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19 Mar 2024

Call for Contributions NSI 11: Multilingualism and Language Transition: Innovations and Possibilities - a NORRAG Special Issue

Editors: Angeline Mbogo Barrett, Rachel K.A. Bowden, Anthony A. Essien, Prem Phyak and Barbara Trudell

The expectation that children use an unfamiliar language for all or part of their basic education is a major contribution to the so-called ‘global learning crisis’ (World Bank, 2021). Use of an unfamiliar language creates linguistic barriers between schools and parents, at the same time as it creates epistemic barriers between formal education and research on the one hand and diverse communities on the other, most especially rural and indigenous communities.  As young people from marginalised language groups find it harder to gain access to higher education, prohibiting the use of their familiar language ultimately limits research and curtails the diversity of perspectives brought to bear on complex global challenges, such as environmental degradation, climate change, structural inequalities and conflict.

In education systems where the language of learning and teaching is unfamiliar to large numbers of learners, abrupt language transitions are pressure points, when vulnerable children are most at risk of dropping out of school. However, providing education in children’s mother tongue much beyond the early years is often logistically, financially and politically challenging for education systems, most especially those serving populations that are rich in linguistic diversity.

Multilingual education (MLE) removes the either/or choice between learners’ familiar languages and a nationally or internationally dominant language. MLE dispenses with the idea that individual languages are discrete, self-contained systems. Rather, it aligns with research from across the disciplines of cognitive psychology, sociolinguistics and education showing that communication is inherently multilingual. It also resonates with decolonial arguments that trace the monoglossic view of languages as unitary to the rise of, and intense competition between, European states. In their social and professional interactions, people mesh words, phrases and forms of expression from across their linguistic repertoire, together with non-verbal gestures and symbols. This research-informed functional perspective on language and multilingualism has the potential to move education policy and practice beyond ‘linguistic boxes’ (Makalela, 2015), to enable learners to develop language skills for an expanding range of social, educational and professional contexts.

There is much innovative MLE practice across the global South and parts of the global North. However, these innovations are often isolated from the wider education system, and are undermined and limited by contradictory policies and practices. This situation must change. The research is (loud and) clear (World Bank, 2021). It is time to act on these insights and implement MLE systemically to improve educational access, participation and outcomes for learners. There is of course no single ‘best’ approach. Policies need to be sensitive to linguistic identities and histories of conflict. Practices need to build on teachers’ capabilities and available resources.

The purpose of this NORRAG Special Issue 11 is to collate innovations, theoretical and practical, that can provide impulse for further developments in, and systemic approaches to, MLE across education systems. Contributions will draw out implications for policy, curriculum design, assessment, pedagogy and teacher professional learning from early years up to vocational and higher education, formal and informal settings. The Special Issue will also include contributions reflecting on the role that multilingualism can play in creating and realising educational futures that are reparative and sustainable. It will be organised into five parts:

  1. Curriculum, planning and assessment in MLE systems
  2. Teacher learning and pedagogic innovation
  3. Communities, networks and partnerships
  4. Multilingualism for inclusive vocational and higher education
  5. MLE for sustainable and reparative futures

Contributions

We welcome contributions from researchers, educators and policy makers working across academic, government, non-governmental, civil society, private sector, philanthropic and advocacy organisations. We aim for the Special Issue to include contributions from around the world, most especially contexts where large numbers of learners use more than one language during their basic education or experience a transition in the language used for learning and teaching at any stage from early years up to and including tertiary education and transition into the workplace.

Contributions should be around 1500-2500 words in length.

Please send your submission to Angeline Mbogo Barrett, angeline.barrett@bristol.ac.uk, and indicate in which of the five parts above your contribution will fit.

Timeline

Deadline for submission of Abstracts: 10 May

Deadline for submission of full paper: 10 September

Deadline for final revisions: 12 November

Publication and launch March 2025

 

References

World Bank (2021). Loud and Clear: Effective Language of instruction Policies For Learning, A World Bank Policy Approach Paper.

Makalela, L. (2015). Moving out of linguistic boxes: the effects of translanguaging strategies for multilingual classrooms. Language and Education, 29(3), 200-217.

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