Moving from monolingual models to plurilingual practices in African classrooms – John Simpson and Exploring the Potential for Language Supportive Learning in English: A Rwandan Case Study - Lizzi O. Milligan at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015
This dual presentation addressed the issue of moving from monolingual to plurilingual African classrooms. John Simpson set the context and outlined the background to educational practices in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) and the linguistic diversity of SSA (2,100 different languages, of which 100 cross borders). Lizzie O. Milligan then presented findings from a Rwandan case study research exploring the potential for improvement in teacher classroom practice through the use of bi-lingual textbooks and language supportive pedagogy.
John explored the idea of ‘early exit’, which is the more common policy where children move from being educated through MT to an L2 medium of education (usually English or French) early in their schooling, as opposed to ‘late exit’ where this shift happens at the end of the primary cycle (only really evidenced in Ethiopia and Tanzania). Research presented shows that early exit has a negative impact on the general education of children and little benefit to their L2 language proficiency. Further issues identified were the lack of proper transition, no clear policy on code switching or ways of providing scaffolded support. The conclusion was the need for advocating extended use of MT and a more gradual transition to L2 medium eduction, empowering teachers to use MT and L2 strategically and in an informed way.
This was all interesting background information. Lizzie then presented research looking at how far there has been an improvement in teacher classroom practice in use of textbooks and language supportive pedagogy as a result of a revised textbook intervention. Research findings from this Rwandan case study clearly identified improvement in confidence of both learners and teachers as a result of introducing bilingual text into the subject textbooks. More information about what work was done to improve teachers’ classroom practices through this intervention would have been interesting, especially the issue of strategic code-switching to support learning.
Watch John and Lizzie’s session at the conference:
Post by: Simon Etherton
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in South India