and programs, and explores reasons for this glaring omission. Evidence-based and rights-based rationales are used to argue for enhanced donor and government support for Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) to provide equity and dignity in education for otherwise excluded and low-achieving children whose first language is a non-dominant language.
As educators, governments and donors are discussing a new global development agenda, language minority populations have a great deal at stake, including: access to education that is meaningful within the context of their knowledge systems, livelihoods, and cultural identities; retention of their languages and culturally based literacies; the capacity of their children to communicate with older generations; and their value as holders of distinctive linguistic and cultural knowledge within their countries. This paper uses critical pedagogy and social justice perspectives to sharpen the focus on LoI as a pivotal factor in revisioning efforts post-2015 to reach the 75 million children still out of school and also as a platform for broadening the scope of what we mean by ‘education’ to ensure that culturally-valued literacies, skills and concepts are included as important learning outcomes.
This is a conceptual paper that draws upon reviews of research on children’s language acquisition, the role of language in learning, interlinguistic transfer, and the relative effectiveness of various MTB-MLE approaches. It reflects upon EFA data showing that many children who fail to learn in school are facing a language barrier and over half of children who never enroll in school are from language minority communities. UNESCO, the World Bank Human Development Network, the Global Partnership in Education (former Fast Track Initiative) and other organizations have emphasized the importance of MTB-MLE, and steps taken in this direction in a growing number of countries in the global South are highlighted. Notwithstanding, persistent stakeholder resistance is explored.
This paper interrogates the conditions that produce decisions about LoI that are counter-productive to the goals of EFA, including neo-colonialism, donor criteria for measuring learning outcomes using rudimentary assessment tools based on assumed monolingualism, misconceptions about language acquisition and roles of first and second languages in learning, and limited notions of what counts as learning. The paper raises questions about what choices and understandings are typically offered to those on the receiving end of donor support and education services – including governments and parents - and whether cogent evidence is available to them to evaluate the potential of MTB-MLE to increase the accessibility and relevance of formal education, gender equity, parent and community participation and satisfaction, retention of a country’s diverse repository of languages and cultural knowledge, and social harmony. The paper suggests questions for a research agenda to continue to build the evidence base showing outcomes of LoI policy shifts supporting MTB-MLE (e.g., Mali, Papua New Guinea, Philippines) and community-based MTB-MLE initiatives, and identifying keys to success that might be transferable on a larger scale or in other settings.
The paper points to theory accounting for the critical role of the mother tongue in learning and the role of literacy in the mother tongue as a foundation for acquiring fluency in a second language. The paper draws upon evidence showing successes of MTB-MLE where it has been implemented in a comprehensive way and with local participation in decision making and implementation. Documented positive examples in Mali, Papua New Guinea, India and China are highlighted, and cases where parent demand for MTB-MLE was over-ridden by monolingual LoI policies (e.g., Pakistan, Madagascar) with disastrous consequences for children’s participation and academic success.
Locally fitting approaches to MTB-MLE, informed by theory, research, and experience in comparable situations, and supported by LoI policy and meaningful donor criteria for defining and measuring success, can help to achieve EFA.
As the post-Dakar EFA campaign approaches its end, it is important to understand the language obstacle to achieving universal primary education, to unravel resistance to MTB-MLE in discussions of EFA and the Millennium Development Goals, and to invest in research that identifies keys to successful implementation of MTB-MLE in diverse resource, language, and social contexts.
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Name: Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p707002_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Ball, Jessica., Gouleta, Eirini. and Merz, Sydney. "The role of mother tongue-based multilingual education for revisioning and achieving meaningful education for all" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Mar 10, 2014 <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p707002_index.html>

APA Citation:

Ball, J. , Gouleta, E. and Merz, S. A. , 2014-03-10 "The role of mother tongue-based multilingual education for revisioning and achieving meaningful education for all" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p707002_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: It can be taken as axiomatic that a child’s first language is their language of learning. Yet, young children learning in a language that differs from the language of instruction (LOI) in formal schooling comprise one of the fastest growing segments of the primary school aged population. Ethnolinguistic minority children remain one of the most excluded from meaningful opportunities to participate in formal education. This paper underscores the inadequate attention afforded to language of instruction (LoI) within Education for All (EFA) planning and programs, and explores reasons for this glaring omission. Evidence-based and rights-based rationales are used to argue for enhanced donor and government support for Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) to provide equity and dignity in education for otherwise excluded and low-achieving children whose first language is a non-dominant language.
As educators, governments and donors are discussing a new global development agenda, language minority populations have a great deal at stake, including: access to education that is meaningful within the context of their knowledge systems, livelihoods, and cultural identities; retention of their languages and culturally based literacies; the capacity of their children to communicate with older generations; and their value as holders of distinctive linguistic and cultural knowledge within their countries. This paper uses critical pedagogy and social justice perspectives to sharpen the focus on LoI as a pivotal factor in revisioning efforts post-2015 to reach the 75 million children still out of school and also as a platform for broadening the scope of what we mean by ‘education’ to ensure that culturally-valued literacies, skills and concepts are included as important learning outcomes.
This is a conceptual paper that draws upon reviews of research on children’s language acquisition, the role of language in learning, interlinguistic transfer, and the relative effectiveness of various MTB-MLE approaches. It reflects upon EFA data showing that many children who fail to learn in school are facing a language barrier and over half of children who never enroll in school are from language minority communities. UNESCO, the World Bank Human Development Network, the Global Partnership in Education (former Fast Track Initiative) and other organizations have emphasized the importance of MTB-MLE, and steps taken in this direction in a growing number of countries in the global South are highlighted. Notwithstanding, persistent stakeholder resistance is explored.
This paper interrogates the conditions that produce decisions about LoI that are counter-productive to the goals of EFA, including neo-colonialism, donor criteria for measuring learning outcomes using rudimentary assessment tools based on assumed monolingualism, misconceptions about language acquisition and roles of first and second languages in learning, and limited notions of what counts as learning. The paper raises questions about what choices and understandings are typically offered to those on the receiving end of donor support and education services – including governments and parents - and whether cogent evidence is available to them to evaluate the potential of MTB-MLE to increase the accessibility and relevance of formal education, gender equity, parent and community participation and satisfaction, retention of a country’s diverse repository of languages and cultural knowledge, and social harmony. The paper suggests questions for a research agenda to continue to build the evidence base showing outcomes of LoI policy shifts supporting MTB-MLE (e.g., Mali, Papua New Guinea, Philippines) and community-based MTB-MLE initiatives, and identifying keys to success that might be transferable on a larger scale or in other settings.
The paper points to theory accounting for the critical role of the mother tongue in learning and the role of literacy in the mother tongue as a foundation for acquiring fluency in a second language. The paper draws upon evidence showing successes of MTB-MLE where it has been implemented in a comprehensive way and with local participation in decision making and implementation. Documented positive examples in Mali, Papua New Guinea, India and China are highlighted, and cases where parent demand for MTB-MLE was over-ridden by monolingual LoI policies (e.g., Pakistan, Madagascar) with disastrous consequences for children’s participation and academic success.
Locally fitting approaches to MTB-MLE, informed by theory, research, and experience in comparable situations, and supported by LoI policy and meaningful donor criteria for defining and measuring success, can help to achieve EFA.
As the post-Dakar EFA campaign approaches its end, it is important to understand the language obstacle to achieving universal primary education, to unravel resistance to MTB-MLE in discussions of EFA and the Millennium Development Goals, and to invest in research that identifies keys to successful implementation of MTB-MLE in diverse resource, language, and social contexts.


Similar Titles:
Consulting in mother tongue-based multilingual education: Examining the outsider’s role in the change process

Mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTBMLE) in the Philippines: The effects of training on teacher attitudes towards mother tongue instruction

Assessment of mother tongue-based multilingual education (MLE) programs: Linguistic, sociocultural, and methodological lessons from the Philippines


 
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