LiA SIG Language in Development Colloquium at BAAL 2017

We are hosting a colloquium at the BAAL 2017 conference and it seeks to address issues regarding Language in Development. For more information please email anne.goodithwhite@ucd.ie.

Theme: The Role of Language in Development in sub-Saharan Africa

Proposed structure of colloquium:

Panel discussion (30 minutes: Annette Islei, Ross Graham, Elvis Yevudey, Chefena Hailemariam) focussing on the Sustainable Development Goals, and the linguistic context of sub-Saharan Africa, The status of mother tongue education in different African countries will also be surveyed.

Four talks (30 minutes each):

  • Why do the authorities fail to provide adequate L1 and L2 instruction in sub Saharan Africa? An examination of causes and solutions.

John Clegg, University of Bristol

  • Development from the bottom up: local language literacy learning as a contributor to change

Ian Cheffy, SIL International

  • ‘English will make me become a nurse. My mother tongue can’t make me become a nurse’: Imagined community and ideology of economic participation of senior secondary school students in Nigeria

Taiwo Abosede Ilori, Anglia Ruskin University

  • Ideologies of English as a language for development in Ghana: an impediment to local language-medium education?

Elizabeth J. Erling, University of Vienna/ The Open University, UK

We will conclude with a roundtable discussion (30 minutes: led by Colin Reilly) sharing experiences from other continents and analysing the issues of language ideologies and the roles language can actually play in development.

Abstract for colloquium:

Language is a key factor in promoting effective, inclusive, sustainable development (UNESCO 2012).  This colloquium will explore what role language plays, or should play, in national development within Africa, and by extension, in other multilingual developing countries. While the papers focus on the role of language in education and how that relates to development, we will inevitably also touch on issues of economic and societal development and democratic participation.

The international development community has entered a new era, signalled by the beginning of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 2015-2030). One of the ways in which these new goals differ is that they aim to provide a more people-centered, collaborative and bottom up approach to international development (Sachs 2012, Kumar et al 2016). This colloquium will argue that language will have a crucial role to play in achieving this. In sub-Saharan Africa the reality is one of polyglossia and differential functions of languages within ‘multi-tiered communication landscapes’ (Wolff 2016). In such a scenario, it is a mistake to assume that inter-communication between diverse ethnolinguistic communities is always best managed through the use of a widespread lingua franca, one of the national languages enjoying special status, or the language spoken as a first language by the greatest number of speakers at national level, still less the language of an ex-colonial power.  Many of the global Sustainable Development Goals can only be achieved by an active commitment to use of the resources of multiple languages.

Our speakers challenge some of the received orthodoxies. Erling and Ilori question the discourse of English as the key language of development. Cheffy asks if development always needs to take place through formal education and Clegg discusses whether agencies and authorities who decide educational language policies are best placed to make such decisions.

Kumar, S., et al (2016) Millennium development goals (MDGS) to sustainable development goals (SDGS): Addressing unfinished agenda and strengthening sustainable development and partnership. Indian J Community Med 41 (1). pp1-4.

Sachs, J. D. (2012) From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals. Lancet 379. pp2206-2211.

Sustainable Development Goals (2015). Leaving no one behind: How the SDGs can bring real change. Available at: https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/9534.pdf. [Accessed 15 Feb. 2015]

UNESCO (2012) Why Language Matters for the Millennium Development Goals. Thailand: UNESCO Bangkok.

Wolff, H.E. (2016) Language and Development in Africa: Perceptions, ideologies and challenges. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Four abstracts:

Why do the authorities fail to provide adequate L1 and L2 instruction in sub Saharan Africa? An examination of causes and solutions.

John Clegg, University of Bristol

In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) medium of instruction (MoI) reduces educational opportunity. This presentation will look at five contributing factors contributors to this failure in English-medium education systems: inadequate L1-medium education, the lack of appropriate L2-medium pedagogy, inaccessible L2-medium textbooks, inappropriate teacher education and ineffective L2-medium assessment.  It will propose that the blame for this situation can be laid squarely at the feet of four sources of poor decision-making: ministries, NGOs and international aid agencies, initial teacher education and publishers. Their knowledge of the effects of MoI falls below what is professionally acceptable. For example, ministries are reluctant to accept international evidence on the importance of effective, extended education through L1 and NGOs and aid agencies (with exceptions such as SIL and STC) do not push for it.  Ministries and donor agencies often pay for inaccessible books without reference to their usability. Unreliable L2-medium examination data are used as a measure of school performance. Teacher education in SSA (with a few notable exceptions) does not train teachers to apply effective L1-medium teaching. Ministries and agencies are by and large too unfamiliar with appropriate pedagogy in respect of all these things to develop good teacher education practice. There are, in addition, political issues at work and a rights dimension which will be explored in the talk.

The means of providing remedies for these deficiencies are readily available and African learners and teachers deserve to have access to them. The presentation will outline the most important of these remedies and ask why it is that authorities in Africa are not vigorously pursuing them.

Development from the bottom up: local language literacy learning as a contributor to change

Ian Cheffy, SIL International

Although the significance of language for sustainable development has been increasingly recognised, much remains to be done to implement policies which enable children and adults to learn in the language which they know best. This challenge is particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa, characterised as it is by some of the lowest rates of development in the world and by the multiplicity of local languages spoken within each nation state. While macro-level language policies can play an important part in addressing this issue, it is important also to demonstrate how at a micro level the provision of learning opportunities in local languages makes a very significant difference, affecting not only individual learners but also their families and communities around them. Such development from the bottom up lies at the very heart of sustainable development.

This paper reports on qualitative research in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya with 95 men and women living in rural locations who were asked what had changed for them as a result of learning to read in their own community language. Each of them had become literate in their language through non-formal education programmes and had been reading and writing in their language for a number of years. Most of the interviewees had not attended formal schooling, so learning to read in their language was their introduction to literacy in any language. They reported that they had experienced a wide range of changes as a result of their learning, including more profitable management of their small businesses, greater confidence in contributing to community affairs, and increased ability to support their children’s education. This small sample powerfully illustrates the impact on sustainable development which can be made by education in local languages.

‘English will make me become a nurse. My mother tongue can’t make me become a nurse’:  Imagined community and ideology of economic participation of senior secondary school students in Nigeria

Taiwo Abosede Ilori, Anglia Ruskin University

This paper, designed around Fairclough’s (2001) concept of social discourse, van Dijk’s (2006) socio-cognitive approach to CDA and Norton’s (2000) notion of imagined community for second language learners, explores senior secondary school (SSS) students’ imagined community and identities against the language ideologies of English portrayed in the discourse of economic participation in Nigeria. The qualitative investigation involving open-ended questionnaires and official documents (e.g. language policy on education) reveals that there is a recognition of the role that an English language education plays in the pursuit of the imagined identities (e.g. doctor, lawyer, nurse, and architect) of SSS students; identities that are believed to grant access to improved social opportunity and also give room for students to contribute their quota towards to national growth and development. This situation thereby raises questions regarding the role of the mother tongues in contributing to that development. As a result of these ideologies of English language and economic participation, students acquire the linguistic resources that will allow them to imagine and eventually produce acceptable future identities for themselves. However, with global attention currently focused on the challenge of ‘leaving no one behind’ (SDG 2015), linguists must begin to ensure that the identities/imagined identities (e.g. being literate) that come with English language learning are not the only ones that are recognized in order to be able to contribute to the nation’s growth and development. This is therefore a critical time to review the debate on language and mother-tongue education since education remains the instrument for effective national development (Boyi, 2013), so as to reassess what appropriate and achievable empirical evidence exists to guide development and policy makers.

References

Boyi, A., 2013. Education and sustainable national development in Nigeria: challenges and way forward.  Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 4(8), pp. 147-152.

Fairclough, N., 2001. Language and power. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Pearson Education Limited.

Norton, B., 2000. Identity and language learning: gender, ethnicity, and educational change. London: Longman.

Sustainable Development Goals (2015). Leaving no one behind: How the SDGs can bring real change. Available at: https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/9534.pdf. [Accessed 15 Feb. 2015]

Van Dijk, T., 2006. Ideology and discourse analysis, Journal of Political Ideology, 11(5), pp. 115-140.

Ideologies of English as a language for development in Ghana: an impediment to local language-medium education?

Elizabeth J. Erling, University of Vienna/ The Open University, UK.

The  increased status of English as the language of international communication, business and trade means that the language has been increasingly associated with economic development, resulting in what has been termed ‘discourses of English as a language of international development’ (Erling and Seargeant, 2013), in which English is celebrated as if it is a panacea for poverty, skills-deficits and economic challenges. Such discourses contribute to the persistence of English-medium education in contexts such as Ghana, despite language-in-education policies that have been introduced to promote the use of local languages in primary education. While there are practical issues that limit the use of local languages, this paper argues that ideologies of English as a language for economic development play a significant role in the relative lack of willingness to implement local language-medium instruction in Ghanaian lower primary school (and beyond). To make this point, I will present excerpts from interviews undertaken as part of a two-year project investigating English Medium Instruction (EMI) in Ghana (undertaken as a partnership between the British Council, Education Development Trust and the Open University, UK). Findings show that while English is associated with the elite, with education and with economic advancement, local languages are widely perceived as being inappropriate for educational and business contexts. I therefore argue that unless strategies are developed to counter these perceptions, and present communities with evidence of the value of local language-medium instruction for education and economic development, English will remain the dominant language of primary education.

Erling, E.J. and Seargeant, P. (2013) English and Development: Policy, Pedagogy and Globalization. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Scholarships are available to help individuals outside of the UK attend the colloquium. More information is available here.

 

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