Professor Dr. Annick De Houwer, University of Erfurt, Germany:
Including all children from the start: multilingualism-friendly early childhood education
More and more children in early childhood education (ECE) all over Europe have a linguistically diverse background. They may hear two language varieties at home, only one of which is used in preschools and kindergartens, or they may just hear languages at home that are not used in ECE. These facts need to be fully recognized and acknowledged in preschool classes. If they are not, children will feel left out. Feeling left out does not contribute to socio-emotional well-being. Yet, such well-being is of fundamental importance to learning. Additionally, if children feel no recognition or respect for their home language(s), they may not develop any motivation to learn the school language. Starting from a social justice perspective that takes the UN Convention for Child Rights as its ethical basis, my presentation will further explain these facts, and will propose relatively easy and inexpensive ways to include ALL the children in the classroom from the very start, regardless of their language background.
Professor Lars Anders Kulbrandstad, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway
Language minorities and education in Norway – then and now
Because of the ideology that dominated the Norwegian nation building way into the 20th century, people tend to think that this country was monolingual and monocultural until the advent of immigrants and refugees in the second half of the 20th century. The fact of the matter is that groups of people with different languages and cultures have lived in close contact on the territory of present day’s Norway since time immemorial; and throughout the history of organized schooling, there have been children from language minorities in classrooms in most parts of the country. However, their home culture and language have mostly been ignored or neglected by the school and they have been taught as if have had the same background as the majority. This is often still the case in spite of official rhetoric praising diversity and supporting minority rights. In my talk, I will give examples of school experiences of children from different minority groups in the past and present and discuss inconsistencies and contradictions in Norwegian educational policy as well as in public opinion and attitude.
Professor Mila Schwartz, Oranim Academic College of Education, Israel
Exploring child language-based agency in early education
The role of language education in early childhood in promoting a child's life-long love of language and language proficiency seems to be unquestionable: “Opening children's minds to multilingualism and different cultures is a valuable exercise in itself that enhances individual and social development and increases their capacity to empathize with others” (European Commission, 2011, p. 7). Many parents send their children to bilingual education institutions as a way to expose them to a novel language and encourage its acquisition at a very young age. However, the children themselves may or may not accept this, due to what is referred to as child language-based agency – this is a novel research domain, and the subject of recent studies in early language education, showing that the agentic behavior of children as young as three years old can express personal thoughts and beliefs about languages (Almér, 2017; Bergroth & Palviainen, 2017; Schwartz, 2018; Schwartz & Gorbatt, 2016). In this talk, I will address some salient features of this phenomenon by drawing attention to children’s ideas about languages shown in their agentic behavior, language learning strategies and individual characteristics.
Almér, E. (2017). Children’s beliefs about bilingualism and language use as expressed in child-adult conversations. Multilingua, 36 (4), 401-425.
Bergroth, M. & Palviainen, Å. (2017). Bilingual children as policy agents: Language policy and education policy in minority language medium Early Childhood Education and Care. Multilingua, 36 (4), 359-375.
European Commission. (2011). Commission staff working paper. European strategic framework for education and training (ET 2020). Language learning at pre-primary school level: Making it efficient and sustainable. A policy handbook.
Schwartz, M. (2018). Preschool bilingual education: Agency in interactions between children, teachers, and parents. In Schwartz, M. (Ed.). Preschool Bilingual Education: Agency in Interactions between Children, Teachers, and Parents (pp. 1-24). Series Multilingual Education. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
Schwartz, M., & Gorbatt, N. (2016). “Why do we know Hebrew and they do not know Arabic?” Children's meta-linguistic talk in bilingual preschool. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 19, 668-688.