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Do We Expect Too Much of Bilingual Teachers? Bilingual Teaching in Developing Countries



Given the unique character of bilingual students and the programmes that support them, primary bilingual teaching is a challenging job in any country. However, bilingual teachers in developing contexts are especially challenged; they are often undertrained and underpaid, and must function in under-resourced schools with undernourished students. Meanwhile, they are expected to teach beginning literacy in the mother tongue, communicative language skills in the exogenous (ex-colonial) language, and curricular content in both, requiring that they be as bilingual and biliterate as possible. In addition, they must bridge the linguistic and cultural gap between home and school, become respected members of the community, and manage any opposition to educational use of the mother tongue. Using examples from Bolivia and Mozambique, developing countries from two different continents both of which are in the process of implementing bilingual programmes, this paper discusses the training needs of bilingual teachers as well as the built-in strengths they possess on which their training should capitalise. The outcomes of this discussion are a set of suggestions for alternative teaching models that could optimise teacher effectiveness in such contexts, as well as a template for a training curriculum that builds on teachers' strengths while addressing their weaknesses.
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Do We Expect Too Much of
Bilingual Teachers? Bilingual
Teaching in Developing
Carol Benson
Published online: 26 Mar 2010.
To cite this article: Carol Benson (2004) Do We Expect Too Much of
Bilingual Teachers? Bilingual Teaching in Developing Countries, International
Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 7:2-3, 204-221, DOI:
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Do We Expect Too Much of Bilingual
Teachers? Bilingual Teaching in
Developing Countries
Carol Benson
Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University, Sweden
Given the unique character of bilingual students and the programmes that support
them, primary bilingual teaching is a challenging job in any country. However,
bilingual teachers in developing contexts are especially challenged; they are often
undertrained and underpaid, and must function in under-resourced schools with
undernourished students. Meanwhile, they are expected to teach beginning literacy
in the mother tongue, communicative language skills in the exogenous (ex-colonial)
language, and curricular content in both, requiring that they be as bilingual and
biliterate as possible. In addition, they must bridge the linguistic and cultural gap
between home and school, become respected members of the community, and man-
age any opposition to educational use of the mother tongue. Using examples from
Bolivia and Mozambique, developing countries fr om two different continents both
of which are in the process of implementing bilingual programmes, this paper dis-
cusses the training needs of bilingual teachers as well as the built-in strengths they
possess on which their training should capitalise. The outcomes of this discussion
are a set of suggestions for alternative teaching models that could optimise teacher
effectivenes s in such context s, as well as a template for a training curriculum that
builds on teachers strengths while addressing t heir weaknesses.
bilingual education, bilingual teachers, teacher training, developing
countries, Bolivia, Mozamb ique
Most would a gree that bilingual teaching is more challenging than mono-
lingual teaching, given the unique character of bilingual s tudents and the pro-
grammes that support them. This paper discusses how even greater challenges
are faced by bilingual teachers who work in developing countries, where a
combination of factors related to poverty and complicated by former colonial
languages still make Education for All
an elusive goal. What are the demands
placed on bilingual teaching in these contexts, and how are they met? What
are the alternatives for optimising teacher effectiveness? This paper examines
the role of the bilingual teacher from the perspective of educational develop-
ment using examples from the author’s research and work in Bolivia and Moz-
ambique, both of which are in the process of undergoing reforms in favour
of bilingual, intercultural schooling. Based on ndings from these two con-
texts, the paper proposes teaching models and training programmes that may
be better suited to meeting the needs of teachers in multilingual developing
The following is a linguistic and educational snapshot of each country from
which examples will be drawn:
1367-0050/04/02 0204-18 $20.00/0
2004 C. Benson
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205Do We Expect Too Much of Bilingual Teachers?
is a multilingual A frican country of 15.5 million (World Bank,
2001) in which about three-quarters of the population speak one or more of
24 indigenous languages, and about one-quarter are speakers of Portuguese
as a rst, second or foreign language (Katupha, 1985). Portuguese is the ofcial
language of primary schooling, in which about 50% of the school-aged
population are currently enrolled (UNICEF, 1999). An estimated 56% of the
population lacks literacy skills (UNESCO, 2000).
is a multilingual South American country of about eight million, of
which an estimated 70% belong to one of 33 indigenous groups (Albo
, 1995;
oz, 1997). About one-third of the population are monolingual Spanish
speakers, and another 20% speak Spanish as a second language (Albo´ , 1995).
Spanish has traditionally been the only language of primary schooling, whose
enrollment is estimated at 60% in rural indigenous Andean regions (ETARE,
1993). UNESCO (2000) estimates overall illiteracy at about 15%, but rural
illiteracy rates among women, for example, are over 40% (INE, 1997).
As these brief descriptions illustrate, there is a mismatch between the langu-
age of the school and the language of the home. It is logical to assume that
if developing education systems are to reach entire populations with relevant,
understandable basic schooling, previously excluded languages and cultures
must be utilised to a greater extent. This is possible if the appropriate teaching
cadres can be cultivated and supported. The next section provides some back-
ground information regarding the implementation of bilingual schooling in
economically disadvantaged countries.
Implementing Bilingual Schooling in the Context of
School systems in poor countries are plagued by inequalities between urban
and rural areas, between elite and subordinate social gr oups, and between
boys and girls. In both Mozambique and Bolivia, some of the roots of
inequality lie in ethnolinguistic heritage, meaning the ethnic and speech com-
munity into which residents are born. This heritage determines not only the
child’s rs t language or languages but also the degree to which the child will
have access to t he language of the dominant group. In this situation, the
‘haves’ tend to be those who speak the prestige language, which is usually the
(exogenous) language of the former colonial power and the ofcial language of
governance and schooling. Mea nwhile, the ‘have-nots’ tend to be those whose
languages lack formal recognition
and whose access to the pr estige language
is limited, even if they themselves make up a numerical majority of the popu-
lation. All but a tiny minority of Mozambicans and three-quarters of Bolivians
are born into speech communities whose languages and cultures are not the
dominant ones. As Stroud (2002) points out in his state-of-the-art repo rt on
bilingual schooling in developing countries, parents and indeed most sectors
of society look to the school to provide children with ‘linguistic capital’,
meaning competence in the dominant language.
The task now facing economically dis advantaged countries is to develop
inclusive basic education systems that serve entire school-aged populations
with high-quality basic education. Whether or not this ed ucation includes
home languages and cultures, school reform requires large investments o f
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206 Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
capital that these countries have little chance of generating on their own. In
such contexts, ‘have-not’ schools already function under extremely adverse
conditions. For example, rural schools in Mozambique experience chronic ill-
ness and disease among students and teachers, lack of basic facilities such as
desks or even school buildings, short (t wo- to three-hour) school days, and
frequent school closures due to strikes by teachers who go unpaid for months
at a time (Benson, 2000; Palme, 1992). The Bolivian Andes are characterised
by low temperatures, meagre crop yields, inadequate sanitation and lack of
infrastructure, c ausing remote schools to suffer from the Wednesday teacher’
syndrome, where teachers commuting from larger towns miss all but the
middle of the school week due to lack of transportation, low salaries, illness,
administrative obligations, or politica l activities (d’Emilio, 2001; King &
Benson, 2004). In contexts like these, teachers must face challenging teaching
situations ranging from poorly attended, one-room multi-grade schoolhouses
to overloaded grade-level classrooms.
To this jo b, teachers bring precious little formal training. Some have
received preservice teacher training, which can last from one to four years
following primary or even some secondary education, a system that education
ministries usually supplement with some form of continuing (inservice) edu-
cation. A signicant proportion of teachers in developing contexts have
attended only fo ur to six years of primary schooling prior to their training;
for example, ve years ago the Mozambican Ministry of Education reported
that 75% of the primary teaching force was qualied’, but that most had 4+4
(four years of primary education plus four years of teacher training) or 6+1,
neither of which was considered sufcient (MINED, 1997: 21). Meanwhile,
unqualied teachers have various levels of formal schooling but lack peda-
gogical training, a problem which is discussed below in the Bolivian context.
Having little or no training means that teachers often lack opportunities to
gain competence in the dominant language. The majority of teachers in Moz-
ambique are no t mother-tongue speakers of Portuguese and a re therefore sub-
ject to what Hyltenstam and Stroud (1993: 99) have called linguistic insecur-
ity’ when they are expected to teach in that language. This has affected
relatively fewer teachers in Bolivia due to traditionally limited opportunities
for indigenous people to gain the level of fo rmal education required for them
to become teachers, but difculty with Spanish has indeed been identied as
a problem for bilingual teachers (Hyltenstam & Quick, 1996; see discussion
While physical and economic constraints must be addressed across sectors,
there is evidence tha t teaching and learning context s can be improved through
educational reform. The past 20 years have seen a resurgence of interest in
bilingual education in a number of developing countries, based o n ndings
from around the world. Some former British colonies can draw on their col-
onial experienc es with mother-tongue instruction as part of ‘separate’ school-
ing for indigenous peoples, the most bitter example of which was Bantu edu-
cation in South Africa under apartheid (Heugh, 2001). Spanish missionaries
in Latin America brought mother-tongue instr uction to religious pr actice and
often to schools (Albo´, 1995; Hyltenstam & Quick, 1996), providing some pre-
cedents for mother-tongue use. Some recent initiatives have come from within,
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207Do We Expect Too Much of Bilingual Teachers?
such as Nyerere’s historic promotion of public schooling in Kiswahili, a lingua
in Tanzania, bringing basic education to more citizens (Rubagumya,
1990). Other initiatives have come from outside, as donor agencies with
experience in educational development have begun to promote mother-tongue
instruction as a means to improve educational quality and equity (see e.g.
Dutcher, 1995; Sida, 2001). It was half a century ago that Unesco stated ‘It is
axiomatic that the best medium for teaching a child is his [or her] mother
tongue (1953: 11), yet implementation of bilingual programmes ha s not been
speedy. Like some of their neighbours have already done, both Mozambique
and Bolivia ar e currently undergoing reforms that address the importance of
the language of ins truction.
: With no documented precedents other than s ome literacy
work, a bilingual experiment known as PEBIMO
began in 1993, running for
5 years with UN and World Bank sponsorship. Monitored by the research
branch of the Ministry of Education, PEBIMO worked with four classes in
each of two different regions with the corresponding B antu languages
(Xichangana and Cinyanja) along with Portuguese over primary grades 1
through 5 (Benson, 2000, 2001). As part of a wide-scale curriculum reform,
bilingual programmes in up to 16 languages have been readied for implemen-
tation on a voluntary basis and slated to begin each year since 2000, nally
beginning as small-scale piloting in 2003 as part of a system-wide curricu-
lum reform.
: Scattered efforts in bilingual schooling grew mo re organised a fter
1983, when the political and social climate became more conducive to improv-
ing indigenous education’ (d’Emilio & A lbo´, 1991), and culminated in a large-
scale experiment known as PEIB
which had strong international funding,
technical support from the German organisation GTZ, and counterpart pro-
jects in Peru and Ecuador. PEIB operated from 1990 to 1994 in 140 schools
using three indigenous languages (Quechua, Aymara and Guaran
´) along with
Spanish over primary grades 1 through 5 (Mun
oz, 1997; UNICEF, 1998). Find-
ings from the experiment fed into the Educational Reform Law of 1994, which
calls for the introduction of all indigenous languages into primary bilingual
schooling and includes interculturalism in the curriculum to increase under-
standing and tolerance between ethnolinguistic groups (Hornberger, 2002).
This highly innovative reform policy is undergoing gradual, countrywide
implementation but faces many challenges (see King & Benson, 2004) and
practically speaking has yet to reach many of the most needy regions.
The next section explores the demands put on bilingual teachers in
developing countries and the degree to which they are equipped to meet the
challenges, based on evidence from Bolivia and Mozambique. The discussion
of how bilingual teachers cope is organised according to the different roles
they may be expected to play in carrying out their work.
Demands Put on Bilingual Teachers in Developing Contexts
At rst glance, the challenges fa ced by bilingual teachers in Bolivia or Moz-
ambique are not much different than those experienced by bilingual teachers
worldwide; they must take on various roles such as that of pedagogue, lingu-
ist, innovator, intercultural communicator, community member, and even
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208 Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
advocate of bilingual programmes. However, through this closer inspection
of the Bolivian and Mozambican cases, readers from economically advantaged
countries will see that the demands on bilingual teachers in developing coun-
tries are heavier and t heir preparation to meet those demands less adequate
in some cases, yet more adequate in others. Beginning with the roles that I
believe are most challenging in developing contexts, this section explores the
demands along with the varying degrees to which bilingual teachers are
equipped to meet them, all of which have implications for the training t hese
teachers require.
Like their counterparts elsewhere, primary bilingual teachers in developing
countries are normally expected to teach all subjects and to be bilingual, so
that students can be taught in both the mother tongue (L1) and the ofcial
language (L2 or foreign language, depending on the extent of its use outside
Like other teachers in their school s ystems , bilingual teachers tend
to bring little formal training to the task, though they have years of work as
well as their own experience as students in L2 submersion-type schooling,
where use of the mother tongue has traditionally been prohibited or considered
shameful, and where students have to ‘sin k or swim’ through repetition and
memorisation (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1981). Teachers who are products of sub-
mersion do not have models to imitate in ter ms of teaching L1 literacy or
helping students gain commun icative competence in the L2 so that L1 literacy
skills can be transfer red (a s per Cummins, 1999). Some, especially those who
have taught adult literacy in the mother tongue, seem to develop an instinctive
understanding o f how L1 literacy is learned, while others continue to use
L2 r ecitation punctuated by Do you understand?’/’Yeeesss’ exchanges (see
Hornberger & Chick, 2001 for an illustrative comparative view of South
African and Peruvian classrooms) or what I call unsystematic codeswitching,
i.e. bouncing between the L1 and L2 without clear goals (Benson, 2001). In
short, there is a need to develop effective strategies for managing both
languages in the classroom.
: The eight teachers in the PEBIMO project had an a verage of
17 years of experience in all-Portuguese primary schools and received two
weeks of training prior to each school year. When my colleagues and I
observed them for a project evaluation 5 years after the experiment had begun,
we found that they tended to rely on submersion-type practices even where
use of the mother tongue should have rendered such practices unnecessary.
For example, even though bilingual teachers effecti vely taught phonics and
discussed text themes in the L1, they read L1 texts aloud themselves before
allowing student s to ‘read’ after them, just as they had done with texts in
Portuguese when few understood. In addition, L2 Portuguese was sti ll ‘taught’
through lecturing and memorisation. In our interviews with the teachers, all
of them requested more training in language didactics. Their supervisors
complained about tea chers’ inability to apply L2 methods, but there was no
evidence that these methods were fully understood by supervisors or trainers.
For example, one PEBIMO manual instructed teachers to demand that stu-
dents speak Portuguese ‘loudly and individually’, ‘construct complete sen-
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209Do We Expect Too Much of Bilingual Teachers?
tences’, and ‘repeat the constructed sentences frequently to memorise them’
(Benson, 2001), revealing an orientation toward reciting error-free language
rather than practising communicative competence.
: At an early stage of implementation of the Bolivian Reform, a Swed-
ish fact-nding mission questioned the ability of bilingual teachers to ‘guaran-
tee an adequate conceptualisation of bilingual education’ because of their links
to the ideology of castellanisation (Hyltenstam & Quick, 1996: 11), referring
to teachers’ long-standing role in the process of making students more Span-
ish’ linguistically and culturally. A few years later, Vice-Minister Amalia
Anaya, who was supervising the Reform, admitted that teachers had not
received sufcient training to apply new techniques, so that as soon as they
experienced doubts about the unknown good’ they regress ed to the ‘known
bad’ (Archondo, 1999: 43, my translation). Local classroom researchers have
noted that appropriate use of the mother tongue has been blocked, for
example, by the means by which materials have been developed; according to
et al
. (1999), L1 reading texts based on translations of Spanish language
materials have led to problems such as the teaching of eight-syllable Aymara
words in the rst unit of the rst module. Working at the central level, Moya
(1999) and other technical assistants including myself (Ostro
et al
., 2001)
have expressed concern regarding a disagreement among Reform pers onnel
over whether the same set of Spanish materials can be used for native speakers
and second language learners, indicating general lack of experience with
second language methodology even at the central level (King & Benson, 2004).
Bilingual personnel with whom I worked in 2001 were busy writing sup-
plementary materials for the bilingual teachers, who they felt would be unable
without extensive training to make use of the materials to teach Spanish as a
second language.
These examples highlight the need fo r teacher training that includes langu-
age learning theory as well as demonstrating language teaching methods so
that effective pr actices are modelled and experienced. The leap from knowl-
edge to application of knowledge needs to be a ssisted, as per Vygotsky (as
explained in Baker, 2001). This also implies that teacher trainers and curricu-
lum devel opers need to be better prepared, since they cannot be expected to
teach or write about bilingual methods they have never experienced them-
selves. Providing didactic inputs at all levels will therefore support the
bilingual teacher in the role of pedagogue.
As mentioned above, teachers of bilingual classes must be bilingual, mean-
ing reasonably procient in both languages. They must also be biliterate (as
per Ho rnberger, 2002) so that they can teach reading and w riting skills as
well as curricular content in both languages. Of course, biliteracy is a lso a
requirement in economically developed countries, but it is a skill that more
teachers bring with them to the profession. In developing contexts, bilingual
teachers normally come from the same ethnolinguistic group as their students,
since it is ra re for those who speak the exogenous language as an L1 to learn
an indigenous language as an L2. What further sets these teachers apart from
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210 Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
their colleagues in rich countries is their historic lack of opportunity to become
procient in the L1 in written form and the L2 in spoken form.
To develop literacy in t heir own mother tongues, bilingual teachers can
fortunately benet from transfer of literacy skills between languages (as per
Cummins, 1999), albeit ‘backwards’ since they have been formally educated
in the L2. Bilingual teacher training programmes in which I have been
involved have devoted relatively little time to mother-tongue development,
as it is often seen simply as a matter of learning orthographic representations
of the L1 where they are different from those of the exogenous language.
However, teachers need to develop a ‘pedagogical vocabulary’ so that school-
related themes and all subject disciplines can be discussed comfortably in the
L1, something they are rarely accustomed to doing.
As for teachers’ own communicative competence in the L2, submersion-type
schooling is clearly not the best way to achieve it, as decades of practice in
developing contexts have demonstrated. The brief linguistic descriptions of
both countries provided above attest to the extent to which access to ex-
colonial languages has been limited , whether by lack of effective schooling or
by lack of schooling itself, and bilingual teachers are themselves subject to
these limitations.
: Bilingual teachers were chosen for the experiment based on
having solid teaching experience in the all-Portuguese system, as mentioned
above, a long with demonstrated literacy skills and interest in th eir mother
tongues. Their varied levels of L1 literacy ca me from contact with missionaries
or with adult literacy campaigns using different orthographic conventions, so
their main task was to learn the standardised forms being promoted by an
organisation of university linguists (NELIMO, 1989). Regarding their L2 skills,
even these specially selected teachers, like those studied by Hyltenstam and
Stroud, experienced ‘a great deal of anxiety and linguistic insecurity in their
encounter with the Portugues e
used in schools’ due to lack of prociency in
and contact with the language (1993: 99). Four of the seven expressed concern
regarding their levels of Portuguese as their students developed, and by grade
5 two relied on their colleagues for the L2 portion of the curriculum
(Benson, 2001).
: Due in part to long-term support of teacher training by GTZ, begin-
ning with the international programme in Puno, Peru in the 1980s and con-
tinuing up to present with the Master’s programme in Bilingual Intercultural
Education at the University of San Simo
n in Cochabamba, Bolivia, there seem s
to be a critical mass of teacher trainers and resource people such as linguists
who are procient in the three major indigenous languages of the Reform. A
study by Albo´ (1995) revealed that in Andean regions with Quechua- and
Aymara-speaking communities, most teachers have the appropriate L1 back-
grounds, w hile in the Amazon region a minority of teachers speak their stu-
dents’ mother tongues. Unfortunately, faulty teacher placement plagues some
districts; for example, a study by Urzagaste (1999) found that a number of
speakers of other languages have been working in Quechua-speaking areas,
along with Quechua-speaking teachers who are not sufciently literate in Que-
chua. In addition, a severe shortage of trained bilingual teachers has resulted
in the widespread employment of
, or untrained provisional teachers.
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211Do We Expect Too Much of Bilingual Teachers?
These interinos are typically secondary school leavers and monolingual in
Spanish, and they are sent to the most remote and least desirable schools,
which not coincidentally are where there is most need for mother-tongue
instruction in indigenous languages (Salinas
et al
., 2001).
These examples imply that written and verbal competence in both the L1
and the L2 should be developed thr ough teacher training. As suggested by
Stroud (2002) in his review of bilingual programmes, a s much of the training
as possible should be done in the L1 so that the required pedagogical vocabu-
lary is agreed upon and put into practice. L2 skills should be developed as
needed both t hrough direct instruction and practice in L2 teaching methods.
In addition, there should be some consideration of the ‘target’ variety of the L2
where the local variety differ s considerably from the European native speaker
‘standard (Hyltensta m & Stroud, 1993; Stroud, 2002). Development of verbal
and written competence in both of the languages used in the programme will
support the bilingual teacher in the role of linguist.
Intercultural communicator
Bilingual teachers in developing countries, again like their counterparts else-
where, are expected to bridge the home-school culture gap. This gap is com-
mon in many contexts (see Ogbu, 1997), but schools in developing countries
can be particularly alien and alienating. Moumouni has des cribed African
schools as those which ‘destroy cultural values and personality and produce
[people] who are foreigners in their own society (1975: 65). Ignorance of the
home language and culture, according to Okonkwo, has ‘often r esulted in
educational programmes with only marginal success at teaching anything
except self-depreciation (1983: 377). Similarly, the express purpose of co lonial-
style education in the Bolivian context has long been ‘castellanisation or
assimilation of indigenous peoples into the Spanish language and culture
(ETARE, 1993).
Bilingual, intercultural programmes have the potential to combat these
destructive forces by promoting the home culture while teaching the second
culture explicitly, and bilingual teachers are sometimes uniquely placed to
make this instruction effective. As mentioned above, most bilingual teachers
in develo ping countries come from the same ethnolinguistic group as their
students, and many are literally from the same communities. This means that
teachers and students automatically share a set of understandings upon which
they can build in negotiating between home and school cultures. Bridging the
gap may not always come naturally to teachers since, as mentioned above,
they themselves have gone through an alienating s chool system which has
not prepared them to tailor schooling to their students’ needs. However, most
bilingual teachers nd that merely by s peaking a language that students and
their parents understand, a closer and more understanding relationship
develops. In addition, mother-tongue use in the ofcial context of school elev-
ates its status and usefulness in the eyes of both speakers and non-speakers
alike, which has the potential to improve so cial relations and political partici-
pation as wel l as education (Benson, 2000, 2002b).
: Our observations of 64 bilingual and all-Portuguese ‘control’
classes in 1997 demonstrated that bilingual teachers had developed familial-
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212 Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
type relations with their students and called them by their rst names rather
than by last names or student numbers as done in ‘control classes. One Chan-
gana teacher even used his students’ home names instead of the Portuguese
names they had adopted when they enrolled in school (Benson, 20 01).
Bilingual students in one community handed in homework papers by support-
ing the right arm with the left, showing respect for the teacher as they would
an elder from the community. This consistency of values between home and
school was greatly appreciated by parents; in response to an open question
regarding bilingual schooling, fully half of the 105 parents and guardians
interviewed said that
(valorising or valuing) of their language and
culture was an important benet (Benson, 2001).
: Parent tes timo nies collected by d’Emilio demonstrate a similar satis-
faction with the PEIB experiment. One Guaran
´-speaking mother told d’Emilio
that children ‘h ave to know our culture, our language, so that the culture of
our grandparents is not lost. Tha ts why I think…that Guaran
should continue
and that they keep studying it past fth grade, that they become more
bilingual (2001: 53). An Aymara-speaking father contrasted bilingual inter-
cultural education (EIB) with colonial-style schooling:
In my time we were very afraid of the teacher, unlike with EIB, the
children share experiences with the teachers. They come to school con-
dent and happy…Before this horizontal relationship with the teachers
did not occur, [but now] there is no fear. (d’Emilio, 2001: 51)
These shared understandings can be m axim ised by training teachers to look
for ways to bring the home culture into the classroom, including use of parents
and community members to share local knowledge and skills (as exemplied
in Heath, 1983). Cummins (2000), Genesee and his contributors (1994), and
many others have argued that the rst culture should be valued in the class-
room, and the second culture should be taught explicitly, so that students can
express themselves and cope in both langua ges and cultures. Helping teachers
to acquire a reper toire of methods and activities for developing cultural inter-
action will support them in the role of intercultural communicator.
Community member
In many developing contexts, especially African ones, there is a history of
placing primary teachers in areas where they do not speak the language so
that they are forced to use the school language with their students and the
community. This has not always worked the way of colonial thinking,
especially where a lingua franca has been present or where teachers have been
able to learn other indigenous languages; however, in ma ny cases it has cre-
ated a certain distance between the teacher and the community, making cer-
tain abuses possible. Teachers as civil servants and representatives of the pres-
tige language and culture have sometimes taken advantage of their position,
requiring for example that students work in t heir personal gardens or
exchange m oney or sex for passing grades (see e.g. Sida, 2001).
The mere act of bringing the community language into the school makes
the school, the teacher and the curriculum more accessible and under standable
to all. This demystication of the school means that parent s can and do
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213Do We Expect Too Much of Bilingual Teachers?
approach the bilingual teacher to do things like ask for information regarding
their children’s progress or offer support, in situations where there was vir-
tually no communication before. Likewise, the teacher can approach the par-
ents, leading to a closer and more productive relationship and more likelihood
that the home and school will both support children’s learning; this is a widely
cited factor in successful bilingual programmes (Cummins, 2000; Dutcher,
1995). It is also likely that the bilingual teacher will become more subjec t to
social control, which potentially combats abuse. In addition, bilingual teachers
are less likely to judge students or generalise if they know the families. For
example, bilingual teachers are less likely to generalise that all girls are less
able, a common myth, because they have more evidence of what students can
do both at home and in school. This may have real benets for students from
marginalised groups and especially for girls, who have been discriminated
against in a variety of wa ys in traditional classrooms (Benson, 2002a).
: Parents initially resi sted the experiment, partly because their
children were selected without their knowledge or approval, and partly
because Portuguese was not introduced until the second year. However, our
1997 interviews found that virtually every parent or guardi an w as pleased
with the bilingual schooling his or her children were receiving; most parents
also felt the bilingual teachers were good representatives of their language,
culture and com munity (Benson, 2001). All PEBIMO teachers knew their stu-
dents’ parents and fa cilita ted our interviews, and the Xichangana classes even
beneted from the spontaneous creation of a parent group that actively sup-
ported bilingual teachers and organised eld trips and parties for the students.
There were strong indicators that bilingual students beneted academically
from this closer-than -normal relationship between school and home; for
example, bilingual students had higher passing rates than the national aver-
ages, which after controlling for other factors was thought to result from
improved performance due to use of the mother tongue, or at least improved
teacher awareness of student performance (Benson, 2001). There were also
indications that positive forces were at work to help girls in school: relatively
equivalent proportions of girls and boys were originally enrolled in the experi-
ment, unlike in the national system where fewer girls started school, and
bilingual girls remained in school longer with less repetit ion than girls in the
‘control’ classes and nationally (Benson, 2002a).
: A wide-scale study of the PEIB programme found that ‘ the rural
indigenous co mmunity has built up a feeling of solidarity with the bilingual
school’, which in turn has been ‘reinterpreted and appropriated as a resource
for development of the community’ (Mun
oz, 1 997: 112, my translation).
oz continues that the vertical relationship between teachers and parents
has transitioned into a more participatory type of interaction (1997). There are
more recent indications that this relationship has produced results; for
example, 5 years after the Reform bega n, a study done in two Quechua-
speaking departments reported the notable success of bilingual schools in
improving overall attendance (Urzagaste, 1999: 145), which is a good indicator
of parent support. Despite continued use of traditional methods, parents and
school personnel told Urzagaste that bilingual schooling ‘strengthens student
self-esteem [and] enables identication with their culture, co ntext and people’
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214 Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
(1999: 157, my translation). The same thing has been heard in other regions
of Bolivia, like the Aymara father who said simply, ‘The teachers are good
and the children are very fond of the school, t he children trust the teacher’
(d’Emilio, 2001: 51), indicating a degree of trust on the part of parents as well.
Teacher training programmes could very well include discussions of the
teacher’s role in the community. If teachers see parent involvement as helpful
and impo rtant in building cooperative support for student learning, they are
more likely to capitalise on t heir communication with parents. Discussion of
how to cultivate productive relationships with students, their families a nd
their communities will support the bilingual teacher in the role of com-
munity member.
In societal contexts where the exogenous language constitutes unquestioned
linguistic ‘capital’, pa rents and communities as well as policy-makers are often
more certain of the im porta nce of the ex-c olonial language and culture than
they are of th e mother tongue and home culture. Bilingual teachers them selves
may be ambivalent regarding the plac e of the L1 in formal schooling, having
been exposed to hundreds of years of colonial thinking about the lack of value
of indigenous languages and cultures (see Callewaert, 1998 for a colourful
account of ‘decolonising the mind’ of the Namibian teacher). Like the rest of
society they have been exposed to other language myths, such as the idea that
the home la nguage (and culture) must be pushed aside to make space/time
for the new language. Lack of sufcient information and training may leave
teachers without an understanding of the pedagogical and linguistic bases for
bilingual teaching; for example, the idea that develo ping L1 skills will facilitate
acquisition of the L2 (Cummins, 1999; as demonstrated by longitudinal studies
such as Ramirez
et al
., 1991; Thomas & Collier, 2002) is admittedly somewhat
counter-intuitive and must be explained or experienced.
What does ‘sell’ bilingual s chooling to participants are the kinds of relation-
ships promoted by bilingual programmes, along with the evidence in terms
of student learning and other positive effects, some of which are discussed
here. Bilingual teachers are often the rst to see results, and to hear about
them from parents and community members. These results, while at times
difcult to quantify for decision-makers, are nevertheless real to those who
experience them. Most bilingual teachers w ho have seen programmes function
for their students are highly effective advocates for these programmes when
policy-makers or less experienced outsiders question them.
The PEBIMO teachers were overwhelmingly pos itive about use
of the mother to ngue, which they felt ‘facilitated both teaching and learning
by making communication possible’ (Benson, 2000: 158). They proudly dem-
onstrated children’s ability to read L1 texts and write their own thoughts on
the board or in their notebooks, a process that had been stunt ed when children
were supposed to read and write in Po rtuguese without understanding, which
was how all of the bilingual teachers had previously taught. By the time stu-
dents were in Grade 5, teachers had also gotten a lot of positive feedback from
parents regarding the value of reading, writing a nd counting in both langu-
ages (Benson, 2001). Throughout the programme, PEBIMO teachers were
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215Do We Expect Too Much of Bilingual Teachers?
instrumental in informing and gaining the support of regional and provincial
education authorities, as well as communicating with parents about what was
being taught and why. This information helped create a demand for post-
experimental bilingual schooling in both regions, where families were
reported to have taken in children from relatives or friends in anticipa tion of
their being able to attend bilingual classes in those regions (Benson, 2000).
: Through the Reform, bilingual schooling has been implemented
incrementally but has not always been preceded by information to the com-
munity. This lack of information has resulted in
or pockets of resist-
ance, particularly on the part of parents, the main argument being the need for
children who spea k indigenous languages to learn Spanish. It is the bilingual
teachers who meet with co mmunity leaders on a regular basis and form the
front line of defence; however, those who lack experience require support.
This support comes in the form of the
asesores pedago
or local teacher
trainers, most of whom are former PEIB teachers, who have been instrumental
in disseminating information and making parents aware of the benets of
bilingual schooling. Urzagastes eld study fo und that the
had excel-
lent relations with parents based on their linguistically and cult urally appro-
priate participation in community meetings, and that most parents came to
support bilingual schooling ‘as long as L2 Spanish instruction was also pro-
moted’ (1999: 150, my translation).
For teachers to be effectiv e advocates, they require information and evi-
dence regarding how and why bilingual programmes work. Wherever poss-
ible, they should participate in s tudy visits or practical internships at func-
tioning bilingual schools, perhaps even travelling across national borders.
Alternatively, staff, parents and even students from bilingual pro grammes
could be brought to spea k to teacher trainees regarding their experiences. In
addition, teachers should learn about ways in which bilingual students and
programmes can be evaluated to investigate the wide range of potential bene-
ts bilingual programmes bring; clearly test scores are not the only means for
determining success, and qualitative factors can be important. Finally, access
to international studies and information about bilingual schooling could also
support the bilingual teacher in the role of advocate.
Summary of the Implica tions
The implications of this discussion can be organised into a number of rec-
ommendations regarding the training of bilingual teachers in developing
countries, which should ideally capitalise on their strengths while addressing
their needs. This training in turn inuences the type of preparation needed
by teacher trainers and other bilingual professionals so that they can support
bilingual teaching.
The following are suggested elements fo r an effective bilingual teacher train-
ing curriculum:
(1) First and second language learning theory;
(2) Modelling of rst and second language teaching methods (oral and
(3) Modelling of methods for intercultural instruction;
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216 Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
(4) L2 verbal a nd literacy skills;
(5) L1 verbal a nd literacy skills, including pedagogical vocabulary;
(6) Language and programme assessment, including international studies of
bilingual schooling, m odels and evaluations;
(7) Study visits and/or practical internships at functioning bilingual schools;
(8) Collaboration with parents and community members.
Regarding the training itself, there are indications that the L1 should be used
for actual instruction during a signicant portion of the training to promote
pedagogical vocabulary and concept development. It is also clear that teacher
trainers, curr iculum developers and other professionals need to receive
adequate orientation to perform their tasks in line wi th the curriculum sug-
gested above. Finally, there should be some consideration at the policy level
of which variety of the L2, the local variety or the European standard’, or
both, should be used in developing instructional materials and at which levels.
The n al section suggests possible alternatives to current practices in a n
attempt to address challenges faced by bilingual teachers in dev eloping coun-
tries. There are some measures that could be taken immediately to address the
most pressing pedagogical demands put on teachers in such difcult contexts.
Alternative Models and Proposals
As demonstrated by the examples from Bolivia and Mozambique, while
some demands are effectively met by bilingual teacher s, there are still a num-
ber of challenges to be faced. Thinking creatively and outside of a colonial
frame of r eference could help developing countries avoid placing unrealistic
demands on their bilingual teachers. Team teaching and scheduling language
use are two options that could be implemented at any time, while new
approaches to teacher education would require more planning.
The rst proposal is to nally break the mould for the one teacher–one
classroom model, which may be just as outdated as the one nation–one langu-
age concept. Coordination between teachers at any one school would optimise
individual strengths and put the best available person for the job in front of
the students. Applied to the languages in a bilingual programme, this means
assigning the teacher with the best second language skills (and ho pefully an
accompanying motivation to teach them to others) to do all of the L2 teaching
across classes; meanwhile, another teacher specialises in teaching L1 less ons.
This alternative could be effective for a number of reasons, since it functions
within the existing teacher pool, allows for students to identify certain teachers
with certain languages (see Baker, 2001 on simulating the one parent, one
language’ system), saves lesson planning time, and makes inservice training
more efcient by directing certain courses toward certain teac hers. Admit-
tedly, high teacher turnover would complicate this alternative practice, as
tasks and schedules would have t o be renegotia ted after each transfer, but
once a school developed its routines, new teachers could be incorporated
more readily.
Other models that have been us ed in established bilingual programmes (as
per Baker, 2001) are the use of classroom aides, pair teaching and team teach-
ing. Classroom aides, if used creatively, can support teachers who do not have
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217Do We Expect Too Much of Bilingual Teachers?
sufcient skills in the mother tongue of the students (see Plu
et al
2000 regarding productive use of parents in this role in some South African
schools). The usual dif culties must be confronted, e.g. lack of pedagogic al
training and lack of opportunities for job advancement for aides, but this could
be an important step if the status quo leaves untrained provisional teachers
alone with their classes, since aides wo rk in cooperation with tra ined teachers.
Another option is pair teaching as practised in the US, for example, wh ich
allows two teachers to capitalise on their relative strengths by teaching the
subjects they know best and trading whole classes or groups of students as
needed. This has been effectively used in bilingual programmes where the
two teachers are procient speakers of the students’ L1 and L2. A further
option in this category of reorganising teaching is wor k teams (
) as
used in Sweden, for example, where subject teachers, mother-tongue teachers
and second-language teachers coordinate their efforts to teach theme-based
units where each provides part of the knowledge and skills base.
If teachers cannot be exchanged, or if there is only one teacher per school,
the different languages ca n be scheduled in such a way as to promote langu-
age acquisition and prevent less effective practices such as unsystematic code-
switching. Alternatives suggested by various bilingual programmes are the
alternate day or parallel language models (as per Baker, 2001). Both could
help teachers organise instruction more effectively, and neither would cost
much more than time for planning at the school, regional or national levels.
Separation o f languages by subject, by day or by time of day would help
teachers and students know which language to work in at any given time,
and contribute to a planned curriculum where the L2 is introduced gradually
at a level-appropriate pace into new subject instruction, for example.
Thinking outside of a colonial frame is something we could all benet from,
but in multilingual societies the next recommendation regarding teacher edu-
cation is arguably even more valid. As Hornberger explains, the paradox is
to ‘transform a standardising education into a diversifying one’ (2002: 30). If
we have ind eed rejected assimilation and submersion methods, if we ac tually
recognise that the monolingual, monocultural classroom is a relic of the past
(if it ever existed at all), and if we truly wish to create pluralistic societies full
of bilingual and biliterate people, why is there any monolingual or monocultu-
ral teacher training? Multilingualism was a problem for the colonisers, but it
is arguably a resource in a global world. All teacher trainees, not just
‘bilingual ones, could be learning strategies for working in students’ rst and
second languages. All teacher trainees could be developing skills in intercul-
turalism, a nd all teacher trainees could be learning how to promote biliteracy
as a desirable outcome of t he curriculum for all students.
Such a teacher training curriculum could include a strong foundation in
theories and methodologies of language development (L1, L2, and beyo nd)
since language is an integra l part of teaching in all subjects. The curriculum
could also include studies of various bilingual schooling models, teaming and
scheduling alternatives as mentioned above. Another theme could be trans-
formative pedagogy (Cummins, 2000), where students are empowered to take
control of their own learning a s well as their own lives. Finally, the curriculum
could include alternative measures of programme effectiveness, so that
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218 Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
language attitudes and identity questions (see e.g. Cummins’ perspective on
empowerment) are seen as no less important than test scores. Future teachers
with this kind of t raining will know how to advocate for relevant and effective
schooling programmes, and will know how to talk to parents about their chil-
drens skills and experiences. They will see children’s languages and cultures
as resources in the classroom, and will know how to develop these resources
to their full potential. This type of programme could help to address many
of the needs in developing contexts and serve as a model for the rest of us
as well.
Any correspondence sho uld be directed to Carol Benson, Centre for
Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University, Sweden (Carol.benson@
1. The 1990 World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thaila nd (see Sida ,
2001) called for increasing access to basic education, with the goal of serving 1 00
percent of countries’ respective school-aged populations. Since then, the mandate
has been extended to transforming ex-colonial curricula with the goal of improving
educational quality and thus student success rates.
2. Even where there have been legislative efforts to provide ‘national’ or even ‘ofcial
status to indigenous languages, exogenous languages have retained their dominance
due to what Alexander (20 00: 10) calls in the African context ‘debilitating la nguage
attitudes…reinforced by the political economy of the neo-colonial state’.
3. A lingua franca is a language of wider communication (LWC) that is usually spoken
as a rst or seco nd language by a large segment of the population ( Appel &
Muysken, 1987 ).
4. PEBIMO stands for
Projeto de Escolarizac¸a
o Bilingue em Moc¸ambique
or Bilingual
Schooling Project in Mozambique.
5. PEIB stands for
Proyecto de Educacion Intercultural Bilingu¨e
or Bilingual Intercultural
Education Project.
6. Though only two langu ages are used as ex amples here, the linguistic situation is
often more complex. Many countries with LWCs such as Tanzania (with Kiswahili)
or Malawi (with Chichewa) educate children in ‘close’ second languages, a practice
which has mixed results but may be a reasonable compromise given limited
resources (see also Benson, 2003 regarding use of a creole in Guinea-Bissau).
7. A further complication in the case of Mozambique is the traditional reliance of the
curriculum on the European Portuguese standard rather than the variety of Portug-
uese spoken locally (see Stroud & Gonc¸a lves, 1997).
8. This may be easier to operationalise than it seems. For exa mple, the Mozambican
experiment b eneted from cross-border collaboration with South Africa (for Xichan-
gana, also known as Xitsonga) and Malawi (for Cinyanja, also known as Chichewa),
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World Bank (2001) World Development Indicators database. Website address:
Downloaded by [Teachers College] at 09:03 31 March 2015
... Wijesekera et al. (2019) based on a study conducted in bilingual classrooms in Sri Lanka argue that BE can be used by the teachers to promote more inclusive and 'supraethnic' identities among learners. Benson (2002Benson ( , 2004 observes that BE in developing countries indicates encouraging development efforts in improving participation in primary education and learning processes. However, the teachers in those countries work in challenging contexts, which constitute undertrained and underpaid teachers, under-resourced schools and undernourished children (Benson, 2004). ...
... Benson (2002Benson ( , 2004 observes that BE in developing countries indicates encouraging development efforts in improving participation in primary education and learning processes. However, the teachers in those countries work in challenging contexts, which constitute undertrained and underpaid teachers, under-resourced schools and undernourished children (Benson, 2004). Studies conducted in Sri Lanka (Wickremagamage et al., 2010;Karunakaran, 2011;World Bank, 2011;Perera, 2014) also indicate comparable challenges for successful implementation of BE at the junior secondary level. ...
... The lack of classroom facilities and other resources, the lack of adequate support and guidance for teachers from school and other levels of educational authorities to solve the context-based problems (for example lack of adequate permanent space to conduct bilingual classes) aggravate the situation. The challenges faced by teachers are comparable to those in developing countries where BE teachers work in challenging contexts, which are characterized by the presence of "undertrained and underpaid teachers, under-resourced schools and under-nourished children" (Benson, 2004). ...
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The purpose of this qualitative case study is to understand the challenges for implementing Bilingual Education (BE) at the junior secondary level of education in Sri Lanka from the perspective of students and teachers. Six bilingual teachers and 30 students from Grades 6 and 8 of a selected school participated in the study. Focus Group Interviews (FGI) with the students and semi-structured interviews with the teachers were used to generate data. It has emerged in the analysis that both teachers and students face many challenges and issues in teaching, learning and assessments in their classrooms mainly due to lack of adequate and appropriate physical and human resources and the lack of necessary support from school and other educational authorities. Teachers with limited experience and training in BE had to face many difficulties in teaching and assessment of students due to the lack of enough L2 proficiency among their learners. Students, in turn, face challenges in learning and assessments due to the lack of necessary basic skills in L2 and support from their teachers, peers and home environments as well as self-learning skills. In conclusion, we argue that since BE is beneficial to both individuals and society, it needs to be expanded and further developed to enhance equity, inclusivity, quality of education, and capacity for lifelong learning among learners. Moreover, we argue that for successful implementation of BE, teachers and students should be adequately supported through a 'try level engagement' approach to education reforms. Keywords: Bilingual education, Education reforms, Junior secondary level, Student and teacher perspectives, Teaching and learning
... Although the public primary school teachers may be bilingual with regard to their functional proficiencies in English and Sindhi/Urdu, Channa (2014) found that they were not highly confident about their English proficiency and thought they were unable to teach in the English medium. The teachers in the Sindh province have the same problems as Benson (2004) discussed in the contexts of Mozambique and Bolivia. ...
... The findings in cases such as Vietnam (Nguyen, 2011), Bangladesh (Hamid, 2010), Taiwan (Chen, 2011), and Nepal (Phyak, 2011) may be relevant examples for the context of Sindh. The scholars in language planning, such as Baldauf, Kaplan, Kamwangamalu, and Bryant (2011), Kaplan et al. (2011), Benson (2004, Canagarajah (2005), Hayes (2017), Menken and Garcia (2010), and Tollefson and Tsui (2004), have all recommended that the Pakistani policy-makers reconsider the issues and align the aforementioned perceptions with the latest research in the field. ...
... With currently poor school infrastructure and underqualified English teachers, the CLIL policy appears a dream. Moreover, by drawing on Benson (2004), we highly recommend that the most important factors of CLIL theory, such as providing capable, bilingually proficient teachers and standardized pre-service and in-service training mechanisms and curricula, must be established in Sindh so that the province could be able to streamline the policies being implemented before executing the new policy related to the English-medium mandate. ...
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The National Education Policy 2009 of Pakistan designated English for two important roles in the government schools of Pakistan: English be taught as a compulsory subject from Grade 1; and also English be used as the medium of instruction for science and mathematics from Grade 4. This article analyzes the effect of embracing the English-medium mandate in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Using content and language integrated learning theory, the article shows that Sindh will experience a late partial bilingual education model. However, the article contends that the model will not be effective due to the lack of adequate resources and current poor performance of Sindh’s public education system. This article presents recommendations for sustainable policy formation regarding the role of English in Pakistani public education in the context of UNESCO’s Dakar Declaration, Education for All, and the Millennium Development Goals.
... Successful integration of NLs in the classroom in poor literacy environments, depends on teacher and pupil access to TLMs in NLs (Benson, 2004;Terra, 2018;UNESCO, 2013). Highquality TLMs in a language pupils can understand are most important in low-income contexts where reading material is rare GEM (2016, p.6). Schools are the main source of reading materials for children in literacy poor environments, especially where publishing in NL is rare. ...
... In an experiment in Kenya where textbooks were provided to some pupils in the exogenous language, their learning did not improve compared to those without books (UNESCO, 2013). Benson (2004) reports from Bolivia that a fundamental lack of understanding of different pedagogies required to teach mother tongue and second languages, by reformers writing the materials, resulted in poor quality TLMs that were blocking the successful implementation of MLE. She suggests that more work needs to take place up-stream to provide teachers, at the chalkface, with timely, high-quality support. ...
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Using a qualitative research method to carry out seven semi-structured interviews, this study explores teachers’ perspectives on the role of national and former colonial languages in primary education. Senegal provides an interesting case to study the introduction of indigenous language policies in primary education because the Senegalese government has been experimenting with national languages in primary education since the 1970s. Finally, in 2022, Senegal will introduce bilingual teaching methods nationally.
... Another striking result from this study was the persisting effect of colonialism among the later generations of Filipinos which was evident in the teachers' high regard accorded to foreign language. The hesitance to adopt mother tongue policies as explained by Benson (2004) is due to hundreds of years of colonial thinking that devalues indigenous languages. For how many years until now, the English language is being looked up to by many as a superior language. ...
The implementation of the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) policy in the Philippine basic education has gained traction among educators. Skepticism as to its effectiveness is evident especially in mathematics class where English is the universally recognised medium. This study explored how elementary teachers from a rural school in the Philippines appropriate the MTB-MLE policy in a mathematics classroom. Their attitudes toward the policy and the challenges met in the implementation were examined. An instrumental case study was conducted with documentary analysis, non-participant observation, in-depth interview, and focus group discussion as methods of data collection. Five Grades 1–3 teachers served as participants. Results showed that teachers do not fully observe the policy. They code-switch during discussion and do not religiously use the prescribed teaching guide. Fidelity to the policy is only apparent in the presence of authority. Teachers generally have negative attitudes towards the policy which is due to their colonial thinking, perceived complexity, and non-utilitarian view of the local language. Mismatch in the students’ language and the language of instruction, lack of equivalent local terms for some mathematics terms, and haphazardly done teaching and learning materials are the challenges that impede teachers’ effective implementation of the policy.
... Allahkarami and Sahraee (2020) argue that the correct use of education in the first language requires a lot of care in design and implementation. Benson (2004) believes that identifying language models, hiring and preparing teachers familiar with the first language, and designing and producing educational materials, parental support, and language policies in education are the most important influencing factors on the effective implementation of education based on the first language. Researchers believe that the development of communication through the use of language games will improve mathematics learning (Fleener et al. 2004;Meyer 2009Meyer , 2018). ...
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Bilingualism has been always a great challenge in mathematics education. Usually, students whose first language (L1) is different from the language of instruction (L2) have serious difficulties in learning mathematics. The purpose of the present paper is to highlight the efficacy of the L1 as a versatile resource to enhance educational performance for those students whose L1 is different from the L2. The data reported in this study reveal that how the bilingual students in Zanjan, one of the northwest provinces of Iran, use their L1 (i.e., Turkish language) to support their mathematical learning. To this end, interviews with teachers and students in two public secondary schools have been made, and their mathematics lessons were video recorded and then transcribed. Herein, the two distinct learning opportunities, namely (i) visualization and L1 and (ii) discovery of concepts and L1, from using the L1 have been proposed and discussed. The results of two examples from two small groups indicate a significant influence of the learners’ first language on mathematics teaching and learning performance.
... As argued by Cummins and Swain (1986), the use of the learners' L1 asserts their pride in their identity, and as argued by Benson (2004), it promotes the status of the language. This was clearly illustrated by learners' positive reactions to learning in isiZulu and also later by learners requesting a similar experiment using their various L1s. ...
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In order to understand the relationship between social innovation and the reimagining of the knowledge economy necessary to reorient higher education most fully towards the public good, we must draw from the experiences of those working on the front lines of change. This collection represents diverse voices and disciplines, drawing together the critical reflections of academics, students and community partners from across South Africa. The book seeks to bring together theoretical and practical lessons about how research methods can be used in socially innovative ways to challenge the ‘apartheids’ of knowledge in higher education and to promote the democratisation of the knowledge economy.
... Cummins, 2009;Thomas & Collier, 1997, they have been substantiated and expanded in countries like Eritrea and Ethiopia, whose systems use learners' home languages for up to eight years of primary schooling (Walter & Davis, 2005;Heugh et al., 2012). Use of learners' L1s has been linked to increased parent involvement (Ball, 2010) and greater participation of girls and women in education (Hovens, 2002;Benson, 2004;Lewis & Lockheed, 2012). More and more, countries whose education systems have traditionally depended on former colonial or other dominant languages are bringing non-dominant languages into at least lower primary levels. ...
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This chapter analyses research and practice in multilingual education (MLE) based on the learner’s home language (L1). It begins with a look back at experimentation in MLE in Guinea-Bissau, where many of the issues I discussed in my early research in West Africa (Benson, 1994) have proved to be salient in other multilingual contexts. Even up to the present day, issues of language access, public support, pedagogical design and educational policy continue to challenge MLE implementation, despite the fact that L1-based MLE is now widely understood to be the right thing to do (Benson & Wong, 2015). I review current terminology, which differs to some degree by geographic region and according to postcolonial or other dominant language influence, noting pedagogical and scholarly contributions underlying the concepts. I then review effective practices in MLE in multilingual African contexts. I proceed to an exploration of challenges that slow implementation of MLE, including adoption of weak models and assessment only in dominant languages. Finally, I describe some ways forward, along with some strategies from other parts of the world that could be applied in multilingual African contexts.
... These problems typically become more challenging following educational reforms, as teachers are excluded from policy dialogues and planning (Tatto, 2014). As a result, reforms tend to increase the workload and change syllabi and teaching methods without proper training, and without bettering teachers' working conditions (Benson, 2004;Tabulawa, 2013). Therefore, without adequate teacher preparation, the implementation of reforms in education are met with multiple challenges (Benson and Plüddemann, 2010;Wang, 2008). ...
This article is possibly the first qualitative research on the USAID-funded School Health and Reading Program (SHRP), implemented in Uganda since 2012. The SHRP program is aimed at scaling up the Thematic Curriculum (TC) reform, which was the first attempt to standardize the use of mother tongues in lower primary schools through child-centred pedagogical practices. SHRP has expanded the TC to additional local languages and districts, providing new learning materials – including specific teaching techniques – and teacher training to support it. However, the implementation of SHRP is marked by the fact that it is a donor-led reform that is perceived by teachers as an external intervention not well suited for Ugandan classroom realities. Our research is a multi-layered analysis of how teachers perceive the reform as its grassroot implementers. We ask how SHRP’s pedagogical emphasis on child-centred pedagogy is linked to it being donor-funded, and how teachers translate this perceived link into their classroom practices. We trace the links between the policy, classroom, and community levels to make concrete suggestions on how the SHRP program can benefit from teachers’ resources and creativity, while highlighting which aspects of mother tongue education the Ugandan Government needs to prioritize on a national level, and which aspects need to be better adjusted on a regional basis.
This article identifies and discusses why siSwati – most citizens of Eswatini’s first language – is seen by various educational stakeholders as the second choice when it comes to the medium of instruction in the officially bilingual siSwati-English Kingdom of Eswatini. Findings reveal that while excerpts from policy documents suggest good intentions for promoting first language instruction for positive outcomes in the learners’ acquisition and use of the second language, classroom practices point to a zero to medium implementation of the 2011 and 2018 education sector language-ineducation policies. Teachers believe that siSwati has no symbolic value, stifles learners’ social growth and does not assist them in their educational advancement. This study concludes that framing siSwati as a scholarly endeavour in academic discourse in Eswatini perpetuates a conflict of ideologies between teachers and learners.
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This paper argues that bilingual education in developing countries represents an encouraging facet of efforts to improve primary schooling both quantitatively in terms of participation and qualitatively in terms of learning processes. Public education in many multilingual nations still involves submersion in the ex-colonial language, which results in highly wasteful and inefficient systems. In contrast, use of the mother tongue in school provides a basis for students to learn subject disciplines and develop literacy skills upon which competency in the second or foreign language can be built. There are both positive and negative tendencies in the practice of bilingual education as exemplified by Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Mozambique in Africa and Bolivia in Latin America. Use of the mother tongue in primary schooling offers a number of documented benefits such as valorising the mother tongue, bridging the gap between home and school cultures, and raising student identity consciousness and self-esteem. Its academic potential is to produce students who are competently bilingual and biliterate. Experiences demonstrate that an important implication for researchers is to more thoroughly investigate quality indicators and less researched aspects such as gender. An implication for educational developers is to promote the use of more established bilingual models and methods.
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The recent experiment in bilingual education in Mozambique known as PEBIMO, which utilised two different Bantu languages in transitional programmes for lower primary schooling, offered an alternative to exclusive instruction in Portuguese, which is a foreign language for approximately 98 percent of Mozambicans. Evaluations done during the final two years of the experiment using both quantitative and qualitative means demonstrate that students benefited greatly from use of the mother tongue in terms of classroom participation, self-confidence, bilingualism, and biliteracy. Inadequacies in the model, problems with experimental design and control, and logistical concerns complicate the interpretation of research results; however, the descriptive data in particular provide strong evidence that bilingual schooling may significantly improve educational quality in Mozambique. The study also has implications for conducting educational research in sub-optimal conditions.
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