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Monday, October 31, 2011

Myths on Mother Tongue Education

[Ihsan daripada Imran Mustafa dalam Nota Buku Wajah (Facebook) beliau]

In the name of God, most Gracious, most Merciful,

The following is an excerpt from a 2004 UNESCO document by Carole Benson entitled "The importance of mother tongue-based schooling for educational quality" that concerns the myths surrounding the usage of a mother tongue in education,

L1 = Mother tongue language
L2 = Foreign language

"Mother tongue-based bilingual schooling is seldom disputed on the basis of its pedagogical reasoning, and if decision-making were to be based solely on how to provide the highest quality education for the learner many more of the world’s languages would be used in education today. The structural challenges to implementation related to political decision-making have just been discussed; this section begins with some widely believed myths, then takes up more practical aspects of implementation.

The following myths and attitudes are regularly used to challenge use of mother tongues in education, yet their false arguments are easily revealed:

♦ The one nation—one language myth. The colonial concept that a nation-state requires a single unifying language has influenced policy-makers in many parts of the world, yet imposition of a so-called “neutral” foreign language has not necessarily resulted in unity, nor have relatively monolingual countries like Somalia, Burundi or Rwanda been guaranteed stability. In fact, government failure to accept ethnolinguistic
diversity has been a major destabilizing force in countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka (Ouane 2003).

♦ The myth that local languages cannot express modern concepts. Another colonial concept is the supposed inherent worth of European languages in contrast to others, but all human languages are equally able to express their speakers’ thoughts and can develop new terms and structures as needed. Léopold Senghor once illustrated this by translating Einstein’s Theory of Relativity into Wolof, a lingua franca of Senegal. The difference lies in which languages have historically been chosen for “intellectualization,” or development, through writing and publishing (Alexander 2003).

♦ The either-or myth. This myth holds that bilingualism causes confusion and that the first language must be pushed aside so that the second language can be learned. The research evidence to date shows the opposite to be true: the more highly developed the first language skills, the better the results in the second language, because language and cognition in the second build on the first (Cummins 1999, 2000; Ramirez et al. 1991; Thomas & Collier 2002). Further, there is no evidence that the L2 must be a medium of instruction to be learned well; countries like Sweden achieve high levels of L2 competence by teaching it as a subject and preserving the L1 for instruction.

♦ The L2 as global language myth. The foreign L2 is often seen as necessary for further education, work and other opportunities, yet as Phillipson (1992) points out this has not happened in a political vacuum but is the result of deliberate promotion by powerful countries or groups of their respective languages. Meanwhile, employment in the informal sector of low-income countries involves 50 percent or more of the population and is increasing, and primary schooling is still terminal for most. The vast majority will not be integrated into the global marketplace and will have little use for the L2 (Bruthiaux 2002).

♦ The myth that parents want L2-only schooling. The poorest and most marginalized are acutely aware that their access both to education and to the high-status language has been limited, and they have a right to expect the school to teach their children the same language that has benefited the elite. Undoubtedly parents will choose the L2 when presented with an either-or proposition; however, studies (see e.g. Heugh
2002) have shown that when parents are allowed to make an educated choice from appropriate options, they overwhelmingly opt for bilingual rather than all-L2 programs, and most bilingual program evaluations report high levels of community support (CAL 2001).

The attitudes reflected by these myths provide a background for understanding other more practical challenges of implementing mother tongue-based bilingual schooling."

Section 2.2 from

God knows best.

~Kembara Bahasa~
31 Oktober 2011/4 Zulhijah 1432

1 comment:

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