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Review of Rethinking Bilingual Education in Postcolonial Contexts
AUTHOR: Chimbutane, Feliciano TITLE: Rethinking Bilingual Education in Postcolonial Contexts SERIES TITLE: Bilingual Education and Bilingualism PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2011
Lorena Cordova, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Mexico City
SUMMARY “Rethinking Bilingual Education in Postcolonial Contexts” is the result of an ethnographic study of discursive practices around Bilingual Education (BE) in Mozambique. The main objective is to analyze how BE in discourse reveals the values and proposals of BE, and how these local practices are closely related to institutional and social discourses. The research was carried out within a new paradigmatic context for language-in-education policy in Mozambique, with the gradual transition from a monolingual educational system (Portuguese Language) towards a bilingual program (Portuguese-African Languages). Feliciano Chimbutane aims to diagnose and contribute empirically to understanding how bilingual policy was developed and implemented in this country.
From a practical standpoint, the author investigates two levels of impact on BE, first, the ‘Micro Level’ aims through the study of discursive practices to have an impact on educational planning and implementation, as well as helping teachers to reflect on their linguistic interactions with students and their teaching techniques. Second, the ‘Macro-Level’ helps teachers and planners identify and direct their attention to factors that prevent the insertion of local resources (linguistic and cultural) for the development of BE. From a theoretical perspective, Chimbutane contributes to the debate on the value of BE from different perspectives (economic, political, pedagogical, etc.) from an ethnographic construct. This aids in understanding the role of BE in social and cultural transformation, and changes in speakers’ perceptions of the value of their language and social practices. The book is organized into eight chapters:
In the “Introduction”, Chimbutane offers methodological and theoretical justifications for an ethnographic perspective on language as cultural practice. According to the author, this captures the discursive nature of social and political factors impacting education. These investigations are conducted in a society where Portuguese is spoken, but where most people speak only one or more African languages (AL). The author also develops a conceptual perspective related to “linguistic ethnography” (Rampton et. al., 2004; Creese, 2008). Parallel to linguistic ethnography, Chimbutane uses Heller’s (2007) critical and interpretive perspectives on bilingualism. With this combination, the author tries to show the relationship between communicative behavior, language ideologies and social order. The last section treats fieldwork methods, data types, and different levels of discourse analysis used in the investigation, such as the interactional, institutional and social levels.
Chapter two, ‘Language and Education’, presents the relationship between language and education. First, Chimbutane treats the ideology of language policy decisions in multilingual contexts, determined by a linguistic choice that depends on the socio-economic and political power, in this case, local ideologies about the Changana and Chope languages. Second, a conceptual and political level of BE is analyzed, dealing with psychological, cultural, social and educational advantages, indicating that BE constrains not only educational, but also political, cultural, and socioeconomic aspects. The virtues of BE are mentioned as well because of the debates it has led to about national unity and socioeconomic mobility (migration).
Subsequently, Chimbutane provides an overview of BE in sub-Saharan Africa. This section treats the experimental stage of BE in Africa, due to the inefficiency of monolingual education in European languages; despite some success stories, these have not been replicated or expanded to other experiences. Language policies are not guided by research findings but pragmatic concerns, and institutions and planners reproduce the hegemony of European languages in African higher education. In the last part, the author discusses how much social structure is reflected in school curricula, as well as canonical patterns in classroom discourse (teacher’s right and authority to make questions, obligation of students to respond, etc.).
The third chapter, ‘Mozambique: historical, Sociolinguistic and Educational Context’, consists of a critical review of discourse and language policies with monolingual features. For example, at the peak of Portuguese presence in the country (1891-1942), authoritarianism, racial stratification and social injustice were intensified by the Separate Legal System. He also mentions language ideologies that permeated the formation of the Independent Mozambique period in 1975 until recovery after the devastating Civil War in the early 80’s, in October 1992. The author gives Mozambique’s sociolinguistic profile, from demographics to the degree of intelligibility between Bantu languages spoken in the area. For example, in 2007 the majority of Mozambicans led their lives in some Bantu language (85.3%). For the rural population, Portuguese is considered a second language or foreign language, and only 2.2% of the population reported speaking Portuguese.
In the next section, the author analyzes Mozambique’s socio-historical language policies. For example, during the colonial period, Christian groups, especially Protestants, developed written materials and grammars in AL, giving them greater social and symbolic value. Currently, in rural areas, Catholic and Protestant churches (Anglican, Episcopal Zion and Evangelical) make greater use of these written materials. Regardless of religious ideologies, these groups have been playing a role in developing AL.
Chimbutane also refers to two phases of language policies in nation building (after the Civil War in 1980). The first phase, the one-language-one-state vision, “was constructed as a practical and politically correct choice” (p.22). Colonial languages (Portuguese) are considered official and neutral languages for national unity. Multilingualism was designed as a resource to promote tribalism and regionalism. The second phase in the early 90’s, leading to institutionalization of multilingualism and multiculturalism, is justification for promoting an alternative ideology of language policy and national identity based on the recognition and promotion of African cultures and languages. In 2003 this recognition was authenticated by the introduction of BE. In this sense, Chimbutane undertakes a critical analysis of a “transitional bilingual programme” (p.52).
The author also analyzes the limitations of this program in terms of human resources for BE and teaching-learning materials. The lack of materials and teacher training shows that BE is still in a diglossic relationship with respect to monolingual programs in Portuguese. The author raises two main questions, which not only constrain the African context but most globally endangered languages: how to teach these languages (African or threatened), and, moreover how to teach through them.
In chapter four, “The Research Sites: Communities, Schools and Classrooms”, Chimbutane makes the description of characteristics of communities, schools and classrooms in which he conducted the research. In the first section the author describes the two communities in the research study, Gwambeni and Bikwani. Both communities are located in Gaza Province. These communities speak a variety of Bantu languages, but Changana and Chope are the languages with which people identify. Changana, also known as Tsonga, is the most expanded language. The economy of both communities is characterized by subsistence farming, informal trade and mass migration. Working in the mines of South Africa is a dream. With migration to the mines, the rates of HIV/AIDS and orphaned children have been increasing, especially in Gwambeni. The residents of Bikwani migrate to Maputo City (Mozambique) and South Africa, usually with their whole families. Gwambeni, known in the area as Chope, shows significant lexical influence from Changana, so it is identified as a transition zone and the speakers recognize certain types of linguistic hybridization. For Bikwani, intense contact with South Africa has not only expanded the linguistic repertoire to include Zulu and Xhosa element, but also in their attitudes in the Changana spoken with such South African loanwords.
In the second section, Chimbutane describes the two schools in which the research was conducted. In 2007, 30% of children attended the bilingual program in Gwambeni, while in Bikwani, 15% went to it. Both “communities of practice” (Wenger, 1998) are embedded in orality and the face-to-face exchange of knowledge. “Orality is the main channel for exchange of knowledge” (p. 67), not only for classroom teaching but for teacher training. BE has no printed materials, and most existing materials are in Changana. However in the case of Chope at the community and religious levels, Changana or South African printed materials (Tswa “XiTswa”) are used for preaching. With regard to bilingual classes, the author notes that in Gwambeni, where the bilingual program is in Chope, Changana is the language of teaching. Portuguese has the highest status followed by Changana, and finally Chope. Portuguese is the language in rural schools in Mozambique. Children come to school without knowing Portuguese, leading to limited achievement. Teachers are speakers of local languages with some training in BE. However, most have been trained within ideologies and practices of monolingual education. For this reason teachers often have negative ideologies toward BE.
In chapter five, “Interaction and Pedagogy in Bilingual Classrooms”, Chimbutane analyzes and contrasts the interactional and pedagogical practices that take place in AL as a first language (L1), and in Portuguese as a second language (L2) in the classroom. He discusses political, theoretical and practical aspects of BE. For example, in the first section, the author analyzes interaction and pedagogy in L1 and L1-Medium Subject Classes. Students participating in this type of interaction show greater motivation to participate, answer and question (a kind of defiance toward authority or the experience of teachers) to teachers (cf. Hornberger, 2006). Also there is greater anticipation of responses and increased communication skills to explain complex issues (e.g. HIV/AIDS prevention). With respect to interaction and pedagogy in L2 and L2-Medium Subject Classes, the author observed less interaction by students and greater safetalk strategies and codeswitching. In such interactions active pupils disappear and the conventional ritual of class in Portuguese appears (reading, answer-writing and correcting in a group). There is “the language separation police adopted in bilingual programme” (p.87).
In the last section, the author discusses two topics: 1) Interaction and pedagogy, and 2) the relation between policy, theory and classroom practice. To the first issue, the author draws attention to three points: the necessity of understanding educational tools to expand and benefit learning in L1, to know how knowledge is acquired in the classroom context, and analyze what the silence of students means. Regarding the second, the author discusses two policy issues: language separation and transition from L1 to L2 as medium the instruction in grade 4. To the first, Chimbutane refers to “translinguaging” practices (p. 101) and the merit the transitional bilingual programme has, unlike the Portuguese-monolingual system. However there are students who come with deficiencies in Portuguese and with regard to the academic demands of the fourth grade.
In chapter six, “Socio-cultural Impact of Bilingual Education”, the author explores how the introduction of BE is contributing to change from various perspectives. First, from the perspective of ethnolinguistic identity and maintenance, to know how BE is contributing “to the construction of a distinct local cultural identity in the two areas” (p. 107). From the perspective of literacy practices in communities, the author treats the functions of literacy in LA and the impact of BE on the way in which literacy is practiced and valued, along with language awareness and development. For example, parents are learning new words in their native languages from their children, with private records, technical words, etc. Subsequently, from the perspective of “knowledge capitalizing”, Chimbutane describes how BE facilitates the incorporation of culturally relevant topics into school as well as proposals for curriculum training from sociopolitical shifts. For example, parents are seen as intellectual resources, especially when materials are in AL.
The latter part of the chapter turns to BE and sociocultural transformation. First, the author refers to the legitimation of marginalized cultural practices. Second, the author describes aspects of BE related to language maintenance and language development. The sociolinguistic vitality and BE in the two areas allow a positive affirmation of local identities. Also, BE and sociocultural transformation are contributing to the development of languages in regard to the generation and use of new genres and registers, and to the review and/or standardization of spellings through the involvement and agency of teachers and parents.
Chapter seven, “Bilingual Education and Socio-ecomomic Mobility”, covers socioeconomic values attributed to BE, on the one hand the allocation of values to different spaces and Portuguese, and on the other the emergence of new markets for the AL. For example, the author describes how social actors create Portuguese hegemony in the workplace. Portuguese belongs to the formal labor market and the AL belong to the informal economy. However, these languages make links among communities members and are targets of mediation between local and formal sectors. In this sense, a differential distribution of languages reflects a separatist ideology of language policies, but also recognizes the emergent markets in LA and new professional areas.
The last chapter, ‘Conclusion’, summarizes the findings. The main focus is the purpose and value of BE, including certain aspects of the socioeconomic value BE for education in legal and pedagogic terms. The last analytic section deals with BE research, BE police and practice in Mozambique. “The analysis offered here calls for the need for adaptation when importing models of BE to new socio-political contexts” (p.167). “What is urgently needed is a joint corpus planning effort involving different stakeholders (including the government, non-governmental organizations working in the education working in the education sector, and local communities) aimed at resourcing African languages for educational purposes” (p.168). Finally the author concludes: “this book has a merit of being one of the first empirical studies documenting the initial phase of large-scale implementation of bilingual education in Mozambique, a phase where institutional actors as well local citizens are still working out strategies for implementing this form of educational provision” (p.170).
EVALUATION This book provides a good record of how the policies and ideologies around AL have changed or endured within discursive practices in BE. “Mozambique is often perceived as a democratic success and is, in regional terms, largely successful; being seen as politically stable and attaining macro-economic goals of growth (Bertelsen, 2003:1)”. This process of pacification and new multiculturalist policies has been fundamental to the constitutional recognition of AL. However, access to human and financial resources is necessary for the proper promotion and development of BE. In this sense, the postcolonial context in which BE is being developed in Mozambique is a clear example that, despite constitutional change with regard to the promotion of AL, the social, economic and political dynamics remain through the reproduction of colonial or monolingual dynamics (cf. Stroud, 2007; Comaroff and Comaroff, 2009).
The book shows how BE in Mozambique, as in the Americas and other continents, has two meanings. With respect to BE where is present AL is still negatively assessed due to the difficulties that people have accessing, in this case, the Portuguese labor market. On the other hand, where Portuguese only converges with other colonial languages like French, English, German, etc., BE has a positive evaluation because this education and these languages can expand the development possibilities in students’ life quality. This type of social bilingualism is determined by economic policies rather than cognitive values of being bilingual (cf. King and Haboud, 2002; Heller, 2007).
Chimbutane makes a valuable contribution not only to understanding the situation of AL but also to ethnographic studies of bilingualism that conceive of a language as social practice, However, although Chimbutane’s work is based on ethnographic studies of bilingualism to perform their interpretations, ethnographic review is not always evident in the text. That is, there is no methodological reinterpretation around ethnographic studies of discursive practices, only a critique of discourses and practices connected with BE.
Throughout, the text shows the weaknesses of BE and its implementation, but Chimbutane also shows how orality and “face-to-face of knowledge exchange” (p. 67) are still part of the daily practices of ‘rural Mozambique’. In this sense there is some lack of alternative proposals, since it is not clear what unconventional or non-dependent ways school systems and literacy might have to strengthen local practices, how these practices are useful to confront postcolonial pressures and how a colonial school system can help reduce conditions of postcoloniality for speakers of AL. That is, there is no clear reflection on how to transfer practices and cultural knowledge to writing. It is also necessary to gain insight into how to make bilingualism in Mozambiquean and South African languages into resources for the construction of multilingual materials that enhance the available economic and human resources.
Chimbutane’s greatest success is demonstrating the social, political and educational importance of ALs as a mean of instruction and not just as a curricular theme. Chimbutane helps us confirm that the omission of ALs in school reinforces certain postcolonial practices and, therefore, reduces the agency and learning of students. The book itself is a political and research statement showing both what has not yet managed to get into Mozambique BE and also the gradual change that has been generated around ideologies and language policies in favor of AL.
REFERENCES Bertelsen, Bjørn Enge. 2003. “The traditional Lion is Dead. The Ambivalent Presence of Tradition and the Relation between Politics and Violence in Mozambique”. Lusotopie 2003: 263-281.
Comaroff, Jean & Comaroff, John L. 2009. Dixit: Violencia y ley en la poscolonia: una reflexión sobre las complicidades Norte-Sur. Buenos Aires y Madrid: Katz Barpal Editores [en coedición con el Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona].
Creese, Angela. 2008. “Linguistic Ethnography”. K. A. King and N. H. Hornberger (eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Education, 2nd Edition, Volume 10: Research Methods in Language and Education. pp. 229–241. Springer Science+Business Media LLC.
Heller, Monica. 2007. “Bilingualism as ideology and practice”. Heller, Monica (ed.) Bilingualism: A social approach. pp. 1-23. Hounmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hornberger, Nancy. 2006. “Voice and biliteracy in indigenous language revitalization: Contentious educational practices in Quechua, Guarani, and Maori contexts”. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education 5(4): 277-292.
King, Kendall & Haboud, Marleen. 2002. “Language Planning and Policy in Ecuador”. Current Issues in Language Planning Vol. 3, No. 4. pp. 359-424.
Rampton, B., K. Tusting, J. Maybin, et. al. 2004. Linguistic ethnography in the UK: A discussion paper. At http://uklef.net/documents/papers/ramptonetal2004.pdf
Stroud, Christopher. 2007. “Bilingualism: colonialism and postcolonialism”. Heller, Monica (ed.) Bilingualism: A social approach. pp. 25-49. Hounmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Wenger, Etienne. 1998. Communities of practice. Learning, meaning, and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Lorena Cordova is a PhD Student in Anthropology at the Centro de
Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Mexico City,
Mexico. She is working on her doctoral thesis on language revitalization,
in particular how to create strategies and educational materials for
children in order to promote revitalization of the Chuj Maya language in