New issue of the Journal of the British Academy explores how education policy in Africa constrains and facilitates multilingualism

21 Jun 2022

Today the British Academy publishes a special issue of the open-access Journal of the British Academy featuring research examining multilingualism in Africa and whether policy could better harness this invaluable resource to benefit individuals, communities, and society.

‘Rethinking Multilingualism: Education, Policy and Practice in Africa’, edited by Dr Hannah Gibson (the University of Essex) and Dr Colin Reilly (the University of Essex), brings together experts working on multilingualism, language policy, and practice with a focus on Africa.

The issue explores the way that current policies constrain – rather than facilitate – educational experiences and achievements. The articles highlight innovative research on multilingualism in the African context, particularly on how language policy can support both learners’ and teachers' experience of education.

Articles include:

  • Dr Colin Reilly, Professor Mompoloki Bagwasi, Dr Tracey Costley, Dr Hannah Gibson, Professor Nancy C. Kula, Professor Gastor Mapunda and Dr Joseph Mwansa introduce the issue: "'Languages Don’t Have Bones, so You Can Just Break Them’: Rethinking Multilingualism in Education Policy and Practice in Africa”
  • Dr Siham Rouabah explores educational policies in Algeria: “Multilingualism in Algeria: Educational Policies, Language Practices and Challenges”
  • Dr Miriam Weidl considers the impact of multilingualism on individual lives in Senegal: “Which Multilingualism Do You Speak? Translanguaging as an Integral Part of Individuals’ Lives in the Casamance, Senegal”
  • Dr Jean Chavula, Dr Elivs ResCue and Dr Colin Reilly compare approaches in Ghana and Malawi: “Language Policy in Ghana and Malawi: Differing Approaches to Multilingualism in Education”
  • Dr Joseph M. Mwansa and Professor Nancy C. Kula compare literacy rates in two locations in Zambia: “Learning Literacy in a Familiar Language: Comparing Reading and Comprehension Competence in Bemba in Two Contrasting Settings in Northern Zambia”
  • Professor Mompoloki Bagwasi and Dr Tracey Costley investigate classrooms in Botswana: “A Defiance of Language Policy: Seamless Boundaries Between Languages in Botswana Classrooms”
  • Dr Gastor Mapunda and Dr Hannah Gibson consider the use of Swahili in rural Tanzania: “On the Suitability of Swahili for Early Schooling in Remote Rural Tanzania: Do Policy and Practice Align?”

Co-editor Dr Hannah Gibson, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Essex, said:

“Exploring multilingualism in Africa has great potential to contribute to quality education and ultimately to sustainable development. This volume investigates the gap between policy and practice in language in education and highlights areas where education can better make use of students’ and teachers’ multilingual resources. Language policies which are inclusive and embrace multilingual realities have the potential to increase student engagement and facilitate their learning.”

Co-editor Dr Colin Reilly, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Essex, said:

“The discourse on language in education policy often centres around which language to use at various stages in education. Many of the papers presented in this issue argue that that this is not the right question. Rather, policy-makers should be asking how we can best support multilingual learners to harness their multiple repertoires throughout education.

“Viewing the language practices which students and teachers bring to the classroom as a resource is a necessary first step. This provides the foundation for developing learning resources, teacher training, and pedagogical practices which enhance multilingual education.”

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For further information contact the Press Office on [email protected]  / 07500 010 432.

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