In this talk, John Simpson looks at the challenges and solutions for implementing multilingual approaches in the classroom. 

Date: 7 October 2016

Link to the recorded talk: http://www.viddler.com/v/a205bb1d

The benefits to individuals and societies of being multilingual are increasingly recognised. However, what does this mean for schools and classrooms? Do all teachers have a licence to use multilingual approaches? What does the practice mean for teachers in multilingual classrooms where learners speak many different languages? And how can multilingual approaches help promote inclusive, quality education?

This talk focuses on three main challenges to using multilingual approaches and suggests ways of addressing each. It begins by acknowledging a recent shift in attitude, from viewing multilingualism as an obstacle to education towards seeing it as an asset. At the same time, it notes a key challenge to multilingual approaches from governments that continue to promote monolingual classroom policies: such make it difficult for teachers of English or other subjects to adopt multilingual approaches since they feel uneasy in doing so, worried about possible sanctions should they be seen to use this practice. Besides the influence of language policy on classroom practice, the talk notes that, as large numbers of people who speak different languages migrate from rural to urban areas, schools in developing countries are becoming increasingly multilingual. It explores the related challenge for teachers of how to manage large, multilingual classrooms and suggests techniques that can be used for this.

The final challenge addressed goes beyond managing different languages in the classroom to harnessing this rich resource for achieving inclusive and equitable quality education. The talk ends by considering strategies that teachers can use to foster multilingual approaches in their work.

About the speaker

Dr. Simpson is the British Council’s Senior Adviser in English for Education Systems, sub-Saharan Africa, where he provides technical support to English for Development. He recently directed the Commonwealth-award winning STEM project, supporting teachers’ English through mentoring, and was technical adviser to the LaST innovation, language supportive textbooks and pedagogy.

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