Sunday, June 29, 2014

Multilingual education in Nepal - Report

"Policy and Strategy for MLE in Nepal" (PDF) is a 2009 report authored by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Ajit Mohanty. In 67 pages, it takes you through
  • the rationale for mother-tongue based multilingual education (MLE), especially for ITM (Indigenous/Tribal and [linguistic] Minority) children
  • the catastrophic costs worldwide of not implementing it
  • the various effective and ineffective strategies that have been tried
  • the successful implementations worldwide
  • how Nepal might go about implementing MLE
If you are interested in the subject at all, do read at least the section, "Summing up and recommendations" (p. 36 onwards). The authors conclude:
Keeping in view the present levels of linguistic competence of children and different groups associated with school education in Nepal, it is recommended that high competence in the mother tongue must be targeted for quality learning as well as for fostering sense of identity and self-confidence. In respect  of Nepali, school education must aim at high level of final competence, fit for higher education and effective participation in the democratic, political, economic and social processes in Nepal.
However, somewhat lower expectations for competence in English may be a realistic short- and middle-term target in view of the present circumstances where teachers, school administrators and teacher trainers do not themselves have high competence in English, neither in Listening/Speaking nor in Reading/Writing. Since requirement of high international levels of reading and writing competence in English is unlikely in the near future for most people in Nepal, a solid basic knowledge in English that can be expanded later might be a more realistic mid-term goal. The goals in respect of English could be increased later when English competencies of teachers and educators in Nepal become higher. (p. 37)
The report sketches the policy and pedagogic conditions necessary for MLE in Nepal. It ends on this optimistic note: "Nepal has made a very good start with the MLE project and activities around it. As Appendix 2 (Concept paper; one of the results of an earlier consultancy by one of us) and Appendix 6 (working group report, chair professor Yadava) show, there is a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment. This knowledge was also eminently presented in the Yadava & Grove (eds, 1994/2008) report. This makes us hopeful in relation to the future in Nepal's attempts to maintain and develop further its enormous riches of diversities." (p. 40)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Species and languages - WWF report

Jonathan Loh and David Harmon, in their new report, Biocultural Diversity: threatened species, endangered languages (PDF), develop analogies between biodiversity and linguistic diversity:
we have chosen two fundamental units or classifiers of nature and culture: species and languages. Species are the basic units of biodiversity; languages are a useful proxy to stand for the world’s diverse cultures. Other elements of biodiversity such as ecosystems or genes, and other aspects of culture such as religions, arts, or livelihood and subsistence strategies, are much harder to define and very much harder to measure. There are striking parallels between species and languages (p. 2).
In a brief 60 pages, they take us through Biocultural Diversity; Evolution of Species and Language; Decline of Biocultural Diversity; and Status of Species and Languages. Among their conclusions are:
Two results are immediately apparent when comparing the status and trends in biodiversity and linguistic diversity. Firstly, at the global level, the trends are very similar, both the LPI (species) and ILD (languages) declined by about 30% since 1970, which suggests that biodiversity and linguistic diversity are being lost at similar rates. This supports the conclusion of the Red List analysis comparing the conservation status of languages and species: globally, linguistic diversity is at least as threatened as biodiversity.
The second result is that, while both biodiversity and linguistic diversity are threatened globally, they are declining at different rates in different regions of the world. By far the most rapid losses in linguistic diversity have occurred in the Americas where, according to the Red List analysis, 60% of languages are threatened or have gone extinct since 1970.
[...] Habitat loss and over-exploitation of species remain the greatest threats for most of the world’s biodiversity. [...]
The decline in linguistic diversity is normally a result of the process of language shift away from small indigenous languages toward larger, national or regional languages. Language shift is driven by a number of social, political and economic factors including migration, urbanization, national unification, colonization, and the globalization of trade and communications. Migrant communities often undergo a process of language shift, whether moving from one country to another, or from a rural to an urban area within the same country. Governments in many developed and developing countries actively promote a single national language at the expense of other, usually minority, languages for political reasons. (p. 44-45)
In their "Epilogue" the authors sum up the vision underlying the vision as follows:
Maintaining diversity is not just a question of protecting endangered languages and species in remote hotspots of biocultural diversity such as the Amazon or New Guinea, vitally important though that is, conservation is also a matter of allowing diversity to thrive in those parts of the world where humans have already had a profound impact on the biological and cultural landscape, in the more densely populated parts of the planet. Recognizing and exploring the parallels between nature and culture, and understanding the processes that underlie their evolution, ecology and extinction, is a first step towards ensuring that we can continue to inhabit a world of incredible diversity. (p. 49)
Loh, J. and D. Harmon. 2014. Biocultural Diversity: threatened species, endangered languages. WWF Netherlands, Zeist, The Netherlands.