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Mother-language based Multilingual Education in the Early Years

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Presentation on theme: "Mother-language based Multilingual Education in the Early Years"— Presentation transcript:

1 Mother-language based Multilingual Education in the Early Years
Jessica Ball School of Child and Youth Care Human Early Learning Partnership: REACH UVIC University of Victoria UNESCO International Symposium: Translation and Cultural Mediation – Information Session

2 Invigorate supports for learning in mother-tongue in early years
Until now, deliberations have focused on language use, development, & maintenance in formal schooling & beyond. Little discussion or research on mother-tongue use, development & maintenance in the early years when family members & early childhood practitioners are the child’s first teachers.

3 4 Cornerstones to secure a strong foundation for young children
Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care & Development 1. Start at the beginning: parenting programmes, services for vulnerable families. 2. Get ready for success: access to early childhood care & development programmes 3. Improve primary school quality 4. Include early childhood in policies Mother-tongue should be the primary vehicle for communication in each of these foundational strategies

4 Start at the beginning Early childhood programmes: birth to 8 years old Counter linguistic & cultural loss Fulfill children’s rights to learn in their mother tongue Ensure familiar culture & language during transition to school

5 Overview What are we talking about? Who are we talking about?
Why are we talking about it? How are we talking about it? What’s known? What’s new? What’s next?

6 What are we talking about?
Mother tongue: The language acquired in early years & that has become his/her natural instrument of thoughts and communication (UNESCO) Early childhood programs: Supports for primary caregivers, practitioners in programmes addressing child health, development & early learning, & children from birth through 8 years of age

7 Who are we talking about?
Some children’s mother tongue is privileged in early learning programmes. Other children’s mother tongue is dismissed, denied, or given only token support by dominant society, cultural institutions, schools, and policies. Language-in-education policies routinely contribute to the minoritization of children whose mother tongue is not the privileged language(s). These are the children we’re talking about it.

8 Why are we talking about it?
Cultural & linguistic endangerment Educational inequities Challenges to implementing mother-tongue based early learning programs

9 How are we talking about it?
Various frameworks provide rationales: Rights Cultural & linguistic endangerment/loss Psycho-social development Participation: Education Labour force Civil society

10 Child rights UNCRC (1989) Article 30: stipulates right of Indigenous Peoples to use their own language in schooling. UNCRC General Comment 7: Young children are holders of all rights enshrined in the Convention. Early childhood is a critical period for realization of these rights. Early childhood: birth through transition to school (8 yrs) Programs & policies are required to realize rights in early childhood Recognize & incorporate diversities in culture, language, and child rearing.

11 Parental rights UNCRC Article 29
Education of the child shall be directed to development of respect for the child’s parents, and the child’s own cultural identity, language and values, as well as for the national values of the country in which the child is living…. (Also Article 5)

12 Community rights UN Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education specifically recognizes “the right of the members of national minorities to carry on their own educational activities, including…the use or the teaching of their own language.”

13 Community rights UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992, Article 4) Affirms the rights of minorities, including Indigenous Peoples, to learn and/or have instruction in their mother tongue or heritage language.

14 Cultural and linguistic endangerment / loss
The world’s repository of language and culture is steadily depleted by language-in-education policies that impose dominant languages on children’s learning journeys. Of languages spoken globally now, 10-50% will be spoken by 2099. “Linguistic genocide” (Skutnabb-Kangas) Language loss endangers identity, heritage, belonging, cultural knowledges

15 Psychological development
Cultural identity associated with speaking the language of one’s culture of origin Cultural knowledge embodied in language Belonging within a cultural community that shares a language or dialect Inter-generational communication Self-concept: who am I? Commonalities with ancestors/ Distinctiveness from others Self-esteem: proud of who one is & special competencies associated with family of origin

16 Participation Speech, language & literacy enable participation
Sense of place & value in education, labour force, civil society Familiarity with school, work & social environments Civil society rich in diverse linguistic & cultural competencies Community empowerment

17 Educational equity UNESCO (1953) encourages mother tongue based early learning & primary school Children entering unfamiliar learning environments in an unfamiliar language: a significant contributor to persistent high rates of early school non-attendance, non-engagement, and failure among minority & Indigenous children.

18 Moral imperative Affirming the right of families to support children’s learning in their mother language. Affirming the responsibility of the global community to protect linguistic and cultural diversity and to strengthen languages at risk of being lost.

19 What is known? The dominant language in a society is presented to children and families as normative, desired, privileged, high status, and, very often, the required language of early learning and all education programs. For minority language children, this is a SUBMERSION approach (a.k.a. Sink or Swim). Subtractive bilingualism … second language becomes more proficient than mother tongue.

20 Children do not ‘soak up languages like sponges!’
Many children grow up speaking more than one language. But language does not spring forth in full bloom during the early years. Language acquisition takes a long time. Outcomes range from conversational fluency to academic proficiency. Depends on many factors


22 Alternative language-in-education approaches
Mother tongue-based programs Bilingual (two-way bilingual) programs Multilingual programs ***Developmental bilingualism Mother tongue as primary language while second language is introduced as a subject of study for eventual transition to learning in the second language

23 Alternative approaches cont’d
“Bridging”: Planned transition from one language to another ‘Short cut’ or ‘early exit’: abrupt transition after only 2 or 3 years of school. ‘Late transition’ or ‘late exit’: transition after child has cognitive academic proficiency in first language (CALP)

24 Maintenance bi/multilingual education
After second language is introduced, both first and second languages are media of instruction. First language instruction as a medium of instruction or subject of study ensures ongoing support for academic proficiency in the mother tongue. Also called ‘additive bilingual education’ (languages are added but do not displace mother tongue)

25 Tentative conclusions of research (Lightbown, 2008)
Children can acquire 2+ languages in EY Languages don’t compete for ‘mental space’ and bilingualism doesn’t ‘confuse’ children. Given adequate inputs & opportunities for interaction, children can acquire multi-lingual proficiency Cognitive advantages of developing proficiency in 2+ languages Early learning is no guarantee of continued development or lifelong retention: languages can be maintained, attenuated, or forgotten

26 Tentative conclusions of research
Late transition is better than short cut While children can learn more than one language, whether they develop more than conversational fluency about everyday events in a language depends on increasingly advanced learning opportunities in that language Cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) takes about 6 years of formal education ALL OF PRIMARY SCHOOL!!

27 What about immersion programs?
Immersion programs are provided entirely in a language that is new to the child. Popular in foreign language instruction and in heritage mother tongue revitalization initiatives

28 Immersion programs for recovering an endangered language
Heritage mother tongues: the living root of contemporary identities, regardless of whether one speaks the language. (McCarty)

29 Eskasoni Immersion Program: “A place to be Mi’kmaq”
Indigenous ‘First Nation’ in Nova Scotia, Canada English or Mi’kmaq from preschool through secondary school. Indigenous pedagogies & academic content 75% of graduates went on to college

30 30

31 Hawaiian language immersion
Aha Pu_nana Leo Hawaiian language immersion From 50 to 10,000 speakers in just 20 years Total family commitment Language & culture curriculum Hawaiian medium schools & tracks within schools English at home, English as a subject of study. (Wilson, Kamana & Rawlins)



34 Kaugel First Language First program
Papua New Guinea Total family commitment Parents generated curriculum resources Availability of highly proficient speakers of the heritage mother tongue … who have some training and lots of energy to work with very young children!

35 Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin
Welsh-medium programs Nursery, infant-toddler playgroups, preschool Welsh-medium, English-medium, & bilingual schooling options Second language taught as subject of study Community commitment Government language-in-education policy support Political will – funding for children’s and parents’ rights to education in language of choice


37 Challenges & opportunities
Need multi-level commitments: Parents: to value their home language Aha Pu_nana Leo requires commitment from parents to learn the language & continue to seek schooling for their child in Hawaiian Preschools: to see mother tongue as a language for ‘school readiness’ Schools: to provide language streams for children to continue learning their mother tongue & IN their mother tongue *Government: to enshrine children’s right to learn in their mother tongue in policies, & invest in training, employment, curriculum development & schooling throughout primary school in the mother tongue

38 Training & employment Recruit, incentivize, & support mother tongue speakers as early learning practitioners, teachers, advisors Kaugel First Language First Program – involved parents & other community members

39 Curriculum Resource Development
Curriculum is living & made meaningful in specific cultural & linguistic frames of reference Translation vs. interpretation Cultural mediation is needed to create relevant, meaningful learning activities & materials Culturally based knowledge is embedded in the language Community involvement is vital!

40 Indigenous pedagogies
Not only what is taught but how Multi-literacies (oral, text-based, non-verbal) Computer-mediated learning activities need a cultural and pedagogical frame

41 What’s next? Need research documentation of learning outcomes of alternative mother tongue based EY programs Raise awareness of parents as children’s first language teachers & helping parents make informed decisions (e.g., Toronto School District: DVD “Value Your Language”) Computer generated curriculum resources developed collaboratively by linguistic interpreters, cultural mediators, early childhood practitioners, & community members. Advocacy with government to set language-in-education policies that support learning in & through children’s mother tongue.

42 UNESCO online library UNESCO (2008). Mother tongue instruction in early childhood education: A selected bibliography. Paris: UNESCO. UNESCO (2010). Educational equity for children from diverse backgrounds: Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in the early years: Literature Review.

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