On Tuesday 22 June 2010, LALIT submitted our proposals to the Minister of Education in the Context of the National Forum on Kreol in Schools. The document was published in Le Mauricien 25 June 2010 and we are pleased to post it on our website as well for the interest of our visitors.
LALIT's Submission to the Ministry of Education
in the Context of the National Forum on Kreol in Schools
LALIT calls for two things to happen simultaneously: one, the implementation of the mother-tongues as medium in schools and, two, the continuation of debate in a National Forum on the introduction of Kreol as a subject. The debate in the National Forum should extend its scope to include up-to-date discussion on the positive effects on cognitive development when the mother tongue is the medium, and on the "best practices" world-wide when it comes to mother-tongue-based multilingual education. The two processes - implementation of mother-tongue medium and the holding of the national debate - must continue side-by-side.
We remind the State, that once it has been established, as it has been, that the suppression in schools of the mother tongues has, in fact, caused and is continuing to cause harm to children, this calls for immediate action to stop the harm. It means the process of putting a halt to the harm must at once be set in motion. It has become a political and moral imperative. It is no longer a question of policy options. The suppression in schools of the mother tongues must now at once start being put a stop to. This is because it is now known to be causing harm and the harm is now known and clearly identified as cognitive harm, emotional harm and cultural harm, as well as the more mundane, if nevertheless serious harm in terms of rates of non-attendance at school, high failure rates at all levels, low literacy rates among school leavers, and the mindless rote-learning that is so rife amongst the pupils who score well.
This is why we maintain that the medium should at once begin to be changed. Otherwise the State will be liable for continuing to harm children, even once it has been made clear by an independent international tribunal that harm has been done and is still being done by the perpetuation since Independence of colonial, racist language policy. This language policy is based on the fallacious belief in a hierarchy of human languages, and also on a grave misunderstanding as to what human language actually is. (Human language is erroneously believed to be a mere technical "means of communication" when it is much more than this; it is our naturally acquired means of understanding the world; foreign languages are erroneously believed to be fully acquired by pupils when all they have acquired is Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills, when what is needed is a Cognitive-Academic Language Proficiency, which is acquired essentially in the mother-tongue, and then later easily transferred into other languages.)
It is just not good enough to continue debate without concurrent implementation of a new policy that stops the harm being done to our children.
However, continued open discussion and debate, including on Kreol as a subject, is essential for the success of the implementation. For this reason LALIT welcomes the National Forum, for which submissions have been invited by the Ministry of Education until 24 June, 2010. And LALIT calls for the simultaneous setting up of a Committee to implement the three processes of the production and introduction of mother-tongue texts for content subjects, the theoretical linguistic work on the grammar of Kreol and Bhojpuri so that trainers of teacher-trainers can be increasingly intellectually equipped for the task, and the on-going training of teachers, as a matter of urgency.
The new content subject texts in the mother-tongues can be used alongside existing English texts for a few years, although the level of teaching for science and other subjects can obviously, in the long run, be expected to be much higher-level when in the mother tongue than when in English language texts, given that unknown languages obligatorily retard the introduction of concepts to the level that these languages are understood by children, given that they are not present in the environment of the child, whether it be in the bus, at the dispensary, at the shop, in the post office, in the playground, at the market, or simply in the street with other children.
It has been shown that mother-tongue based multilingual education is the ideal policy for children's cognitive, emotional, and cultural development. This policy means that the children's mother tongues are officially used as the languages of instruction in all content subjects. At the same time, foreign languages are introduced as subjects, first orally, later also in writing. Some teaching can be done through the medium of these foreign languages, initially in subjects which are not intellectually or linguistically demanding (e.g. physical education, music, etc) and where the children can use the context to understand the teaching. However, "Children should NOT be taught through the medium of these foreign languages in intellectually or linguistically demanding subjects (e.g. history, science, mathematics) before they have studied these languages at least 6-7 years as subjects and before they have had at least 3-4 years of teaching through these languages in "easy" subjects. In this way, children go from the known (the mother tongue) to the unknown, from the "easy" more concrete subjects/ concepts/ knowledge, to more demanding subjects/ concepts/ knowledge. They can build all further knowledge on what they already know. They can use the common underlying proficiency for all languages. It is easier, for instance, to learn to read and write in a language that one knows; children need to learn reading only once, the realization of the relationship between what one hears and what one sees on a page, needs to come only once, and is then easily transferred to other languages. Mother tongue based multi-lingual education is a secure way to ensuring that children learn 2-3-4 languages at a high level." (LPT Findings of International Hearing, LPT, 2009, at page 6, a copy of which has already been submitted to the Ministry).
The "best practices" world-wide that can be used as a guide can be observed in those countries with very high levels of academic success and very high levels of foreign language-learning success, but which, like Mauritius, have mother tongues that are not international languages. Holland and Sweden spring to mind. Both these European countries have excellent academic systems with the world's highest rates of foreign language acquisition, and both are countries whose mother-tongues are not used as international languages