Education. Dr Rhoda Arrindell participated in conference about multilingualism held by UD

Autre
Par Autre octobre 29, 2013 02:49

Education. Dr Rhoda Arrindell participated in conference about multilingualism held by UD

291013-RhodaArrindellDr Rhoda Arrindell, the former minister of education and culture of Sint Maarten who is a leading linguist in the first place was logically invited to conference about multilingualism held by Union pour la Démocratie’s last week.

Find below her contribution to the topic :

Thank organizers, Union for Democracy, Team Daniel Gibbs, and especially Mr. Franz Acramel, for the consideration and honor to participate in this discussion and put in my two-cents, as we St. Martiners like to say.

When I read the theme “The School System Confronted with Multilingualism: What about Bilingual Education in St. Martin,” it took a while for it to sink in, as I played with the words in my head; I wanted to make sure that I stayed on point in my presentation.

My mind drifted all the way back to the 1980s when I returned from my undergraduate studies and the many talks about language of instruction and bilingual education, on both parts of St. Martin. Within short after returning, I joined an organization called SMECO (St. Martin Educational and Cultural Organization), whose members at the time included: Horace White, Shujah Reiph, Councilman Louis Mussington, former President Alain Richardson, and Nadika and the now late Lillian Stephen. I recalled that on September 26, 1986, an article appeared in the Newsday about a petition signed by St. Martiners who were requesting that more St. Martin teachers be trained and integrated into the school system. One of the main points in the article that stood out for me was the petitioners’ claim that that French as the sole language of instruction in this part of the island was the cause for the high failure rate among students.

Since then, over the years, I have been following, and even at times participated in, some of these discussions on language of instruction and bilingual education, and as the introductory document for this conference indicated, “St. Martin has never ceased to advocate for a bilingual education.” 

So then I asked myself, “what about bilingual education”? At the risk of sounding “crazy”, I even responded to myself: what about it? What about bilingual education that seems to have the support of the St. Martin people yet has made it seem impossible to get past the discussions, debates, and advocacy? What about bilingual education that has led motivated and committed persons to research, write, and submit for further debate documents such as LO 63149 and 10 of the Organic Law. Yet nothing has been able to bring those efforts to meaningful debate/action in a setting of the Territorial Council.

What about bilingual education in St. Martin that has not made it a reality yet? Is it fear? Is it lack of resources or know-how? Is it lack of political will?

Could it be that there is ignorance of or not enough understanding for bilingual education? In trying to understand “what about bilingual education in St. Martin?” I am also reminded of the following quote:

“Language issues have some of the characteristics of sex—everyone does it, and consequently everyone is an expert. However, it is not teachers nor even parents who teach most adolescents about sex: rather it is a cadre of other adolescents, mostly characterized by knowing little about the matter. From there one, it is largely a matter of on-the-job training. It is not until one reaches maturity that one even discovers that there are real experts who might teach one something about the subject. So it is with language issues. Every segment of society has language and individuals competently use language for a variety of purposes. However, when users engage in talking about language, which they frequently do, that talk is largely marked by profound ignorance.”

Because I can’t imagine the lack of political will, I am inclined to believe the lack of action in St. Martin has to do with lack of sufficient information, and hence my two cents on the matter here. …

In a very broad sense, bilingualism involves the ability in a person to perform in two languages, and bilingual education means education in two languages. It can refer to instruction in the two languages or the use of the two languages for interaction in the school environment, whether between students and teachers or among students. Because bilingualism is often defined and described in terms of categories and scales and degree of bilingualism used to describe bilingualism, researchers and theoreticians differ in their definitions of the term. The scope can range from Bloomfield’s maximal requirement of native-like control of two languages to Diebold’s minimalist definition of “incipient” bilingualism of Haugen’s minimal requirement for complete meaningful utterances in another language. On the other hand, there are researchers who regard bilingualism as a phenomenon that develops along a continuum.

The various definitions of bilingualism can become problematic for a number of reasons, such as determining level of proficiency in a person. For example, is a person who merely understands words in a second language bilingual? Is a person bilingual when he or she can speak a second language, or does the person also have to be able to read and write, and to what extent, in that second language?

In a less broad sense, bilingual education means a model of education using two languages, usually the native language and another language, to teach children. Generally speaking, when people in St. Martin use the term, it refers to either using English and Dutch or English and French to teach children and usually not in reference to any particular model or approach.

And if the debate were to include a discussion on approaches, which approaches would be worthy of considering for education in St. Martin?

There are many types of teaching approaches to consider for bilingual education, such 1) the maintenance and developmental approach, (2) the transitional approach, and the second-language approach; other model types include compensatory, group-maintenance, and enrichment. Compensatory programs are the most common types in places like the United States of America, where the minority language groups are targeted. Group maintenance or developmental programs promote learning in both the primary and target languages; the programs are aimed at language maintenance and mother tongue development. Enrichment programs target the majority groups, providing additional exposure in the second language. The objective is to create bilingual students, as both languages are used in instruction of the subject matter. The enrichment model type has been extended to cater to both minority and majority language students and is referred to as two-way bilingualism or dual-bilingualism instruction.

  • Two-Way or Dual Language Immersion Bilingual Education
  • Transitional Bilingual Education
  • Late-Exit or Developmental Bilingual Education

In his definition of bilingual education, renown linguist Stephen Krashen (2001), foremost suggests that bilingual education has two distinct goals: the development of academic success and the development of heritage language. A sound bilingual education program should accomplish both these goals through:

  1. Subject matter teaching in the students’ first language, to the extent that subject matter teaching becomes comprehensible in the target language;
  2. Literacy in the first language:
  3. Support for the target language and sheltered subject matter instruction in the target language.

According to Krashen, an example of a “good” bilingual education program would be one based on the “gradual exit” model. In this model, initially non-native speakers receive all their core subject material in their first language. From the onset, courses such as physical education, art, and music are provided in the mainstream. More language-abstract subjects are taught in the first language, and subjects such as math and science are introduced in sheltered classes… and the foreign language is introduced using second-language pedagogy. Finally, all subjects are taught in the mainstream language, the opportunity to develop the first language is provided. The gradual exit model is based on the Comprehensible/Input Hypothesis (Krashen 2003), with the second language being introduced as soon as it can become comprehensible.

In short, examples from around the world show that bilingual education programs, when structured and implemented properly, benefit students cognitively, socially, personally, and economically. This premise we have already accepted in St. Martin, along with the knowledge that bilingual education forges social cohesion. Bilingual education is a de-facto, everyday experience for the majority of St. Martiners. So what about bilingual education in St. Martin?

I humbly submit to you that in St. Martin we have long moved way past the discussion on whether we should implement bilingual education. Rather, I believe that the discussions at the level of government going forward should center on what would be the most suitable model for St. Martin, given our unique situation, the relationship with the South and the region, and our aspirations for the future.

In those discussions, government would have to take into consideration the transference of “stages and processes of evaluation, theory-building, generation of hypotheses, experimentation, and further evaluation that would help to ensure the implementation of programs appropriate for the unique socio-cultural contexts in which they will operate” (Tucker, 2001). In other words, government should not blindly transfer any one model which may have worked somewhere else. Rather, government should develop programs based on students’ needs and resources available, including provisions in the laws…….

How bilingual education models work

Typically, bilingual education models use the students’ primary language along with the language of the mainstream for instruction. In the ideal situation, St. Martin children should strive to develop the highest possible degree of content mastery at least in English, and at best in in both languages, with at least second-language proficiency in the foreign language (in this case French). …… (Not to worry)……  However, I am quite aware of the reality of St. Martin within the colonial setting of a French Republic. In St. Martin, English would be considered mainstream and French would be the target language; however, if we were to put things in the context of the Republic, where French is considered mainstream, what then is the status of English?  Government would have to work this out when trying to determine which model it wants to implement. However, regardless to the model that is eventually chosen, the most cardinal questions would still remain:

  • When to teach which language?
  • How many hours to devote to each?
  • What efficiency goals are to be met?

The chosen model would have to be implemented gradually, teachers would have to be assessed and trained, and the necessary expertise and infrastructure would need to be secured.…… And in the interim or transition, would another model, such as transitional bilingual model be the best thing to pursue?

English is a world language and the primary medium of global communication, particularly in today’s world of information technology. It is also used as a lingua franca for people who do not share a language. Above all, English isthe primary language of the people of St. Martin and the one most St. Martin children learn first at home. By the time they start school, St. Martin children have already acquired the language and are prepared to begin learning other content material. This language should be the foundation to build upon when teaching the St. Martin child.

Consequently, St. Martin should develop a national language policy in which the status of English is declared. English and French (in the North) should be maintained as official languages. In this way, English, (Dutch) and French would be given equal treatment in the provision of public services to all residents. In addition to English as language of instruction, all schools—elementary and secondary—should teach French and Dutch as mandatory subjects, giving all of St. Martin’s children the opportunity to be proficient in these languages. In a sound national language policy, schools would be required to write their own school language policies and thus would be able to choose the direction or approach they favor to ensure proficiency in their students, and the administration in the North should use its competencies in the current situation to influence the school language policy of the French Republic where it concerns the Collectivity of St. Martin.

Considering the importance of tourism—and increasingly transshipment trade,  financial transactions, and telecommunication services—to the St. Martin economy and the plurilingual characteristic of St. Martin, the language policy should outline how government would actively seek to explore and promote areas for language tourism, including but not limited to language tours, training and hiring out of language experts, and publishing multilingual guides to St. Martin and other destinations. Furthermore, the language policy should establish a language education and research center to conduct research and improve language learning and teaching in St. Martin, focusing on material development, learning and teaching research, and professional development of educators.

At the macro level, the language policy must have the full support of the community it aims to serve, and stakeholders should be involved in all phases of planning and implementation. Policy-makers and administrators must demonstrate their commitment to the policy by putting in place the requisite infrastructure and hiring the necessary technical experts to realize the policy. Writing on bilingualism and bilingual education, G. Richard Tucker advises that it is also important for government to consider transferring “stages and processes of evaluation, theory building, generation of hypotheses, experimentation, and further evaluation that would help to ensure the implementation of programs appropriate for the unique sociocultural contexts in which they will operate.” Thus, government should not blindly transfer any one model simply because it may have worked elsewhere. Rather, programs based on St. Martin students’ needs should be developed and the resources made available. Finally, and probably most importantly in the context of national identity development, the national language policy would espouse and promote the St. Martin popular vernacular and at the same time strive to develop the highest possible degree of content mastery in English and second- and third-language proficiency in Dutch, French (and Spanish) for all students.

At the micro level, school language policies should outline guidelines for English as language of instruction and other foreign language instruction, along with harmonization between language of instruction and instruction of foreign languages. A sound school language policy would guide schools in the teaching of languages in the most effective manner. These guidelines would include requisites for when to begin teaching the foreign languages and how much time is to be devoted to language teaching. A school language policy would also set appropriate efficiency goals, as well as outline what services would be provided to bridge the gap between English and the home language for students whose home language is not English.

The implementation of English as the language of instruction in all schools in St. Martin should be done gradually over a period of years so as to allow all schools the opportunity to put in place the necessary infrastructure. In the meantime, qualified teachers should be hired, or competent teachers already in the system should be trained in language education—both in first- and second-language instruction. In addition, all schools should be required to maintain adequate material in English, and supervision should be carried out by the Rectorate for Education. All teachers should be assessed upon entering the education system, and those found to be deficient in language skills should be required to seek certification. English is a world language and the primary medium of global communication, particularly in today’s world of information technology. It is also used as a lingua franca for people who do not share a language. Above all, English isthe primary language of the people of St. Martin and the one most St. Martin children learn first at home. By the time they start school, St. Martin children have already acquired the language and are prepared to begin learning other content material. This language should be the foundation to build upon when teaching the St. Martin child. Consequently, St. Martin’s national language policy should declare English as the national language and language of instruction in all of St. Martin’s schools. English and Dutch (in the South) and French (in the North) should be maintained as official languages. In this way, English, Dutch, and French would be given equal treatment in the provision of public services to all residents. In addition to English as language of instruction, all schools—elementary and secondary—should teach French and Dutch as mandatory subjects, giving all of St. Martin’s children the opportunity to be proficient in these languages. In a sound national language policy, schools in the South would be required to write their own school language policies and thus would be able to choose the direction or approach they favor to ensure proficiency in their students, and the administration in the North should use its competencies in the current situation to influence the school language policy of the French Republic where it concerns the Collectivity of St. Martin.

Considering the importance of tourism—and increasingly transshipment trade,  financial transactions, and telecommunication services—to the St. Martin economy and the plurilingual characteristic of St. Martin, the national language policy should outline how government would actively seek to explore and promote areas for language tourism, including but not limited to language tours, training and hiring out of language experts, and publishing multilingual guides to St. Martin and other destinations. Furthermore, the national language policy should establish a language education and research center to conduct research and improve language learning and teaching in St. Martin, focusing on material development, learning and teaching research, and professional development of educators.

At the macro level, the national language policy must have the full support of the community it aims to serve, and stakeholders should be involved in all phases of planning and implementation. Policy-makers and administrators must demonstrate their commitment to the policy by putting in place the requisite infrastructure and hiring the necessary technical experts to realize the policy. Writing on bilingualism and bilingual education, G. Richard Tucker advises that it is also important for government to consider transferring “stages and processes of evaluation, theory building, generation of hypotheses, experimentation, and further evaluation that would help to ensure the implementation of programs appropriate for the unique sociocultural contexts in which they will operate.” Thus, government should not blindly transfer any one model simply because it may have worked elsewhere. Rather, programs based on St. Martin students’ needs should be developed and the resources made available. Finally, and probably most importantly in the context of national identity development, the national language policy would espouse and promote the St. Martin popular vernacular and at the same time strive to develop the highest possible degree of content mastery in English and second- and third-language proficiency in Dutch, French (and Spanish) for all students.

At the micro level, school language policies should outline guidelines for English as language of instruction and other foreign language instruction, along with harmonization between language of instruction and instruction of foreign languages. A sound school language policy would guide schools in the teaching of languages in the most effective manner. These guidelines would include requisites for when to begin teaching the foreign languages and how much time is to be devoted to language teaching. A school language policy would also set appropriate efficiency goals, as well as outline what services would be provided to bridge the gap between English and the home language for students whose home language is not English. In seeking common ground among schools with differing philosophies, policymakers could consult models which aim to provide a basis for different entities to find common ground to meet common objectives through common approaches.

The implementation of English as the language of instruction in all schools in St. Martin should be done gradually over a period of years so as to allow all schools the opportunity to put in place the necessary infrastructure. In the meantime, qualified teachers should be hired, or competent teachers already in the system should be trained in language education—both in first- and second-language instruction. In addition, all schools should be required to maintain adequate material in English and other foreign languages, and supervision should be carried out by the Ministry of Education in the South or the Rectorate for Education in the North. All teachers should be assessed upon entering the education system, and those found to be deficient in language skills should be required to seek certification. English is a world language and the primary medium of global communication, particularly in today’s world of information technology. It is also used as a lingua franca for people who do not share a language. Above all, English isthe primary language of the people of St. Martin and the one most St. Martin children learn first at home. By the time they start school, St. Martin children have already acquired the language and are prepared to begin learning other content material. This language should be the foundation to build upon when teaching the St. Martin child. Consequently, St. Martin’s national language policy should declare English as the national language and language of instruction in all of St. Martin’s schools. English and Dutch (in the South) and French (in the North) should be maintained as official languages. In this way, English, Dutch, and French would be given equal treatment in the provision of public services to all residents. In addition to English as language of instruction, all schools—elementary and secondary—should teach French and Dutch as mandatory subjects, giving all of St. Martin’s children the opportunity to be proficient in these languages. In a sound national language policy, schools in the South would be required to write their own school language policies and thus would be able to choose the direction or approach they favor to ensure proficiency in their students, and the administration in the North should use its competencies in the current situation to influence the school language policy of the French Republic where it concerns the Collectivity of St. Martin.

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Autre
Par Autre octobre 29, 2013 02:49

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