Category Archives: education

Inclusion, Mobility & Multilingual Education Conference, 24-26/9/2019

The 13th biennial Language and Development Conference (LDC) will be held in conjunction with the 6th International Conference on Language and Education in Bangkok, Thailand later this month (24-26 September 2019).  The theme of this joint event is conveyed in its title, Inclusion, Mobility, and Multilingual Education Conference: Exploring the Role of Languages for Education and Development (IMMLE).

I missed the call for participation (CFP) earlier this year, so by now all that’s left before the event itself is the registration period, which ends on 15 Sept.

IMMLE description

The purpose of IMMLE is described this way (from the conference page linked above) and a page on the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019) site:

We are all presently witnessing unprecedented levels of human mobility. Along side an increasingly mobile workforce and increased mobility for higher education, we are also seeing the highest levels ever of involuntary displacement, with over 68.5 million people forced from their homes, including 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under 18.

In the Asia-Pacific region, huge populations are moving for work and higher education, with internal displacement and cross border migration due to conflict, poverty, climate change and social injustice creating increasingly complex ethnolinguistic landscapes. Challenges of inclusion, social cohesion and peace-building are raised, for mobile populations but also stable but linguistically marginalized populations, including issues of access to civic participation, justice, health and information.

At a time when many more children are in school, but many are still not learning, and in particular in the context of the declared United Nations Year of indigenous languages, fundamental questions remain about the balance of local, national and global languages in education.

IMMLE objectives

The conference objectives are described in this way:

The overall aim of the conference is to provide a space for practitioners, NGO staff, researchers and government representatives to explore and exchange on issues of language, inclusion, and mobility in education and development.

The Conference aims to:

  1. Explore how an open and inclusive multilingual approach, especially in the context of education and wider society, can maximise outcomes and well-being for different groups and for an increasingly mobile population;
  2. Create linkages between policy, practice and research on how multilingual approaches can be used to advance (civic) participation, access, and learning for children and adults from marginalised and mobile communities;
  3. Investigate the role of, and balance between, different languages – local, national, and international – in the context of diverse and mobile populations, and social and educational practice;
  4. Identify policy priorities for advancing multilingual approaches to social and educational policy-making, learning and development;
  5. Raise awareness among participants in key thematic areas.

Linking the two conference series

The LDC is held every 2 years in different locations, and I posted on this blog about the previous two: 2017 in Dakar, Senegal; and 2015 in New Delhi, India. Per the current conference site, this series “provides an opportunity for policy-makers, researchers, development personnel, teachers and linguists to come together to share views and explore issues concerning language use in development contexts.”

The International Conference on Language and Education, also known as the Multilingual Education (MLE) conference, is organized by the Asia-Pacific Multilingual Education Working Group and held every 2-3 years, For information on the previous two events, see 2016 (Mahidol University website) and 2013 (SIL International website).

Again, per the IMMLE background page:

Bringing the two conferences together represents a unique opportunity to demonstrate the shared mission between the LDC and the Language and Education Conference and to raise the profile of the language issues affecting achievement of the SDGs globally in the context of global mobility.

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International Year of Moderation, 2019

The International Year of Moderation 2019 (IYM2019) was declared in a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution in December 2017. It is one of three UN international years being observed in 2019 – the other two concerning Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019) and the Periodic Table (IYPT2019) – but so far the one getting the least attention.

IYM2019 was an initiative proposed by Malaysia, and was framed by former Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in terms of an effort to “combat the spread of extremism and radicalism by adopting moderation.”

The UNGA resolution cast the Year’s purpose formally as “an effort to amplify the voices of moderation through the promotion of dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation.”

However, the IYM2019 observance does yet not appear to have as well-developed a public (social media) presence as the other two international years. The UN Alliance of Civilizations, which was “invited” in the UNGA resolution to “facilitate the observance” of IYM2019 “in collaboration with other relevant organizations” has nothing on its website. I found only, on Facebook, a page entitled “2019 as the International Year of Moderation,” and an associated event from the beginning of the year (from which I found the image above).

The slow start may be related to former PM Najib’s political and legal problems, and to the closure of the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation in mid-2018. Presumably these would have been prominent in organizing the IYM2019 observance.

Another factor could be the UNGA resolution’s stipulation that “the cost of all activities” in connection with the Year “should be met from voluntary contributions.” Should we conclude that IYM2019 has not (yet) generated sufficient donor interest?

A personal comment: It seems that a year devoted to “moderation” might also, beyond the aims stated above, encourage discussion of moderation as a virtue in other ways. It is for example discussed in philosophy and religious teachings. But it also has very practical benefits, such as in resource use or habits relating to health. If observance of IYM for the rest of 2019 is too narrow in its conceptualization, an opportunity for wider learning would be missed.

(Further edits were made to this post on 30 June 2019)

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International Year of the Periodic Table, 2019

Another of the three United Nations (UN) year-long observances for 2019 is the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT2019), which has its opening ceremony today at UNESCO in Paris.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev‘s discovery of the periodic system and publication of the first periodic table (1869). It was on this basis that in 2017 the UN General Assembly and UNESCO designated 2019 as the IYPT.

The tagline for IYPT2019 is “a common language for science.” The official website explains:

The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements is one of the most significant achievements in science, capturing the essence not only of chemistry, but also of physics and biology.

UNESCO’s webpage on IYPT2019 pitches it as: “A yearlong initiative to raise awareness of chemistry and its applications for sustainable development.”

The National Informal Stem Education Network in the US has a short page with links to some resources related to IYPT2019.

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International Mother Language Day 2017 & the Linguapax Prize

The 18th annual International Mother Language Day (IMLD), observed today (21 February 2017), has as its theme, “Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education,” which seems to carry on the focus on language in education from last year (presumably still with an eye on Sustainable Development Goal #4).

The definition of multilingual education given on UNESCO’s IMLD page is worth copying here…

Multilingual education facilitates access to education while promoting equity for populations speaking minority and/or indigenous languages, especially girls and women:     

  • It emphasizes the quality of teaching and learning with a focus on understanding and creativity;
  • It reinforces the cognitive aspect of learning by ensuring the direct application of learning outcomes to the learner’s life through the mother tongue;
  • It enhances dialogue and interaction between learner and teacher by allowing genuine communication from the beginning;
  • It facilitates participation and action in society and gives access to new knowledge and cultural expressions, thus ensuring a harmonious interaction between the global and the local.

Linguapax Prize

This year’s Linguapax Prize, announced today (as it is annually, on IMLD), was awarded to Dr. Matthias Brenzinger, a German linguist specializing in African languages (notably non-Bantu click languages) and endangered languages, who is currently at the University of Cape Town and heads the Centre for African Linguistic Diversity (CALDi), which he founded. Dr. Brenzinger has also worked in Japan.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Two language museums in Washington

PW logoOn the eve of International Mother Language Day (IMLD), here’s a quick look at the news that the Washington, DC area will get a second museum dedicated to languages: Planet Word Museum. This project began several years ago, based on the vision of Ann B. Friedman, a philanthropist and former reading instructor, and was incorporated in 2013 as the Museum of Language Arts, Inc. On 25 January 2017, the DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development announced an agreement by which (pending DC Council approval) Planet Word and its partners will convert an old landmark school building into a museum space. Opening is planned for 2019.

PW logoThe first museum in this genre in the DC area, and in the entire United States, is the National Museum of Language (NML), which despite the name is also a private non-profit venture. Its origins go back to Dr. Amelia C. Murdoch and a “group of expert linguists, language specialists, and language enthusiasts” in 1971, but it wasn’t until 37 years later that a small museum space was opened in College Park, Maryland (Multidisciplinary Perspectives featured an article about their opening in 2008). Unfortunately, the recurring cost of the museum space turned out to be too high to maintain, so in 2014, NML closed its permanent exhibit and shifted to a strategy of moveable exhibits, an enhanced online presence, and other activities.

A tale of 2 museums

The first question that comes to mind on learning of the new language museum project in this metro area, is whether it and the older one are in communication. The answer, according to NML president Dr. Jill Robbins, is yes.

A second question or set of questions has to do with the relationship between the two – both in terms of missions (similarities, differences, complementarities), and in terms of practical links (such as connections among people working on the two different projects). These seem to me to be harder to answer. In part that is because one is new and the other still relatively young. And there are other differences between the two that would figure in any collaboration.

In terms of their respective missions, my impression is that NML is somewhat more focused on aspects of language diversity or “unity in diversity” (the themes of the museum include “universal aspects of language,” “language in society,” and “languages of the world”). Among various exhibits, they have done some interesting work presenting dialect research in the US, for example. From NML’s mission statement:

Our mission is to inspire an appreciation for the magic and beauty of language. We seek to lead our visitors to their personal discoveries of language and languages. …

My impression is that Planet Word is somewhat more concerned with language arts (note the incorporated name mentioned above) and applied linguistics. Literacy figures as “The Big Issue” on their “About” page. We can expect more details as the project develops, but in the meantime, an article in Chronicle of Higher Education by Planet Word board member Prof. Anne Curzan offers some insights into their thinking. Planet Word’s vision (from the About page):

Language is what makes us human. From earliest childhood we weave our words into speech to communicate. At Planet Word we inspire and renew a love of words and language through unique, immersive learning experiences.

On the organizational level, there are some obvious differences. For example, Planet Word is clearly able to access funding at a level several orders of magnitude above what NML has ever obtained. It also has a much larger board with a wider geographic and institutional representation than the smaller NML has.

On the other hand, NML has a significant experience with the practicalities of running a language museum – albeit on a smaller scale than Planet Word evidently aspires to – and in developing relations with educators and institutions in its vicinity and more widely. The latter include, for example being a founding member of the International Network of Language Museums (INLM; see also addendum, below), participating in events such as the IMLD 2013 celebration at the Bangladesh embassy in Washington, DC, and having a wall exhibit – about American lexicographer Noah Webster – on display at the Noah Webster House in West Hartford, Connecticut.

From the descriptions, however, it seems that Planet Word is modeling itself on certain larger museums – the National Museum of Mathematics in New York was mentioned in one article. Also, Planet Word is expected to have a major impact on development of its immediate neighborhood (see article in City Lab, which includes a comparison with the National Building Museum in DC) – not a role that NML has had to play.

All that said, these two language museums do occupy much of the same terrain even as their emphases and some of their angles may differ. The field of study of language(s) and linguistics after all is broad, and there are diverse approaches to organizing museums. So basically, it’s no surprise that “language museum” can mean different things.

A question at this point is what kind of collaboration might be possible and make sense from the points of view of NML and Planet Word, and also for the public, for whom even one language museum is still a novelty.

We’ll see how this develops, but it will be interesting to see an interview of Ms. Friedman that I am told is planned for publication on the NML website. One question I’d like to ask of both efforts is how they would celebrate IMLD, an annual observance that is not that well known in the US.

Addendum (Feb. 21)

Thanks to NML’s Dr. Robbins for feedback on this post as originally published, leading to some corrections to copy and also a clarification on her institution’s range of activity (which I further expanded on). A key element in that range is the INLM (a list of the members of which appears in an NML blog post).

In the interests of economy, I did not get into the subject of language museums worldwide in this post, even though they figured prominently in my compilation of resources on the International Year of Languages 2008. The global dimension of this class of museums (within the larger class of “locations” about language, to use David Crystal‘s term from “LADDA“) is to a certain extent unavoidable (some articles about Planet Word have mentioned the Mundolingua in Paris, for example), but important enough to merit a separate discussion.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Literacy Day double take

UNESCO ILD2016 posterThere are two days devoted to literacy: International Literacy Day, today, 8 September 2016 (poster on right); and Indigenous Literacy Day, which was celebrated in Australia yesterday.

International Literacy Day has been observed for a half-century, with UNESCO taking the lead by, among other things, choosing a theme (this year’s is “Reading the Past, Writing the Future”) and sponsoring major events (this year over two days at its headquarters in Paris).

Indigenous Literacy Day is more recent, and organized by the Australian NGO, Indigenous Literacy Foundation. It is a “fundraising and advocacy day” on which the organization and partners “spread the word about improving literacy levels and opportunities for Indigenous children living in some of the most remote and isolated parts of our country.”

Both have important roles, though in contexts where some languages are minoritized, the question can be posed about which languages – whose languages – are prioritized. A tweet raised just that issue regarding Indigenous Literacy Day:

Another question is what are compelling criteria for setting up such separate observances for literacy, rather than concentrating efforts on the main international observance. This is not to say everyone (group, organization) has to so limit themselves, but rather that it is a good to ask what the separate observance brings to specific targeted linguistic and cultural demographics on the one hand, and global efforts to expand literacy on the other.

Literacy prizes

In the run up to International Literacy Day, the two annual literacy prizes were announced (on 31 August; the awards are given on 8 September):

The King Sejong Literacy Prize was awarded to:

  • the Center for Knowledge Assistance and Community Development’s programme “Books for rural areas of Viet Nam’
  • the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia of the Mahidol University in Thailand for its programme ‘Patani Malay-Thai Bi/Multilingual Education Project.’

The UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy was awarded to:

  • the South African Department of Basic Education’s ‘Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign’
  • the Jan Shikshan Sansthan organization in Kerala, India for its programme, Vocational and Skill Development for Sustainable Development
  • the Directorate of Literacy and National Languages in Senegal for its ‘National Education Programme for Illiterate Youth and Adults through ICTs.

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