Multilingual Education Works: From the Periphery to the Centre
Kathleen Heugh and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (Eds.)
158 x 240 mm
Year of Publishing
Territorial Rights
Orient BlackSwan

For the last century or more, Western and Northern models of education have dominated countries of the South/South-East. These have seldom borne fruit in Africa, South America, South and South-East Asia becaause linguistic diversity and indigenous or organically developed educational practices have been largely overlooked. Such models have not met the needs of linguistically diverse communities on the margins. This volume responds to that challenge. It demonstrates successful practices in multilingual education, responsive to local conditions and with community participation, in low-income countries, even within limited budgetary investment. The examples in this volume foreground the systematic use of the mother tongue/local language, alongside an international language of wider communication and possibly a third language with regional or national significance. The case studies identify what works, as well as the risks and vulnerabilities. The West and North have much to learn from the practices presented and what the research contributes towards current theories in linguistics and education.

Dr  Tove Skutnabb-Kangas has written or edited around 50 monographs and around 400 articles and book chapters, in 38 languages, about minority education, linguistic human rights, linguistic genocide, subtractive spread of English and the relationship between biodiversity and linguistic diversity. She lives on an ecological farm. For publications, see

Kathleen Heugh is an applied linguist who focuses on language education policy, planning and evaluation in multilingual countries, and especially multilingual education practices in Africa. She is currently based at the University of South Australia, and holds several honorary positions at universities and institutions in Europe, India and South Africa. 

Preface Adama Ouane
Notes on terminology
Who Am I   Dainess Maganda
Introduction – Why this book? Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Kathleen Heugh

  1. Carol Benson, Kathleen Heugh, Berhanu Bogale, and Mekonnen Alemu Gebre Yohannes: The medium of instruction in the primary schools in Ethiopia: a study and its implications for multilingual education
  2. Teresa McCarty: Native American Language Education in Light of the Ethiopian Case – Challenging the Either-Or Paradigm
  3. Susanne Pérez Jacobsen and Lucy Trapnell Forero: Language and culture in education: comparing policies and practices in Peru and Ethiopia
  4. Carol Benson and Kimmo Kosonen: Language-in-education policy and practice in Southeast Asia in light of the findings from Ethiopia
  5. Ajit Mohanty:Language Policy and Practice in Education: Negotiating the Double Divide in Multilingual Societies
  6. Iina Nurmela, Lava Deo Awasthi, and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas:Enhancing quality education for all in Nepal through indigenised MLE: the challenge to teach in over a hundred languages
  7. Shelley Taylor: MLE policy and practice in Nepal: Identifying the glitches and making it work
  8. Jeylan Wolyie Hussein: English supremacy in Ethiopia – autoethnographic reflections
  9. Paul Taryam Ilboudo and Norbert Nikièma: Implementing a multilingual model of education in Burkina Faso: successes, issues and challenges
  10. Ahmed Kabel: “There is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’”: medium of instruction and mother tongue education in Morocco
  11. Kathleen Heugh, Carol Benson, Mekonnen Alemu Gebre Yohannes and Berhanu Bogale:Multilingual education in Ethiopia: what assessment shows us about what works and what doesn’t
  12. Kathleen Heugh and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas: Multilingual education works when ‘peripheries’ take the centre stage

About the authors

Release Date: 14-12-2010 Venue: New Delhi

I started reading the chapters and could not stop - I found it fascinating. This is an invaluable book. It crystallizes the debate about mother tongue medium education in policy and practice in different multilingual contexts. Its major strength, first, lies in the comparative data presented in the case studies of different societies using Ethiopia’s MTE policy implementation as major thread throughout. Second, it draws on concrete data grounding its arguments in the real lives and experiences of communities, learners and teachers.  It is a ‘must read’ for all who work in the field of language policy and planning, politicians, NGOs and practitioners in schools and classrooms.
Naz Rassool, Professor, Institute of Education, Faculty of Economics and Social Science, The University of Reading, UK

Part of saving out planet is preserving the world’s wealth of languages. Multilingual education is a key component in saving that treasury of languages. This very original, inspirational book is a rich testimony to this global necessity. It globalises our understanding of languages in education and changes our understanding of bilingual and multilingual education from something mostly western to being truly transnational: it spotlights the small, celebrates African and Asian cases of multilingual classrooms and demonstrates that such education is universally successful.
Colin R. Baker, Professor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Bangor University, Bangor, Wales, UK

This is a book of hope and inspiration. It documents the significant shift that is taking place in countries around the world in the status and legitimacy of mother tongue-based multilingual education. The editors of this volume, together with their colleagues who have authored individual chapters, have been engaged for many years in promoting a vigorous dialogue between research, theory, policy and practice, the fruits of which are documented throughout the book. Although challenges remain with respect to resource allocation, programme implementation, and the persistence of colonial-era ideologies, remarkable changes are taking place in the educational experiences of young people whose home languages are being validated in the school. This book represents a giant step towards a “tipping point” where mother tongue-based multilingual education will be normalized as the preferred and, in fact, common sense option for educating the children of the world.
Jim Cummins, Professor, The University of Toronto, Canada

A norm-setting work on multilingual education, which combines theoretical perspectives with practical experience from different parts of the globe. Competently presented by seasoned scholars, well argued, and with concomitant developmental orientation, the book demonstrates convincingly not only that multilingual education works, but also that, for most developing countries, there is no viable alternative.
Ayo Bamgbose, Professor Emeritus, Department of Linguistics, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

How to save the world from the monolingual emission? This book answers this question by showing that the ecology of multilingualism is the natural state in the most populous and poor parts the world, which will possess the majority of the youthful labour needed for economic production in this century and by arguing that an educational system based on their cultural norm of multilingualism will enhance their capability and creativity. The book illustrates the multilingual educational experiments in these impoverished parts of the world, their successes and challenges, from which the rich countries can learn to build a secure future of the world. The working models of multilingual education described in the book suggest ways to navigate the triple deck bus of home language, national language and global language to progress without segregating people in separate decks based on language.
E. Annamalai, Professor, Director Emeritus, Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, India.

In this important book, Skutnabb-Kangas and Heugh once again challenge us to think about multilingual education from a different angle––this time putting the periphery at the center. The effect is one of destabilizing old visions and imagining new worlds where multilingual education provides the backdrop for generous understandings of all peoples.
Ofelia García, Professor, Ph.D. Program in Urban Education, Graduate Center, CUNY, The City University of New York, USA

Is it just a coincidence that sites of linguistic diversity are largely populated by the underprivileged? Neglect and oppression of the multiplicity of voices from the margins of society has a LONG history. Those who are fortunate to read this book will appreciate how listening to these voices may ensure a better future for all of us.
Rama Kant Agnihotri, Professor of Linguistics, University of Delhi, India

This book expands significantly research on multilingualism to some of the most linguistically diverse countries in the East and the South. Scholars around the world have a lot to learn about multilingual education from the fascinating analyses and comparisons carried out in these countries.
Jasone Cenoz, Professor, University of the Basque Country, Spain

For too long, publishers and scholars from the countries of the North and West have overlooked the rich seam of research on multilingual education in the global south. The publication of this book is therefore a very welcome and decisive intervention. It speaks directly to the Millenium Development Goals and presents detailed, rigorous and insightful evidence from research which demonstrates the value and sustainability of multilingual approaches to education. The volume is an illuminating read for researchers, educators and policy-makers.
Marilyn Martin-Jones, Professor, Director, MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham, UK

There are regrettably few detailed accounts of successful elementary school instruction in the pupils' home language, which makes this book with its surprising examples (especially Ethiopia and Nepal but other third world cases) so relevant. Students of language education policy will learn a great deal about the possibility of multilingual education from the chapters of this important book.
Bernard Spolsky, Professor emeritus, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Promouvoir le multilinguisme et l’éducation multilingue fondée sur la langue maternelle, c’est contribuer à préserver la diversité linguistique, qui est à la société humaine ce que la biodiversité est à la nature: le souffle qui en garantit la vitalité.
Les systèmes éducatifs de la majorité des pays du monde souffrent encore de l’inacceptable: le déni du droit humain linguistique à bon nombre de peuples et de communautés d’apprendre dans leurs langues maternelles. C’est pourquoi, je salue cette belle initiative de Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Kathleen Heugh et leurs collègues. Multilingual Education Works est un excellent travail très documenté, à plusieurs mains expertes, qui a su nous faire partager la riche expérience d’innovations pédagogiques et de politiques linguistiques de pays considérés ‘périphériques’, mais qui deviennent le Centre de référence des nouvelles dynamiques à promouvoir pour la nécessaire refondation des systèmes éducatifs hérités de la colonisation, en développant le principe d’un multilinguisme fonctionnel convivial, et pour l’émergence d’une société globale multiculturelle et solidaire.
Adama Samassékou, President of MAAYA - the World Network for Linguistic Diversity; Former Executive Secretary of ACALAN, the African Academy of Languages; Former Minister of Education of the Republic of Mali, Bamako, Mali.

Promoting multilingualism and mother tongue-based multilingual education contributes to the maintenance of linguistic diversity, which is for human society what biodiversity is for nature, namely the breath which guarantees vitality.
The education systems of most countries throughout the world still suffer from something unacceptable: the denial of linguistic human rights to a large number of peoples and communities to learn through the medium of their mother tongues. This is why I welcome the beautiful achievement of Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Kathleen Heugh and their colleagues. Multilingual education works is the well-documented, excellent work of many experts. They share with us a wealth of experience in pedagogical innovation and of language policies in countries that are considered ‘peripheral’ but which are becoming the reference Centre for innovative dynamism in promoting the necessary reshaping of education systems that were inherited from colonialism, through developing the principle of convivial functional multilingualism that leads to the emergence through solidarity of a multicultural global society.
Adama Samassékou, President of MAAYA - the World Network for Linguistic Diversity; Former Executive Secretary of ACALAN, the African Academy of Languages; Former Minister of Education of the Republic of Mali, Bamako, Mali
(translation: Robert Phillipson)

How multilingualism and multiculturalism can be genuinely maintained and fostered is an issue that needs be addressed with some urgency as the push and pull between linguistic and cultural diversification and homogenization intensifies. This excellent volume brings to light the fascinating lived experiences of multilingual education in linguistically rich but resource impoverished countries, and offers important lessons from which we can all learn.
Amy B. M. Tsui, Professor (Chair of Language and Education), Pro Vice-Chancellor & Vice President, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

In a century that is dominated by knowledge as a production category, education has become probably the most crucial parameter of development. It has now become evident that development deficits in various parts of the economic South and the post-colonial East are intricately related to the colonial histories, large-scale displacements of marginalised communities and lack of access to quality education and healthcare. The locations of such deficits are precisely those where the greatest linguistic diversity continues to survive, but survive under the threat of language erosion caused by the colonially inherited monolingual education. Multilingual Education Works by Kathleen Heugh and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas brings together essays by some of the internationally acclaimed authorities in the area. The volume is the most timely reminder that for the simultaneous survival of language diversity, as well as the communities that speak the languages, it is necessary to learn from some of the successful experiments in multilingual education. The essays present studies drawn from several continents, Latin America, North America, Africa and Southeast Asia and South Asia. I have no doubt that this volume will prove to be an illuminating reference point for policy makers, educators and linguists in all three continents.
Ganesh N. Devy, Professor, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, writer and language rights activist, India

Skutnabb-Kangas and Heugh present innovative and challenging ideas when they say that “Multilingual education works when ‘peripheries’ take the centre stage.” Revolutionary though this is, it needs to be interpreted so that, depending on the position, every point is a centre as well as a periphery, tied in a network of relations. At least half of today’s languages are marginalised and endangered and the attention of the world needs to be focused on these minor and minority languages together with the value of multilingualism. If the book succeeds in enhancing the consciousness of the world towards predicaments of the third world, then its effortswill have been amply rewarded.
Debi Prasanna Pattanayak, Former Director, Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore. Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India.

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