Friday, March 23, 2012

[MLE] Article "Linguistic imperialism alive and kicking"

Dear Multilingual Education friends,

The British Council, as well as some US agencies,  are active in south Asia and other places promoting the use of the English language in the classroom. A recent article by Robert Phillipson in The Guardian titled "Linguistic imperialism alive and kicking"  is criticising this as "undermining multilingualism and education opportunities". Some quotes:

The myth is the belief that studying English is all you need for success in life. Policies influenced by this myth prevent most children from accessing relevant education.

Is Anglo-American expertise really relevant in all such contexts? In fact educational "aid" worldwide does not have a strong record of success. There is scholarly evidence, for instance from Spain, that primary English is not an unmitigated success story: quite the opposite.

Governments have tended to clutch at a quick fix, such as importing native speakers, or starting English ever earlier, either as a subject or as the medium of instruction, in the hope that this will make the learning of English more effective. Such demands should be challenged by ELT when both the demand and the response are unlikely to be educationally, culturally or linguistically well-informed.

As many states in India are pushing for English,  this is a very relevant debate.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

[MLE] A critical report on the RTE progress

Dear MLE friends,

In April it will be two years since the the Right to Education (RTE) Act was introduced. Forward Press Magazine published a critical article on the progress made thus far:  A Fundamental Wrong: Education for too Few.

The author, Suzana Andrade, makes an interesting comparison with Finland were they also implemented a major education transform several years back: "In 1971, Finland's government realised that the only way to modernise its economy and compete in an increased competitive world was to transform its basic education. According to a recent article in The Atlantic magazine, the secret to Finland's success is that the goal they pursued was not excellence, but equity". On India: "Today, though the policies and rhetoric have changed, the underlying worldview remains: our society continues to prioritise a few and exclude the rest".

Friday, March 2, 2012

[MLE] A thorough paper on the MLE program in Orissa/Odisha

Dear MLE friends,

I don't think I have ever come across such an extensive analyses of the MLE programme in Orissa as the one from Dr Urmishree Bedamatta presented at the 2nd Philippine Conference Workshop on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education  held February 16-18, 2012 titled:


The author does base her analyses on field visits, interviews and a wide range of literature study. Her analyses is critical. The abstract states:
The analysis of the MLE programme with reference to classroom transaction, the teacher and the teaching learning materials led to the following conclusions: (a) the use of the mother tongue is a strategy to improve statistics on access with little concern for retention, (b) the use of the mother tongue does not guarantee the use of local cultural knowledge for academic learning, (c) local cultural knowledge is transformed to assimilate with knowledge legitimised in the curriculum, and, (d) the role of the teacher as an agent of change is ignored: the ‘MLE teacher’ is a means to cope with teacher shortage in the tribal areas. The mother tongue in the MLE programme thus faces the threat of being an instrument ‘in the service of an institutional cause’.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

[MLE] Article on the value of language from the new UNESCO India director

Dear multilingual education friends,

Last week I had the privilege to meet the new UNESCO director for this region at their Delhi office: Mr Shigeru Aoyagi. Only now I discovered he had just that week written an article on the issue of language: Languages are vehicles of understanding, tolerance. In that article he e.g. wrote:
Mother languages, along with linguistic diversity, matter for the identity of individuals. As sources of creativity and vehicles for cultural expression, they are also important for the health of societies. Studies and researches show that use of mother language at initial stage of education would enhance children’s comprehension skills. We know how important education in the mother language is for learning outcomes. Mother language instruction is also a powerful way to fight discrimination and reach out to marginalised populations.

Good to note we have now such a strong language advocate in the Delhi UNESCO office together with Dr Alisher Umarov, the new head of the UNESCO Education Department.

The International Day of Language did last week produce some more interesting reading:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

[MLE] International Mother Language day


Congratulations with International Mother Language day!



Dear multilingual education friends,
Yesterday was International Mother Language Day. A good reason for giving extra attention to the use of the mother tongue. Here are some relevant links to events and resources:
Here is a link to the history of the International Mother Language day

Monday, January 16, 2012

[MLE] People’s Linguistic Survey of India Conference

Dear multilingual education friends,

Earlier this months the People's Linguistic Survey of India  (PLSI) conference took place. 900 delegates from all over the world gathered in Baroda to celebrate the progress on survey.

A quote from the Lit-Ityadi report
Anyone familiar with George Grierson's historic work, the Linguistic Survey of India, compiled nearly 100 years ago, will immediately note the similarities. What is different however, about the PLSI, is the notion of networking, now made by possible by modern methods of communication, that enables adivasi people from Orissa to dance shoulder to shoulder with Bhili tribesmen from Gujarat. This sense of solidarity was felt, not only between the Indian delegates, but also internationally as we heard from indigenous people from Papua New Guinea and various parts of Africa.
A quote from the Times of India report
This is a survey of languages by persons belonging to the language community. We have used a 'minimum format' for the non-scheduled languages. It includes features like name, location and local history of the languages; some samples of songs and stories, kinship terms and nominal grammar. For the scheduled languages the entries are very elaborate - almost a book length for every language. The 12 volumes that are ready run into about 6,000 pages. The completed work in 42 volumes will have about 20,000 printed pages. The work is done with the help of a large team of nearly 1,800 persons and a large multi-disciplinary National Editorial Collective of scholars.
The Daily News Analyses report gave their article a positive heading: "Tribal Languages are not dying":
If you thought that the number of people speaking the languages used by tribes, nomads and de-notified tribes of India was falling with every generation, then you are in for a surprise. A survey of People's Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) conducted by tribal activist and linguist, Dr Ganesh Devy, reveals that the number of languages considered weak had fallen. This indicates that the so-called 'weak languages' had actually a large number of speakers.