Friday, 11 June 2010

Paper session 12 - Migration, integration, and language education policies - stake-holders’ views to language proficiency

(by Sari Pöyhönen & Mirja Tarnanen)
I'm sorry this posting comes quite late. I hope there are people who will read this blog after the Summer School. This blog entry is reporting the main points of the paper presented with some ‘exclamations and questions coming from the writer’. Sari Pöyhönen promised to send the PP-slides of the presentation for those who ask it via email.

On language situation in Finland
Finland is often described as a bilingual but otherwise rather homogenous country, yet this has never been true. First of all, Finland has always been multilingual. Finland is also often seen consisting of ‘the majority and the minorities’, and we often forget how heterogeneous the minorities are.

These misconceptions may are partly caused by the statistics that do not reflect the facts. For example, when reporting the mother language, people have to choose ONE language to be reported as their mother tongue.

Finnish migration policy
At the moment Finnish integration act is being elaborated, yet here are some points that were brought up: In Finland, laws many often treat migrants as monolingual people. There has been strong criticism against policy: It is assimilation, not integration. Low success in target language (meaning of course, Finnish!) has been also criticized heavily.

Aims: analysing migration policy with the data that consists of expert interviews conducted in 2009 (Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, local settings with coordinators of migration and integration education for adult immigrants and language educators working in integration education) and media data (national and local newspaper oct 2008 – oct 2009).

The key questions were:

1) How is language proficiency constructed by the experts in discussing integration to Finnish society, especially in terms of labour market?
2) What kinds of definitions of language proficiency and integration are represented in the media discussion?

Content analysis and discourse analysis were used as the methods for analyzing the data. The focus in the analysis was: How language proficiency is understood and how sufficient proficiency for different purposes is verbalized?

Pöyhönen and Tarnanen approach integration mainly from the political point of view and how it is represented through discourse. Integration can be seen as a two-way phenomenon (both the influence of the ethnic minority and immigrant receiving population) – in this paper the majority’s perspective is in the focus, yet doesn’t ignore the minority.

Findings from experts’ views
The experts gave language proficiency various meanings that can be divided in four categories:

1. Requirement: the language is an asset to integrate into the labour market, it is a sign of being a qualified worker. You have it or not, language proficiency has two ‘states’: on and off.
2. Tool: tool to integrate into other spheres of life, not an absolute value. Obviously proficiency in Finnish is the tool, other languages are not mentioned.
3. Ownership and linguistic market place: languages hierarchies became visible, the ‘order’ seems to be: national languages, English, migrants’ native languages. Finnish as a lingua franca – a problematic resource, which becomes apparent in this quote (by ministry expert) “We have examples of migrants who socialize with each other in who knows what kind of insufficient Finnish, and thus cannot make progress with their language skills”.
4. Grammar & normativity: emphasis on knowing rules, vocabulary and pronunciation, “When you teach grammar, you teach society as well”.

The experts saw immigrants as two groups: asylum seekers, refugees OR work-based immigrants. Probably stating the obvious, this polarized view, I must say, is exactly the same among ordinary Finns. However, when talking about ‘immigrants’ people tend to talk only about the first group after which they probably remember ‘the other group’ which preferably is a highly educated English speaker working in the field of technology. (I can’t help that this paper provoked all the voices of stereotyping in me the Finns have on immigrants.)

The immigrants were also seen as ‘at-risk groups’, such as elderly (defined as people over 50!), adolescent drop-outs, frustrated academics and some ethnic groups.
The experts also pointed out some ‘ideal groups’ which are quickly adjustable professional qualifications, motivated and stubborn language learners as well as positive workers.
--> Language proficiency (of course in Finnish) as a key determinant of various groups.

In the media data four levels of policy was recognised

1. Migration policy
2. Labour policy
3. Education policy: integration education how it is unsuccessful, do they need to learn Swedish,
4. Cultural policy: multiculturalism, language proficiency VS. multilingualism “concentrate on Finnish”

What gets obvious, again, is that when talking about language profiency of the immigrants, the discussion is on THE language, Finnish. Successful immigration is not seen as a two way process, but instead it is the immigrants who are the only one’s playing the active role and reason to failure, when it happens. In addition, the assimilation should happen as quickly as possible.

Taking a short-cut to some other concluding thoughts, in a bullet list:
• Language proficiency as an on-off phenomenon (other language skills are ignored, and for example, using both English and Finnish is not a sign of language knowledge, but rather seen as messy language usage)
• Threshold level B1 vs. lifelong learning process: Possibilities to develop language proficiency before and after B1 (CEFR), Who sets the goals and for what?

My own thoughts went (again) to the D/deaf in Finland because for me situation of deaf immigrants highlights some of the problems pointed in this paper. In a case of a deaf immigrant, depending on the country the person is coming from, it can’t be taken for granted that the person has a ‘system for communication’ that can be defined as a language or languages at all. Who have the tools to recognize what languages is that person using? Does that person have a language to communicate with possibly family members? Is it our concern to provide the family with a language they can share? What are the spoken languages the person has been using before? Which medium of those languages is used, spoken or written? What language a deaf person needs in order to become a happy, active citizen in Finnish society? What is the group the person wants to identify in Finland – which group is most likely to provide him/her with support and social life? (In many cases it is the group of Finnish sign language users, yet it is important to know that this person does not have skills in Finnish sign language and that Finnish sign language is not a signed version of Finnish.) And more and more questions… which take me to a question: What kind of similarities do other minorities (inside minorities) have with this case I have in my mind? What kind of participation (and with what languages) is actually the most beneficial for immigrants and ‘the receiving country’ when not demanding “as fast as possible, as little money as possible”, i.e. with a very short-sighted attitude?

Thursday, 10 June 2010

“Workshop on Wednesday: “Tell me how you talk” by Christine Hélot

In the workshop we got to know about language diversity at primary level in France by getting to know about a school project ('The Didenheim project') in Alsace.

Here are some links that I found about the research project.

and a report as a pdf-document:

In short: The project was a language awareness and intercultural project in a small primary school. The project was launched because of the increase of racist incidents in the school.
What was done, was to have session led by the parents of the children (many immigrants), the sessions were of each languages, kind of 'a taste of language'. The objectives of the project were " To bring the children into contact with other languages and to sensitise them to te use of languages, to familiarize the children with other cultures through the presentation of festivals, traditions, costumes, geography…, and last but not least to promote the acceptance of differences, to learn about others and to attempt to break down stereotypical misconceptions."

In the workshop we watched one of two films made on the project: A professional documentary directed by Mariette Feltin (2008). There are two versions of it: Raconte-moi ta language and Tell me how you talk, which comes with English subtitles. The film is the directors view on the project and not 'a research report' as such.

(A clip of the film in Youtube.)

As a research, this was an ethnographic study where participant observation, interviews, questionnaires and ministerial directives and documents were the main sources of data. Analysis had 2 dimensions: cognitive and social.

The film showed many striking impacts the project had to the school and the whole village: Through parents participation the families got very dedicated to the project, and parents' ethnic minorities were empowered. The collaboration between the teachers and the parents got better. Children were motivated to participate, and we got to see many comments of these 'budding linguists' analysing the languages they got to explore. For example, a comment from a pupil after a few classes of parent-guided lessons "Is French also a language then?" shows, in my own opinion, a very profound 'a light-bulb flashing' moment.

For me, it was really interesting to hear that French sign language was one of the languages involved in the project (among 17 spoken languages). I wonder, what extra did a visuo-spatial language add in? Doesn't it hit some other nerve than what any spoken language do since it uses a different medium than spoken languages? We, the hearing people, are so used to the idea that language IS spoken and oral, that getting in contact with signed language makes us seriously think *what* is language. At least that is what happened to me when I first got in contact with Finnish sign language. I wonder, how did the children react to the modality of French sign language and what links did they discover between this particular sign language and the other 17 languages they got a taste of.

Some posters

A few pictures and titles of posters that were on display at our Summer School. When you click the image, you should be able to see the poster in larger size.

Nandi, Anek: Restoration of linguistic diversity in India through the preservation of tribal languages: Reality and myth

The vicious circle in Nandi's poster

Hakobyan, Tatevik: Language policy development in Armenia: Pros and cons

Skinnari, Kristiina: What kind of possibilities does elementary school EFLlearning offer to te formation of fifth and sixth graders' learner identities?

A bit of data in Skinnari's poster.

Akira Nakayama's poster on EFL for school children in Japan: New challenges in elementary schools. The writer himself is on the right hand side. Vivid discussion around his poster during the break invited me to take this picture.

Paper session 11 on Wednesday: Danish only? The case of bottom-up policies in the Danish public school system

Hanne Juel Solomon's paper presented a study on 'internationale linies', optional lines in the public schools that have other other languages of instruction than Danish, English. These lines actually are not approd as mainstream education because they contradict the official policy is very clearly "Danish only" for education.

In practice there private schools are able to do this because, first of all, they are private and secondly, the education policy provides local authorities to have great deal of autonomy.

There are four of these international lines, yet non of these are mentioned on the ministry's official websites. The programmes do not work together, there is no formaladmission criteria, yet they have to follows Danish curriculum and the students have to take the Danish final exam which is given to them in Danish only.

In this study, the aim was to find out what these lines are, what do they aim for and how come do they exist since the education policy is "Danish only"? In order to find answers for these questions, Hanne Jueal Solomon had interviewed local politicians, school leaders, teachers and pupils and conducted observations and questionnaires. Also newspaper articles and other documentations where used as data for this study.

Some interesting findings are listed here shortly:

  • the lines had had a positive impact for the municipalities the located at
  • the lines had changed the atmoshpehre at the school for the better according to the school leaders.
  • the teachers were proud to be involved in programmes such as these. They didn't base their views on any academic research or theory, neither did they have knowledge of CLIL.
  • Students were highly motivated to study everything in English.

How is it possible then to have these lines that are not basically allowed at all in Denmark? Obviously, had it been another language than English, the officials had done more to stop it. One reason might be that the schools they are in locate 'in the periphery', not close to the big cities. The lines also create a positive image to municipalities and school and make the towns more appealing for new families to move in.

What is interesting for us, is that this is a clear example of a 'language policy from below', and the obvious case of "What can be done in a prestigious language as English cannot be easily done with some other languages".



Clara Keating: Language provision and the state

Mother tongue education in two contexts:

1. Portuguese residents in UK (adult, female)
2. Eastern Europeans in Portugal (children, Russian-based community school; integration of students of non-Portuguese descent within the Portuguese educational system)

Clara takes a counterhegemonical, critical look into language provision and state (and as Clara said, her first attempt at linking language policy).

The need of nation states to provide its language worldwide -- where are loyalties, who are we giving privilegies to? Imagine links between research, practice, policies, and the underlying ethics!

The monolingual national Portuguese situation encourages blindnesses (similar in several European nation states). There is tension between centres and peripheries everywhere. Clara also wanted to acknowledge the Portuguese associates and colleagues working with her (sorry, I could not get your names!)

Bipolar position of Portuguese migration:

1. long standing history of emigration
2. European identity as howt of immigration
=> Portuguese migration as a hub - import/export of labour force
but what about the colonial history?
=> Post-colonial and diasporic perspective of the Portuguese language
=> Multiple positions from which to reflect on Portuguese
  • lg of agency (dialogue, creating informal alternatives to dominant states of affaires
  • lg of structure (maintaining national and lusophon space, strongly influenced by monolingual language practice)
  • lg of mobility (escaping mobility, finding hegemonical gaps, creating lines of flight
In looking at micro-meso-micro, we need to look at histories! How to reach over the macro-meso-micro? => look at the different actors and their links, loyalties etc.

Portuguese in UK: started out as grassroots initiatives (Portuguese teachers and parents in London), went on to become a massive "industry" => links between state and community. Does this create tension?

Russian in Portugal: from home schools to institutional schools ("Cultural local association"); but should they be part of mainstream educational system?

How do these two groups compare?

We seem to have different scales of recognition and investment. In practice, we need to improve waqys of engaging interactive dialogue between community schools and mainstream education. We also have to assume messiness going on in spaces of multilingualism, including classrooms! => different language, migrant, professional trajectories.

This was a story of structure. How can we imagine the story of agencies? Trajectories of people, items etc. -- how do these meet? How can we as researchers imagine, what has been missed?

Question /Comment: As researchers, we seem to be stuck with the current state of affairs. We need to take into account more thoroughly. Answer: histories become more and more important as we go on.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Paper session 11: Language education policy in the UK


Language education policy in the UK: Is English the elephant in the room?

(by Dr Ursula Lanvers, Open University, UK)

(And elephant in the room is a metaphor describing something that people are aware of existing, but are uncomfortable to talk about and rather avoid the subject)

In short:
There is a contradiction between what is said and what is happening. In other words, even though officially there's a lot of talk and 'action' promoting the people in UK learn foreign languages, people don't do so. Why is that? Have the attempts to increase language take-up been serious enough? Do people in UK actually think that it is essential and necessary for the UK to raise profiency in foreign languages?

In her research, Ursula Lanvers, has come to a conclusion that there is a assumption that English alone is enough and people in general are not at all convinced that there is need to promote other languages.

Language education policies

There has been many goverment initiatives (The National Languages Strategy for England, 2002: Languages for all: languages for life)
supporting community languages, promoting careers by promoting languages at work etc.

Reports and reviews:

The Dearing Report, 2007 with some recommendations.
Nuffield Enquiry 2000, conclusion: 'English is not enough', with several recommendations towards that, (e.g language supremo)
National Languages Strategy, 2002

Lots have happened on Secondary sector too:

2004: 14+ compulsory language learning abolished in England
GCSE results: 71% of pupils achieved Grade A* – C grades in 2009
Steady increase from 1994 (about 53%) to 2009

  • A level = ISCED level 3 results:

Those who do language for A levels get very high grades in general. Huge increase of good marks especially on languages.

Multilingual UK – Community languages
14.3% of primary school children and 10,6% of secondary school children speak a first language other than English (2008)

  • UK Language skills: some figures Eurobarometer 2006 are quite embarrassing for the UK, for example: Average number of foreign languages studied at school per student:
  • A level: UK 0,1, while Finland 2,7

For Primary languages there is no curriculum – only suggested framework
Other weaknesses:

  • no specialist teachers
  • very narrow selection of languages ( 2008: French 89% school, Spanish 25%, German 10%)

Community languages

  • very few take "community language GCSE"
  • Low uptake, low status

High education sector

Many language department s have been closed, (UWE, Belfast, Sussex) and language programmes have been closed.
The rhetoric is politically correct, has emphasis on qualifications not proficiency and there are initiatives and reports on this subject, BUT the reality is rather different.

When looking at the news and media texts some interesting discourses start to emerge.
UK poor linguistic skills are recognized there (One headline: "UK heads for bottom of the class for poor linguistic skills")
and also the students voices echo this. In many ways the students are well ahead of what the politicians have figured out.
The students are highly aware of negative attitude towards languages and about the fact that global English demotivates them.

"English is enough – English language is the global language" –assumption seems to emerge here and there, although it is never mentioned in any official papers.
For example Gordon Brown has said (2008), "… If you have skills, educated in Britain, you can work almost anywhere in the world", which obviously refers to the language.

What to do?

Some suggestions:

  • acknowledge global English as potential threat and demotivator to UK language learning
  • address the fallacy publicly: losses to UK

In the discussion and comments coming from the audience, it was noted that it would be very important not to raise awareness only among the citizens but also of the politicians too.
What about language marketing for spreading multilingualism?
As it had already come evident there have already been many initiatives with good recommendations, but it has not lead to proper action – lots of words, yet not much has happened.

Workshop: Muiris O Laoire, "subaltern agency..."

Muiris started by telling about his own trajectory in language education: teacher, policy actor, researcher. HE then went on to warn the audience that he will make us work ; Great!

He explained the term "subaltern" (refers to something / someone outside the hegemonic power). HE went on to talk about his own original understanding of policy implementation (something that happens regardless of individuals, based on "policy texts"). Undertanding of policy can also be historical: "This has always been the policy"

Part I: preliminary discussion

Policy as should be (not just the new, but also the old keeps coming back as should not be) Muiris then continued to introduce a short discussion on some typical issues / questions in language in education that need / evoke policy from your own interest and perspective. We came up with different kinds of situations that dealt with multilingual education, language of instruction, writing a policy strategy, bottom up vs. top down situations etc., creating a network for policy making etc. Implementation of policies vs. dialogical creation of policies? How to create a policy space for policy making?

=> Is the policy always clear, is it named (see Lo Bianco's plenary)? We need a norm in order to create / solve a problem, but the problem of problems is that people have different understandings of the norm. Problem of "bottom up": sometimes "bottom up" supports majority views, and minorities can sometimes be better supported by top down action.

On the other hand, is there a problem or not? => is change always necessary? Policy, especially top down, implicitly assumes that change is inevitable and necessary.

Muiris went on to present Baldauf's eight components of language policy: access policy, personnel policy, curriculum policy, methods and materials policy, resourcing policy, community policuy, evaluation policy, teacher-led policy (Baldauf, Li & Zhao, 2010, Language acquisition management in and outside school. In Spolsky & Hult, The Handbook of Educational Linguistics.

The participants presented some criticism of the list (a noticeable omission of learners; the narrow understanding of community etc. Sjaak came up with a three-dimensional system of describing problems.

Part II: Looking again at implementation

IS policy implementation really just a rationalistic exercise, or should we admit that policy is also about values, emotions etc.? Policy is also about local, but the problem with traditional understanding of policy implementation that it appears to bring the global or the general to the local => this creates problems!

On the other hand, local is not just bottom up, or micro, or contextual, but a "spacial practice (Pennycook 2010:54; Language as local practice. London: Routledge). Ecample: government changes policy. Where does this "policy" become action? Does it "touch" something?

Part III: Different perspectives / orientations: policy maker and policy implementer

1. Policy decisions made based on attitude / ideology
2. Options at disposal, i.e. cost /resources, plan, evaluation...
3. participation (those who buy in to policy and will implement) => policy now named!

Part IV: Evidence from a case study

OLE (2003): Official languages act
All public institutions were expected to prepare a scheme based on this policy.

Research questions: Which social actors engage in what activities using which spaces drawing on which discourses using which discursive strategies coming to which results?

How is policy implemented? Orientation / habitus => imposed constraint => interaction / link with other spaces => economic/social constraints in agents' circulation => language as social action - consequences

Part V: Conclusions / Final discussions

Are actors active or reactive? How do they operate on the policy implementation level? CAn we get from implementation to dialogical construction of policy.

=> policy is process.

=> How can we build this into a working model of LPE? Open source policy making? Policy is imposed on someone, and that person takes that policy and starts to implement it - why? He is translating the policy into something in his / her environment?

(policy) text => trigger => creation of policy (in action -- what do people do when they do policy). We should not set up a dichotomy of policy makers and policy objects!