Monday, May 28, 2012
Nokha manka-kha nakha manak-kha,
Chumui kusum kusum fai-oi
Tabok watui wano mokoro kokno
Hemdi hemdi chwng
Nok bisin-o hubno.
Fataro ta-tongdi watui sijak-no,
Watui sijakhlai kulum
Faidi chorok chwng
Nok bising-o hub-no.
Puboi rabai-o saal kakha,
Toksa tokmuluirok punlaikha,
O dada horai-kha,
O boboi horai-kha.
Bachadi bachadi thumani bachadi,
Aro Lokoloi ta-tongdi.
Makhang khorang soo-di
Yathui yak soo-di;
Nokfangsani mwng lagoi
Jinya bobar per-ruruk
Haati-ni borok fairuruk
Saal riri tangruruk
Haaba-ni borok fairuruk
Gaati holongsa kachang-jago
Ta-wa watui ta-wa.
Bolong-ni toksa kachang-jago
Ta-wa watui ta-wa.
Hoogo maitang bar-ruruk
Sokramfa-ni makhang chung-ruruk;
Mukpe bobar per-ruruk
Sokramma-ni makhang muniu-ruruk.
Aa Athuk Khangarai
Hapong tolago toi boiyoi thaango-
Holong beser beser aathuk tongo
Toisa batok batok abalsa tokgo
Faidi athuk gangarai aa romlaino chwng
Chini Haa Machang
Bolong kuthuk, haapong kuchuk
Chini haa machang;
Machang machang, aha chini haa
Bolong kupulung thaimachang,
Kok duksum tongo;
Aha machang machang.
Toksa punglai-o, musui honglai-o
Aha machang machan!
Maal Mata Punglaimani
O Amingma miwong miwong,
Suima hong hong.
Musukma ombon ombon,
Misima bon bon.
Tokma korok korok,
Toksa chiok chiok.
Wakma kunwey kunwey,
Puma mey mey.
Takhum kang kang,
Nokfangrok boro thang!
Bolong besero beredi,
Khunjur kaiyoi khanadi,
Toksa tokmului khorang-
Makhara kekek kakak,
Toksa kunkunk kankank,
Wakma gungunk gangank!
Chenchema pungo chyn chyn,
Thaming yongsa pynpyn,
Makhara bwa kakak!
Musui pungo hong hong,
Mayung churui-o kong kong,
Masa wang wang!
Dudu pungo tyan tyan,
Musui basa pyn pya
Aro pungo owang!
Esuk gorja talwk!
Yathui naikhai palatoi,
Basak naikhai hapongtoi,
Bwase basuk kalok!
Khunjur bini bailingsuk,
Mokol-lai mator esuksuk!
Kilam-o khitong twnsa!
Yak koroifung wanama koroi
Bukung kalok tongo.
Obobai bo toi khokman-o
Laifang faiyo chago.
Gira khaiyo naithoksa!
Makhang bini fatwiluluk,
Kunjur lapnui thengthengsa!
Mokol kolnui kiting kiting,
Bukung naikhai kwchungsa.
Girasabai sinyari ganang!
Yapaiyo esuku kalokma!
Miwong miwong khaiyoi pungo
Duduse wok khuikhana!
Sadung tungo, sadung tungo,
Sadung tungtoi tungtoi watui wago;
watui watoi watoi sadung tungtoi,
Oi jongfase khatungo!
Toi chokeleng, toi chokeleng,
Nokha sakago pokhale,
Kachak kakharang, kusum kurumu,
Indro dhonuse bo Indro dhonu.
Kharangbere aro fanok bobar,
Sial rong ganang koirerem;
Nokha sakago taal kagoi
Aro koroikha hor.
Handogiri khiring khiring
Enjang ojan pohr?
Nokha sakago handogiri
Chunrui chunrui khaiyoi chungo;
Wanagoi manya aang, wasogi manya,
O handogiri tama khayoi nwng
Nokha sakago kachogoi tong?
Rururururu ruru rururururu
Watui wago ruru rururururu!
Toima torkha toisa torkha,
Watui wago ruru rururururu!
Panthor lomkha toifor lomkha,
Dol kokha; O dol kokha!
Chumui kusum manakgo,
Gurum gurum khaiyoi nokha pungo,
Monday, September 12, 2011
Implementing Primary School Bilingual Education
2.6.2 Selecting the types of program-----------------------------------------------------------------------24
2.6.3 Understanding and analyzing aspects of the program---------------------------------------------------------------------- 25
Topics and/or questions for semi-structured interview-------------------------------------------------------------------- 74
The introduction of the languages of the ethno-linguistic minority peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh in the local primary schools as the medium of instruction (MI) is a long cherished desire and demand of the people. This issue is an urgent necessity for them, because language barriers have become a great problem for the ethnic minority children in accessing and completing education. It is reported that the drop out rate of the students in CHT primary schools is very high. Not only this, language is an intrinsic part of their distinctive identity. So, the preservation and development of their languages is realized as necessary for the preservation and development of their culture, heritage, identity and status. It is even implied that the introduction of their language in schooling is necessary for racial harmony, peace and stability.
The languages and cultures of the indigenous minority peoples are, in fact, severely neglected by the government’s policy. There is no provision or even recognition of their identity in the constitution and in the education policy. They are victimized by an assimilationist view and unitary nation state system, the politico-ideological stance of the government. But as they are marginalized in the power dynamics, they can not do anything about it. However, the government recognised this issue in 1997 (CHT Peace Accord) and 2003 (PEDP II) and has agreed to address it. Unfortunately this realization has not yet been reflected in any action. One significant reason for the non-implementation of the minority language as the medium of instruction is the inactive or ineffective role of the government nominated representatives of the Hill District Councils.
I have adopted the discourse analysis approach in this research within the framework of social constructionist theory. I took the perspective of the marginalized ethno-linguistic minority peoples of CHT as my ontological stance in a view to unpack the power relationship and to deconstruct the existing version of education policy. Thus I aim to play an active role in social construction. The data collected indicate that the introduction of the CHT indigenous ethnic minority peoples’ languages in local primary schools is not merely a demand but a necessity, and that the people concerned believe it is their birth right. The assimiliationist stance of the Bangladesh government does not support the multilingual and multicultural nature of the Chittagong Hill Tracts area of the country. Recommendations emerging from this study suggest the immediate implementation of the Primary Education Development Program of 2003.
Primary education is the foundation of a child’s learning and future building. Therefore, it is very important to carefully consider the needs and capacity of children when adopting policies for primary education. There are some essential issues to consider, such as the repertoire and schema that children bring with them when they start their early education. Two other significant factors to be taken into close consideration are the need to reduce the gap and differences between home and school as well as stimulating in children an interest in school and learning. The last two factors are also recognized in the national education policy of Bangladesh (2000).
What is the repertoire that minority children carry when they start schooling? What is the instrument that children carry for communication and understanding? The unequivocal answer would be ‘their mother tongue’ and ‘the schema’, which they learnt from their parents, family members, society and culture. Without considering these facts, weaving of trajectory of lessons [A1] and learning would not be successful. Thus primary education would not be attractive to and effective for children. Ignoring this fact is one of the major reasons why the drop-out rate from primary education is highest in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) when compared with other parts of Bangladesh (ADB, 2001).
‘Mother tongue’ and ‘schema’ are the only intellectual repertoires of the children. Without recognizing and implementing these basic properties and resources of children, all the declaration of children’s rights such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the World Declaration of Education for All (1990), the Dakar Declaration (2000) and the Rangamati Declaration (1998), the National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction (PRS) will go in vain. I believe, it is a child’s right to have their early education in a language which they understand or a language that can help them understand their lessons and scaffold their learning. ‘Schema’ implies that the content of their lessons should be something that the children understand. Almost all of the participants in my research interviews, who are from the ethnic indigenous community of the CHT, reported that the first two/three years of their early education was too difficult for them as they did not understand what the teachers were saying and what the lessons were about. So they just memorized the lessons for those years. Not only that, they said that they faced a lot of troubles in expressing personal needs such as seeking permission to go to the toilet. Thus they lost interest in school.
Language therefore becomes the first and foremost priority in choosing the medium of instruction in primary education. These are the basic considerations generally taken into account in determining the language of instruction in primary education, but the only unfortunate children are the minority children who have to start their early education with a language and contents that are unknown to them. Hence the beginning of their schooling is not welcoming and entertaining for them, rather, for them, it is like entering into a fearful unknown world.
Since the independence of Bangladesh, Bengali has been the national language and the medium of instruction in the mainstream schooling system. Apart from Bengali, there are forty five other languages of ethnic minorities as identified by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL, 2007). According to Ethnologue (2007), there are 38 other languages in Bangladesh among which the major concentration is located in the CHT, where eleven ethnic indigenous communities live; these speak ten distinct languages.
The names of the eleven ethnic indigenous minority communities and their languages are shown in the following table:
Names of the communities
Name of the languages
Rangamati and Khagrachari Hill Districts
Banderbon and Khagrachai Hill Districts
Khagrachari, Rangmati and Banderbon Hill Districts as well as Comilla, Chandpur, Chittagong and Rajbari Districts.
Rangamati and Banderbon Districts
Rangamati and Banderbon Districts
Rangamati and Banderbon Districts
Rangamati and Banderbon Districts
Banderbon Hill District
Rangamati and Banderbon Districts
Banderbon Hill District
Banderbon Hill District
Table1: ethnicity, languages and demography of the CHT
The population of the ethnic minority people of the CHT is about 600,000 (six hundred thousand) according to the population census of 2000.
Picture 1: Map of Bangladesh within the world map
Due to the absence of official recognition of the ethnic indigenous minority peoples’ languages and their application in school instruction, the pertinent children are greatly hindered in their cognitive development and acquisition of literacy. This is one of the major reasons for the CHT having the highest primary school drop-out rates in the country (ADB report, 2001). “Government statistics show that the literacy rate in Bangladesh is about 62%, but in the Chittagong Hill Tracts areas it is virtually less than 20%” (Begum, Akhter and Ara, 2006). This difference shows how greatly deprived the CHT people are and why the minority language and culture need to be addressed with special attention within the education system, especially in primary schooling.
It is a matter of hope that the government of Bangladesh has now decided through the CHT Peace Accord 1997, clause 33a (2) to facilitate the ethnic minority children in having primary education in their own languages. Unfortunately this has not yet been implemented in the last ten years. Nevertheless, the government passed a landmark policy in Primary Education Development Program-II (PEDP II) in 2003, where it was decided that a “provision of quality education to tribal communities, including a Tribal Development Plan” (PEDP II, 2003, p. 5) will be taken. The program was designed to commence in July 2003 and be completed by June 2009. Unfortunately, I found during my field visit to the CHT from December 25, 2007 to February 28, 2008 that all the government primary schools are running as before. Only a few non government organizations (NGO) such as Jabarang, Twimu, Koinoniya, Juno Pohr, BRAC; Community-based organizations such as Mru Chet, Bwam Social Council, Bangladesh Tripura Kalyan Sangsad, Tribal Cultural Institution; International organizations such as Caritas, Save the Children are working on some issues such as materials development, curriculum design etc. Some of them are even running some non formal schools. A United Nations Development Programme is even ready to launch a large scale project for primary education in minority languages in the CHT. But no government or formal primary schools are introducing minority languages on any scale or in any form. I am, therefore, very much interested in investigating the factors that are hindering an important and necessary issue from being introduced and I would like to explore the ways to help the government commitment and the dream of the CHT people to come true. I am particularly interested in bringing the perspective of the minority people in formulating a policy framework.
Consequently, I would like to offer policy guidance on (i) how to make the national policy friendly for the minority children’s rights to primary education in their own language, as well as (ii) a type of program which is able to incorporate both the minority children’s mother tongues and the national language in the school curriculum. Therefore, my research will explore the following questions:
(i) What are the issues/problems for policy development and implementation of minority language instruction in the CHT primary schools?
(ii) What are the principles on which key aspects of such a policy should be based?
(iii) What are the processes by which a minority languages policy for primary schools in the CHT can be developed and monitored?
(iv) What are the policy-issues which are preventing the process of implementation of minority language instruction in the CHT primary schools?
I would like to recommend and contend that a bilingual education is suitable for the CHT people, though the nature of the program would be multilingual for the schools and bilingual for the individual child, as there are eleven ethnic minority races living in this region, who speak ten different languages. So from the perspective of administration, the program would look like a multilingual one, but as the main stakeholders or consumers of the products and services - the students- would mainly consume two languages- national language and home language- the program would be a bilingual education for the students.
Some may raise the question about why I am emphasizing bilingual/multilingual education in the introduction of local languages in the primary schools of the CHT. Is it not enough to introduce the local languages right away? I would say “No” in response. I would prefer to advocate that the whole instruction in the primary schools should not be in the local languages alone. All the participants in my research interviews also expressed the same view as mine. The curriculum instruction must also include the national language (Bengali). The international language (English) should also be taught as a subject. The foundations of the national language and English should be seeded into the primary education for the following reasons:
(i) After primary education, children are going to secondary schools, where they will be exposed to the instructional media of the national curriculum, which are Bengali and English. So, they must be prepared for these media.
(ii) During the course of study, some of the students may move to other districts if parents are transferred for work (those who are employed).
(iii) Though primary education in their own language is necessary for a number of reasons, the broader future socio-economic implications are also similarly important, and these will require the use of Bengali and English
The reason why I am choosing to only address the policy issues is that policy is the first priority for the initial stage of implementing any new project. Without policy guidance, how can a new program be implemented? That is why I am more interested in the policy issues than any other things at this stage. I also have a keen interest in other issues, such as curriculum design, materials development, classroom instructions etc., but as I am doing a minor thesis of sixteen thousand words, I cannot cover all the issues here. I would, therefore, argue for introducing bilingual/multilingual education in the primary schools of the CHT and wish to investigate the policy issues for the same purpose.
I believe that the implementation of clause 33a (2), that is introducing the ‘mother tongue’ in local primary schools of the CHT, will be a major step to the maintenance and development of the languages of the CHT indigenous peoples, which is an intrinsic part of their identity and existence. The literacy and cognitive development of the minority children will be enhanced to a greater extent. At the same time, this will provide them with a positive sense of identity. As a result, it will promote the peace and harmony in this region.
I would like to discuss bilingual education briefly here:
Bilingual education: Bilingual education refers to any teaching and learning situation/context where the curriculum (standard school or university subjects) is/are taught through two languages. This does not mean that the two languages are used equally in the teaching program. There are many different types of bilingual education. Depending on the approach taken two possible consequences can occur: additive bilingualism or subtractive bilingualism. The effects of both of these will be discussed below,
In the situation of additive bilingualism, “a person learns a second language at no cost to their first language” (Baker, 2006, 4). On the other hand, Subtractive Bilingualism or submersion bilingualism occurs in a situation or educational setting where the first or home language of the minority children is replaced by the majority language. Baker (2006) states, “submersion education is a label to describe education for language minority children who are placed in mainstream education. However, no school calls itself a submersion school” (p. 216). He further explained that in such an educational setting, “the language minority students are taught all day in the majority language, typically alongside the fluent speakers of the majority language. Both teachers and students are expected to use the majority language, not the home language” (p.216). He compared this situation to throwing the minority children into the deep end of a pool and expecting them to learn swimming as quickly as possible ‘without any help of floats or swimming lessons’ (p.216). He comments that students will either ‘sink, struggle or swim’ in this situation. This situation exists in a place “where the politics of a country favors the replacement of the home language by the majority language” (Baker, 2006, p.4).
The types of programs discussed above are deeply rooted in the political ideology of a country. The prior one is a product of a liberal political view of the government, but the later is an outcome of an assimilationist and hegemonic perception by the politicians, which kills the minority people, but gives nothing to the majority people.
However, I am presenting a strong form of additive bilingual education below, which is plausible for ethnic minority languages:
Heritage Language Bilingual Education: Heritage language bilingual education is a strong form of bilingual education where language minority children use their native, ethnic, home or heritage language in the school as a medium of instruction alongside the majority language with the goal of full bilingualism. The native language is protected and cultivated alongside development in the majority language through this kind of program
This kind of program is suitable for those who have lost or are losing their ‘native’ language. The language is learnt through content and 50% of the curriculum is allocated for use of the language. Another 50% of the time is used to expose students to the majority language. Thus students are expected to achieve bilingualism, biliteracy and biculturalism. This kind of program is also called maintenance bilingual education or developmental bilingual education in the USA and the ‘heritage language’ is called ‘native language’, ‘ethnic language’, ‘minority language’, ‘ancestral language’ and ‘aboriginal language’.
Unfortunately, there is no effective policy decision yet directed towards the promised and agreed educational system for the CHT ethnic indigenous minority children. So, finding out the hindrances and recommending policy guidelines for that particular education system is the main objective of this research. In other words, paving the way for developing the indigenous minority people’s languages and promoting peace and harmony in the CHT are the other objectives for this research.
The government has not yet initiated any concrete and sustainable policies for this purpose, which is arousing deep frustration and agitation among the CHT indigenous people, which may erupt into a violent protest over the course of time. I am very interested in filling the vacuum of policy issues by providing guidelines through this research.
Bilingual/multilingual education is rising prominently in the arena of education, especially in multicultural and multilingual societies. This plays a great role in the literacy and cognitive development of children and also helps to promote cultural, communal and political harmony. However, I will review literature which explores bilingual education and language policy in relation to the CHT minority languages.
There is no doubt that ‘mother tongue’ is necessary and valuable for children when starting formal education, but mother tongue alone is not sufficient for formal education for a minority group. The objectives of formal education are multidimensional. It should include language, culture and heritage of the community for cognitive, socio-cultural and political reasons. At the same time, any formal education should also aim at the future economic achievement of the children. For this reason, the national language must also be placed in the education program.
In relation to this point, the Nobel laureate poet, Robindranath Tagore (1913) advocated that children should build the foundation of mother tongue before learning any other languages. The same voice is also heard from The UNESCO 1953 document, which recommends,
In particular, pupils should begin their schooling through the medium of the mother tongue, because they understand it best and because beginning their school life in the mother tongue will make the break between home and school as small as possible (cited in Romaine, 1995, p. 20).
The importance of teaching children in their mother tongue is also upheld in other influential pieces of legislation, such as that by the Directive of the Council of the European Community (Brussels/77486/EEC). It instructs member states of the European Community,
Take appropriate measures to promote the teaching of the mother tongue and the culture of the country of origin of the children of migrant workers, and also as part of the compulsory free education to teach one or more official languages of the host state (cited in Romaine, 1995, p. 20).
The knowledge of ‘mother tongue’ also helps children in learning other languages. Miller (1982) has given a vivid explanation of the linguistic aspect of how ‘mother tongue’ helps in a child’s education. He explained that because of the knowledge of the structure of mother tongue, children become more aware of the structure of other languages, and thus scaffolds the learning of other languages faster.
Thus competence in a first and second language makes the children bilingual and being bilingual has many positive implications- linguistically, socially, economically and politically. Peal and Lambert (1962) found that bilingual children are intellectually superior to monolinguals in terms of mental ability such as mental flexibility and concept formation and they also have a diversified set of mental abilities. They have, of course, stated that they were not sure yet whether their superiority in intelligence is because of their bilingualism or if they are bilingual because of their intelligence.
This research clearly indicate that children should have instruction through their mother tongue in the early stages of their education. Unfortunately, minority children are widely being deprived of this opportunity, which may affect them both psychologically and socio-politically. So, there must be some response to this issue. Houlton and Willey (1982) pointed out that ‘positive responses to diversity’ and ‘encouraging bilingualism’ play great roles in racial harmony (p17), because it supports the ‘self esteem and positive self image’ of the minority children. This approach to education will, hence, help to achieve greater harmony in the CHT region, which underwent twenty six years of ethnic and political conflict for autonomy of the CHT people (a political system which gives them the power to preserve their own language, culture, heritage and identity).
At the same time, as mentioned above, any education program must also emphasize the future economic achievement and further education of the students. Baker (2006) in this regard argued that any education planning “needs to lead to economic and employment, social and cultural opportunities” (p.245). I would, therefore, advocate that the whole instruction in the primary schools should include the local languages, as well as the national language (Bangla)[A4] . English should also be taught as a subject, because the foundation of the national language and an international language should be seeded in primary education.
The importance of language policy for minority groups has a far reaching impact on and implications for literacy and cognitive development, determination and recognition of their identities; preservation and development of their language and culture; promotion and empowerment of their political position; economic achievement; and above all for maintaining peace, harmony and stability of the state. As discussed in the previous section, it is important to argue and pursue a favorable language policy so as to adapt and implement some strategies to preserve and promote the languages of minority groups. Without a state policy, no initiative will ever be sufficient to promote minority languages.
The government needs to recognize the multiculturalism and multilingualism of the country and should incorporate it in the constitution to open a long-term and sustainable education for the ethnic minority people, similar to the Indian Constitution which guarantees the rights and protection of the minority peoples’ languages and cultures. Annomalai(2001) has correctly contended, “Language policy in education is an enabling and disabling instrument in the maintenance of mother tongue and multiculturalism” (p.71). At the same time he has given the example of India where the language policy makes students learn three languages. Annamalai (2001) delineates from the Indian Constitution that “Article 29(a) provides the right for any section of the citizens to conserve its language, script or culture” (p.127). “Article 30 provides the rights for the linguistic minorities…to establish and administer educational institutions” (p127), which is further strengthened through VIIIth amendment as Article 350A which says, “provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups” (p.128)
We can see more examples of language policy in education that uphold the importance of language policy for minority groups as well as imply the necessity of education acts to be passed for the CHT and other minority people of Bangladesh. These include the Native American Languages Act (1992) of USA, the Indian Education Act (1972), No Child is Left Behind (2001) of USA, and the UN World Declaration of Education for All (1990)
We should however remember that in the case of policy approval, only government has the sole authority and responsibility. Individuals and communities can only create pressure on governments for a favourable policy. Governments also have a great deal to do in terms of resource allocation, which is, for example, ensured in the Indian constitution as discussed above. That is why Prunty (1985) defines policy as “authoritative allocation of values” (p. 136).
For many centuries, minority languages have been ignored and neglected. As a result, many minority languages have declined and faced extinction, which has concurrently wiped out knowledge systems and experiences acquired through centuries. The view that contributed to the language death and decline is the assimilationist attitude of the dominants. Shohamy (2006) has vividly delineated this situation. He states,
As a result, authorities often use propaganda and ideologies about language loyalty, patriotism, collective identity, and the need for ‘correct and pure language’ or ‘native language’ as strategies for continuing their control and holding back the demands of these ‘others’ (p.46).
Only recently people have become aware and concerned about the facts and the minority people themselves have become concerned about their particular identity in the later half of 20th century (Baker 2006). Along with the movement of biodiversity, ecological balance and conservation measures; the questions of cultural diversity, linguistic diversity and plurality of human existence are also becoming increasingly important which are having far reaching positive impacts on the rights to identity and culture. Shohaly (2006) further noted,
a particularly intrusive site for observing this tension-filled dynamic is the development of LP (language policy) in democratic societies in which minorities have begun to demand and gain power…to follow pluralist democratic societies, including advocating that all citizens should have the opportunity to learn a variety of languages (p. 46).
We can find the pluralist policies adopted by a large number of democratic countries, such as the Netherlands, South Africa, France, Spain, Norway, Australia, UK, USA, Peru, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, China, India etc. As a result, the philosophy of ‘harmony in diversity’ is becoming increasingly popular. Developing language policies favorable to the survival and enrichment of minority languages in Bangladesh is also becoming a burning issue in the discourse of minority rights as well as in public policy. We can see the reflection of this concern in the CHT Peace Accord, 1997 and the Primary Education Development Project (PEDP) II, though none of them have been effectively implemented yet. Nonetheless, there is no concrete language and education policy for minority groups in Bangladesh, about which Hossain and Tellefson[A5] ( ) expressed their regret. They said, “To date, the government has no language policy for the ethno-linguistic minorities of Bangladesh” (p. 243). They have noted that “Bangladesh has sought to maintain dual roles for English and Bengali, while largely ignoring language issues facing a range of ethno-linguistic minorities in the country” (p.242). The negligence is not only in the national constitution, but also in all National Education Commission Reports of 1974, 1987, 1997 and 2000. That is why, they have appropriately commented that “until the educational challenges facing speakers of other languages are incorporated into language policies; their education will continue to be inadequate” (p.255). They correctly predicted that this would be reflected in the ADB Report (2001), which says that the drop out rate of the CHT primary students is the highest in Bangladesh. The first ever attempt to include the minority languages in education was seen in the PEDP II, which has also not yet been implemented.
However, we should be very clear about the concept or definitive idea of language policy. According to Tollefson (1991), language policy is the ‘language planning done by government’ (p.16). Ozolins (1993) has defined language policy in line with Tollefson. He states that language planning is a technical branch of linguistics that describes what speech the communities do, whereas language policy is part of social[A6] , and hence part of public policy, i.e. what governments do. He explained that language policy is both social, political and bureaucratic attitude and action, which is embodied in distinct institutional practice (Cited in Dannis Ager, 1996, p.2). But Cooper (1989) rejected the definitions of language planning which “restrict language planning to activities undertaken by government, government authorized agencies, or other authoritative bodies, i.e. organizations with a public mandate for language regulation.” He thinks that it excludes the activities undertaken by individuals such as Yehuda on the use of Hebrew, Samuel Johnson on corpus matters of English, Mistral, and Cardinal Richelieu etc. So, he defines language planning as “deliberate effort to influence the behavior of others with respect to the acquisition, structure, or functional allocation of their language codes” (p. 45). Dannis (1996), in this regard, posits that individual may have some role in (what Fasold, 1984 called) ‘the sociolinguistic’, but “it is difficult to see how they can have sufficient credibility, authority or competence to be successful” in (what Fasold, 1984 called) ‘the instrumental’ (p.2) . He further argued that “Ben Yehuda, Samuel Johnson, Mistral, Cardinal Richelieu may be language planners, but success will attend their work when it is implemented and turned into language policy, fitting into the social and political environment of the time, becoming part of power relationships and representing social forces or ideology” (p.2). So, for policy, what government does is the most important.
However, there are various approaches which can be followed when adopting a language policy. These were summarized by Williams (1991a) and are discussed below:
The evolutionists: The first group of evolutionists follows Darwin’s idea of survival of the fittest. According to them, those languages that are strong will survive and the weak languages will either adapt to their environment, or die. The second group of evolutionists heavily criticizes the view of the first group. They think that the view point of the first group is too narrow and simplistic and that it does not address the intrinsic essence of evolution. They believe that evolution is not about constant competition, it is, rather, a matter of interdependence. Williams (1991a) contends that mutually beneficial outcomes can be possible.
They believe that language loss is not ‘evolutionary’ rather it is a deliberate result of human decisions in relation to political and economic policies that directly or indirectly affect the languages. Moreover, language is not about ‘purely economic communication’, it is about human culture, human heritage, human existence and beauty.
The conservationists: Conservationists argue for maintenance and increasing enrichment of minority languages. According to them, language planning must cherish minority languages and care for revitalizing and invigorating them just as certain animals are preserved in some particular ‘territorial areas’. Native Indian languages in North America, Celtic languages in Britain and France, Irish Language in certain areas of Ireland have invoked the argument of conservationists.
The Preservationists: The preservationists seek to maintain the ‘status quo’ rather than to develop the language. They are more conservative than the conservationists in attitude. They believe that any change, not just language change, will damage the chances of language survival. Williams (1991a) and Baker (2006) criticized them as being traditionalist and anti-modern in outlook, as only thinking locally and acting locally in contrast to the conservationists, who prefer to think globally and act locally.
I believe that among the three approaches and attitudes towards language policy, the conservationist view is the more desirable and suitable for the survival and development of minority languages.
However, Paulston (1994) presented an important “analytical framework for explaining and predicting the language behavior of social groups as such behavior relates to linguistic policies for minority groups” (p.4). He contends that “no language policy will be successful which goes counter to existing socio-cultural factors” (p.4). The framework is as follows,
1. If language planning is to be successful, it must consider the social context of language problems and especially the forces which contribute to language maintenance and shift;
2. The linguistic consequences for social groups in contact will vary depending on the focus of social mobilization, i.e. ethnicity or nationalism.
3. A major problem in the accurate prediction of linguistic consequences lies in identifying the salient factors which contribute to language maintenance or shift, i.e. answering the question “under which conditions”
He emphasized that all these factors should be considered in the establishment and understanding of educational policies for minority groups.
Spolsky (2004) proposed a framework for language policy development, which is composed of the following three main components-
Language beliefs refers to ideologies about language that lie behind each policy…Language practice, referring to the ecology of language and focusing on the kind of language practices that actually take place (and practiced) in the entity, such as when, regardless of policy and beliefs and for various reasons, certain languages are used in certain places and contexts…Language management, referring to specific acts that take place to manage and manipulate language behavior in a given entity (explained by Shohamy, 2006, p. 52).
It is presented in the following graph: ,Error! Reference source not found.
Figure 1: A model of language policy. Source: Based on model in Spolsky (Cited in Shohamy, 2006, p.53).
Developing language policy should focus on language planning. Cooper (1989) defines language planning as “deliberate effort to influence the behavior of others with respect to the acquisition, structure, or functional allocation of their language codes” (p. 45). However, language planning, traditionally, involves three integrated lines of actions including status planning, corpus planning and acquisition planning (Hornberger, 1994; Kaplan & Baldauf, 1997).
According to Baker (2006), status planning is political in nature and it involves political movements seeking more recognition, capacity and function. The language movement of the 1940s of the then Pakistan for recognition of Bengali as one of the state-languages is one classic example of status planning. There are also many examples of minority languages that attained official status such as the Maori language in New Zealand, Welsh language in UK, Kokborok in India. Corpus planning focuses mainly on linguistic issues, e.g. modernizing and standardizing vocabulary. Nahir (1994) suggested eleven goals for language planning (which are mainly corpus planning). The eleven goals are listed below:
(i) Language purification
(ii) Language revival
(iii) Language reform
(iv) Language standardization
(v) Language spread
(vi) Lexical modernization
(vii) Terminology unification
(viii) Stylistic simplification
(ix) Inter-lingual communication
(x) Language maintenance, and
(xi) Auxiliary-code standardization
(cited in Paulston, 1994, p.7)
However, Baker (2006) states that schools, books, magazines, WWW, television and radio all help to standardize a language. He has also mentioned some of the examples of languages that are formally receiving corpus planning from centrally funded and coordinated initiatives. These are the Catalans, Basques, Welsh and Irish. These are examples of governments who care for minority languages and are a source of inspiration for others.
It is said that maintenance is more difficult than achievement. So, it is very important to maintain a language policy once one is adopted. We have seen some examples of policy adoptions in favor of the ethno-linguistic groups in Bangladesh, which were not maintained e.g. the CHT Peace Accord 1997and the PEDP II. Schermerhorn (1970), in this regard, posits that “the most important is the agreement or disagreement between dominant and subordinate groups on collective goals for the latter, such as assimilation or pluralism” (cited in Paulston, 1994, p. 14). On the basis of Wirth’s typology of different policies, e.g. assimilationist, pluralist, secessionist and militant, Schermerhorn (1970) explained,
Assimilationist policy seeks to merge the minority members into the wider society by abandoning their own cultural distinctiveness and adopting their super-ordinate’s values and lifestyles”. In contrast, “the pluralist strategy solicits tolerance from the dominant group that will allow the subordinates to retain much of their cultural distinctiveness (cited in Paulston, 1994, p. 14).
So, unequivocally, to ensure the maintenance of language policy for minority groups, the pluralist policy is necessary. Unfortunately, since the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 and the adoption of the first national constitution in 1972 until the adoption of the latest education policy in 2000, a pluralist policy has been completely absent and ethno-linguistic minority groups are framed to assimilate to Bengali. See Razia Sultana Khan (2004), Hossain and Tollefson (2006) and Kabir (1985).
In contrast to the Bangladeshi policy, we can see the efforts of pluralist policy and acts of maintaining such policies in many countries such as the Native American Languages Act (1992) of USA and the Indian Education Act (1972), Article 29(a), 30 and 350A of the Indian Constitution. We see the pluralist policy in Spain for Catalan, Basque and Gallego; in the UK for the Welsh language; in Peru for the Quechua language; in Ireland for the Gaelic language, in New Zealand for the Maori Language, in Australia for Aboriginal languages, in China for 20 minority languages, as well as in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere in the South Pacific (see Baker, 2006). These examples of legislative actions illustrate that maintenance of language policy depends much on the goodwill of the government and awareness of the stakeholders. Nonetheless, we should remember the warning of Paulston (1994), discussed in the earlier section.
I believe that three-tiers of roles are necessary for the maintenance of a language policy, which Annamalai (2001) described as a government role, a community role and an individual role among which the government role is the most important and effective one.
Implementation of language policy is a series of complex tasks which range from government decision making to addressing the ideological and social reality, allocating resources and expertise, and finally distributing it to the stakeholders.
The first issue is producing and approving a policy document. Though a policy may be explicit or implicit, it is better to make it explicit or overt in the case of Bangladesh to make it a visible document, to avoid confusion and unnecessary debate, as well as for the sake of smooth continuation long term. Shohamy (2006) defines explicit policy, referring to Schiffman (1996), as “overt LPs refer to those language policies that are explicit, formalized, de jure, codified and manifest” (50). Schiffman (1996) further noted,
many researchers (and policy makers) believe or have taken at face value the overt and explicit formulations of and statements about the status of language variety, and ignore what actually happens down on the ground, in the field, at the grass-root level, etc (p. 13, Shohamy, 2006, p.50).
A classic example of the difference between the policy document and actual reality is the CHT Peace Accord 1997 and the PEDP II. But the other aspect of Schiffman’s (1996) observation, relevant to less developed or developing countries like Bangladesh, is there are some agencies, which are always ready to interfere and hinder the implementation of any project favorable to minority groups. That is why I believe that the first issue necessary for implementing something is a formal policy document.
In the case of CHT, a policy similar to the Quebec policy would be very plausible, where “the language laws refer not only to principles, but more specifically to the implementation, such as the languages on signs, the number of hours children will learn a language in school and so on” (Shohamy, 2006, p.51); because, for CHT, language policy is required specifically for primary education. So, I believe, corpus planning and acquisition planning should be emphasized in the initial phase of implementation.
The second issue to be considered in implementing language policy is setting the goals and objectives. In a multilingual society such as the CHT region of Bangladesh, the primary objective is to help students understand lessons by introducing home language in school instruction. At the same time, language maintenance and development are also important aims. There are also many ideological and political objectives in language policy.
The third issue in implementing language policy is formulating a curriculum and developing text books and materials. In relation to this, there is a need to establish an authority to take care of this area. Usually such an authority is in the form of a board/ commission/ academy/ committee etc. In regard to policy implementation, Davis (1994) states,
Examples illustrate the need for the government to clarify educational goals and objectives, re-evaluate cultural assumptions, and develop curriculum, examinations, and teacher education programs which are consonant with these goals and objectives (p.120).
The forth issue would be establishing teacher training programs and setting up teacher training institutes. In Bangladesh, we already have the Primary Teacher Training Institute (PTTI) for primary teachers and Teachers’ Training College (TTC) for secondary schools.
The fifth issue would be the setting of monitoring and evaluation devices and systems. Kirkwood (1989) argues that the implementation of language policy is a ‘never ending process’ which involves “providing feedback to enable adjustments and change to the original decisions, and effective change requires organization and government to be responsible for effective action” (Cited in Dannis, 1996, p. 3). Baker (2006) contends that language planning tends to proceed by ‘trial and error’ (p.51). Thus devising monitoring and evaluation systems is very important in ensuring effective and successful language education planning.
There are several issues related to implementation and maintenance of bilingual education, which we must take into account. The particular issues could be divided into four categories, such as legal issues, administrative issue, resources and academic issues.
The legal issue is similar to the adoption of a policy or act and declaring it in the form of a government order. As mentioned above, the CHT peace agreement has been approved by the national parliament of Bangladesh, there is no more legal obstacles for implementing the local languages in the local primary schools. The only necessity is to issue government orders and to circulate administrative rules and orders, which is not a difficult issue.
The administrative issue would be forming an implementing body or authority; foundation of teacher-training institution, training the teachers and staff; establishing a cell or committee for monitoring, evaluation and development. For this purpose, the government may open a cell for bilingual education in the ministry of education and in the CHT Regional Council (RC). The CHT District councils may act as the district coordination body, for which they may like to form an implementing committee and a cell for monitoring and evaluation. The existing teacher training centre located in Rangamati district may be handed over to the regional council and it may include a component on bilingual education in teacher training.
Resources involve funding, books and materials as well as trained up teachers and staff. A separate education board and text-book board may be formed under the supervision of the RC for the bilingual education program in the CHT primary schools.
Academic issues are related to curriculum and syllabus design, medium of instruction, course contents and materials etc.
One very striking point here is that the literacy rate of the CHT indigenous people is high enough to run schools in their own languages (bilingualism). Moreover, the majority of the existing population of teachers in the primary schools of the CHT is the ethnic minority people. The UNDP is also interested in providing funds for this program. So, there is no problem with human resources in implementing the bilingual education in this region, it is just the policy issues. So, I believe, a government declaration of the policy will enable the implementation of the local languages in the local primary schools.
However, the following issues should be taken into close consideration in designing the policy framework:
The CHT is a multi ethnic, multilingual, multi cultural and multilayered administrative region, which is different from the district on the plains. The social setting, lifestyles, food habits, religious beliefs and behaviors are significantly different from the majority Bengali society. While making a policy decision about the CHT and its people, all these divergent elements must be considered if it is aimed at being in their best interest and bringing benefits to them.
Selecting the type of program is a major issue in bilingual education as there are multidimensional types of programs. Baker (2006) has presented a typology of ten types of BLE, which are as follows,
· Monolingual forms of bilingual education for bilinguals:
(i) Mainstreaming/submersion (structured immersion),
(ii) Mainstreaming/Submersion with Withdrawal Classes/Sheltered English/Content-based ESL and
· Weak forms of bilingual education for bilinguals:
(ii) Mainstream with Foreign Language Teaching, and
· Strong forms of bilingual education for bilingualism and biliteracy:
(ii) Maintenance/Heritage language,
(iii) Two Way/ Dual Language,
(iv) Mainstream Bilingual.
(See Baker 2006, p.215-6).
It was discussed earlier that a heritage language bilingual education program would be the most suitable one for the CHT primary schools, which is consonant to the goals and objectives discussed above. This type of education program is successfully running in Wales, UK for the Welsh language and in the USA for Navajo, Hawaiian and other immigrant languages. “While the term ‘heritage language’ is used internationally for indigenous peoples as a language minority, it can also include ‘foreign born’, colonial and African American Vernacular English in the USA” (Baugh, 1999 cited in Baker, 2006). The term ‘heritage language’ may also be called ‘native language’, ethnic language’, ‘minority language’, ‘ancestral language’, ‘aboriginal language’, or ‘community language’ (Baker, 2006). To implement any education system, we should be fully aware of the broad spectrum of the program. Keeping this purpose in mind, I am presenting the different aspects of a heritage bilingual education program and the issues related to implementing and maintaining a heritage language bilingual education program below:
184.108.40.206 Definition: Baker (2006) defines heritage language bilingual education as a program where “language minority children use their native, ethnic, home or heritage language in school as a medium of instruction with the goal of full bilingualism” (p.238). This type of program is also called maintenance bilingual education or developmental maintenance bilingual education. Examples of heritage language bilingual educations are found in Navajo, Hawaiian and Spanish in the USA; Wales in the UK; Community and heritage languages in Australia. Examples are also found in China, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Peru, Spain, Norway and elsewhere.
220.127.116.11 Objectives: In addition to the linguistic, cognitive and political benefits of bilingualism discussed in the introduction section, there are more objectives of heritage language bilingual education pointed out by Baker (2006) which are as follows,
l To protect, cultivate, develop and maintain the minority language.
l ‘Improving ethnic relationship’,
l Promoting the status of minority people,
l Cognitive and literacy development of the minority children,
l Achieving bi-literacy and biculturalism.
l Producing proficient speakers, readers and writers in both of the languages. (See Baker, 2006)
In the case of the CHT, the objectives of a heritage language bilingual education are related to academic, cognitive, socio-cultural and political achievement.
18.104.22.168 Curriculum, content and time allocation: In a heritage language bilingual education, the minority students’ home language is used almost half of the curriculum time. Baker (2006) argues that in a heritage language education, in most cases, half of the curriculum instruction is given in the heritage language or minority language. The proportion of majority language may range from 10% to 50%. In the case of my project, it may range from 30% to 40%, because there should be an appropriate space for English too.
Curriculum content should be appropriate for the age of the students. Piaget’s (cited in Campbell, 1973), stages of cognitive development should be considered in this regard. It should also comply with the objectives and principles of the program. The example of Rock Point Community School in Navajo, USA which is a famous and successful heritage language bilingual school focuses on the content areas of reading, language arts, math, science, social studies and health, which are taught both in Navajo and English with differing blocks of time (Baker 2006). For the CHT, I suggest that reading, language arts, social studies and health be taught in minority languages; math and science in Bengali, and English as a subject (not as medium of instruction). Both local and national cultures should be addressed in the content. The allocation of time and content I propose for the CHT is as follows,
Elementary level or play group: 100% of home or ethnic language
Grade 1: Heritage language- 80%, Majority language- 10%, English- 10%
Grade 2: Heritage language - 70%, Majority language - 15%, English - 15%
Grade 3: Heritage language - 60%, Majority language - 25%, English - 15%
Grade 4: Heritage language - 55%, Majority language - 30%, English - 15%
Grade 5: Heritage language - 50%, Majority language - 35%, English - 15%
22.214.171.124 Justification for greater time and content in minority language: Baker (2006) contends that the minority language is easily lost and the majority language is easily maintained. Children are usually exposed to the majority language through television, advertisements, shops, signs and videos in the community surroundings. A similar situation is also found in the CHT. Moreover, children usually transfer ideas, concepts, knowledge and skills in the majority language. So, initially children must be more exposed to the minority language than the majority language. As the students move to the higher grades, they are gradually exposed to the majority language in approximately equal time to achieve full bilingualism. In the CHT, children will be allowed to have education in their ‘mother tongue’ only in the primary schools. From secondary school onwards they need to merge with the mainstream curriculum, where the medium of instruction is Bengali with one or two subjects in English. With this in mind, the allocation of greater time and content allocation to ‘mother tongue’ in primary schools is justified.
126.96.36.199 School types: This kind of program is mostly implemented in elementary schools, but it can be implemented in secondary education too, e.g. the cases of Wales in the UK as well as Hawaiian and Navajo in the USA where students have curriculum in both home language and majority language up to grade 12 (Baker, 2006).
188.8.131.52 Student types: The students of a heritage language education are mainly from minority language speaker homes. But it may include other students as well. This option might also be open to the majority students in the CHT case (Baker, 2006).[A7]
Implementation of a large scale program such as the one I am proposing here involves multi-layer roles- roles of government, community and individuals.
184.108.40.206 Policy process and the role of government: In the case of policy approval, only government has the sole authority and responsibility. Government also has a great deal to do in terms of resource allocation. Many of the policy issues are founded in the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, 1997 in relation to the clause (Clause 33b) which states that ‘mother tongue’ be introduced in primary education in the CHT. This is also addressed in the Primary Education Development Program II (PEDP-II) formulated by the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education of Bangladesh in October, 2003, where it was proposed that “provision of quality education to tribal communities, including a Tribal Development Plan” (p. 5) would be formulated. The proposed program of heritage language bilingual education program can be implemented within the ‘Tribal Development Plan’ if it is clearly formulated and initiated. The CHT Regional Council and the Three Hill District Councils can play vital roles in this regard if empowered by the government. But my apprehension is that PEDP II is formulated on the basis of a project which is supposed to be implemented within[A8]
220.127.116.11 Role of the community: In the case of the CHT, the local NGOs, community organizations and local government bodies, e.g. Union Parishad and village committees can be involved in the process of implementation of a heritage language bilingual education program. However, Annamalai (2001) suggested that at least the use of sub-titles in regional television could play a role in the promotion of minority language. I advocate that Bangladesh government should allocate certain times (e.g. one hour a day) to regionally or nationally broadcast radio or television programs in minority languages. Chittagong Radio Station and Rangamati Sub-station can play a vital community role in the maintenance and development of minority language by broadcasting programs related to the language program. The CHT communities can also publish child-centered magazines, books and cartoons as a support to bilingual education and language maintenance. The community can also increase the domain of ethnic language use, e.g. conducting social, cultural, religious and literary functions and practices in their own language. The community should also keep playing their political role, e.g. raising their voice and keeping links with the government.
18.104.22.168 Role of Individuals: Annamalai (2001) argued, “Language rights are the rights of individuals and it is their role to demand them, to exercise them and to create awareness about these rights among other individuals so that they are not carried away by extraneous forces like the market” (p.74). We can see the examples of many individuals contributing to language policy and planning, such Samuel Johnson for English, Ben Yehuda for Hebrew, Fredric Mistral for Provencal. Individuals in the CHT can also play similar roles by doing research, by writing advocatory articles, by commencing creative writings, by doing corpus planning etc. Some individuals can also form policy advocacy forums.
22.214.171.124 Beginning and progression of implementation: In the process of implementation, a heritage language bilingual education should primarily be introduced at the elementary level. Gradually and consistently, it can be implemented to grade one students in the next year as the students get promoted to grade one. In the same way it can be implemented to the next grades in the following years as the same students move to the next grades. With this consistency, students will be provided and supported with a practical background repertoire and trajectory of knowledge, to carry on their accumulative lessons. Without considering this fact, if the program is suddenly introduced to all grades students will be thrown into an abrupt and sudden challenge and there is a potential threat of failure of this program.
Nonetheless, I am aware that there might be some argumentative questions such as “should the grade two+ students of the implementing year be deprived of it forever?” This will be a crucial question. In this regard, students of grade two+ may be introduced to language arts lessons in the heritage language, not other subjects. They will, in this case, have at least some knowledge and experience of the heritage language education. This sort of minimalist adjustment should be taken for granted in any transitional period of implementing a new program.
In the following few years, there should be close monitoring, program evaluation and adjustments made to the newly introduced education system. Other related issues such as teacher training and materials development should also be accomplished beforehand and during the implementation.
This research was conducted as a qualitative study, combining the data collection methods of a semi-structured interview, informal observations and collection of documents to explore the focus of inquiry. Through my research, I have attempted to explore the policy guidance essential for implementing the local languages in the primary schools of the CHT. Johnson & Christensen (2004:30) in this regard, explained, “Qualitative research is often exploratory; that is, it is often used when little is known about a certain topic or when a deductive approach is deemed more appropriate to learn more about a topic.” Maykut & Morehouse (1994) stated,
Qualitative research… generally examines people’s words and actions in narrative or descriptive ways more closely representing the situation as experienced by participants (p.3).
They have further explained that this research style attempts to capture what people say and do, as the product of how they view the world and to understand the pattern of meaning within those words and actions. Qualitative researchers collect the data in natural settings and use empirical materials in the form of language and actions instead of numbers and measures (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994). Collection of such data requires the use of multiple methods to capture as much reality as possible. Along the same vein, Denzin & Lincoln (1994) posit that “Qualitative research is multi-method in focus, involving interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter” (p.3).
Qualitative research does not aim to generalize the outcomes, because this kind of research is directed to describe specific moments and meanings in individuals’ lives. Maykut & Morehouse (1994) in this respect argue that the findings of the research is not “the generalization of results, but a deeper understanding of experience from the perspective of the participants selected for study” (p.44).
Thus the characteristics of qualitative research were considered to be suitable for my study because of its capacity to grasp people’s personal perspective; in the case of my study, people’s feelings, attitudes and demands for policy guidance to implement minority languages in the primary schools of the CHT.
A semi-structured questionnaire was used (See Appendix A) to conduct this study which was designed to identify the participants’ experiences and difficulties in their early education in a language which was not their home language. This research also strived to capture the feelings, attitudes and wants of respondents for introducing their home language in schools for their children. The interview also attempted to elicit how they view the obstacles for non-implementation of their home language at schools. This type of interview requires the interviewer to specify topics and issues to be covered in advance, but still it permits the respondents [A9] to decide the sequence and wording of questions during interview (Patton, 2002).
These characteristics helped the interviewer and the interviewees to construct a friendly and relaxed interaction, which facilitated the elicitation of information and clarification of participants’ responses.
For greater validity and reliability, I have employed the ‘triangulation method’- semi-structured interviews, collection of documents as well as visual images and informal observations. Informal observations constituted participation in seminars and political rallies. The fact that the researcher and the participants come from the same region and community groups, created the unique chance for the researcher to commence the informal observation stated above. Thus, as a member of the research participants’ community group, I availed the opportunity to utilize my existing role, which Brewer (2000) categorized as ‘observant participation’.
In order to avoid misinterpretation and for further clarification of any information gathered, the participants were communicated with over the phone. For this additional query, less formal questions were used.
In selecting the participants, I adopted the sampling approach of qualitative inquiry. The selection was based on purposeful sampling to enable an in depth focus on a relatively small number of carefully selected samples (See Neuman, 2000 & Punch, 1998). Patton (2002) explained that these samples can provide rich information from which a researcher can “learn a great deal about issues of central importance to the purpose of the inquiry” (p.230).
This particular research was carried out with the ethnic minority leaders of CHT who were divided into four categories as follows,
(i) The chairpersons or representatives of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council (RC) and the three Hill District Councils (HDC),
(ii) Education Officers
(iii) Community Leaders and
(iv) Head Masters
The research sought to find out the enabling and disabling factors of bilingual education in the CHT primary schools with a view to exploring the principles for policy guidance. At the same time, it strived to explore their experiences of primary education in a language which was not their home or ethnic language. The participants categorized here are the key actors in the indigenous ethnic minority peoples of the CHT as well as in the local organizations and agencies. So, they were believed to be the appropriate people to be selected as research participants for the purpose of this study.
In addition, I would like to briefly describe some of the communication difficulties here as it captures some aspects of the participants’ lifestyles.
I travelled to all three of the hill districts by bus. There is an inter district bus service between Khagrachari and Rangamati Hill District, but there was no direct way to get into Bandarban district. So, I had to go there via Chittagong.
I visited Bandarban only once and stayed there one week for this study, but I went to Rangamati twice and stayed for three days. Khagrachari is my home town, so I was able to visit it many times. The regular public vehicles in Bandarban and Khagrachari town are RICKSHAW (pulling carts with pedals). Life is, for this reason, very slow there. The pace of life in Rangamati is comparatively much faster, as the regular public transport is auto rickshaw here. Rangamati is the only mountain-city in Bangladesh, where there is no pulling cart at all which is a complete exception among the Bangladeshi townships and cities. But as none of the three districts have a mobile phone network; it was extremely difficult to communicate with people. Consequently, I had to visit the houses of the selected participants multiple times to get appointments for interviews.
The method I employed in the research data-collection was approved by the Standing Committee on Ethics in Research involving Humans (SCERH) of Monash University. Data collection commenced after the research participants were selected and gave consent to participate as individuals by signing a consent form which was also approved by SCERH. Since my goal was to find principles of policy to be used to enable the languages of ethnic minority peoples of CHT to be taught in the schooling system, it became necessary to collect primary data from the key stakeholders of the ethnic minority communities of CHT. This study required information be gathered from the ethnic leaders about how they were affected by both past and current policies; about the factors hindering their languages in the schooling system and about how and on what basis the policy should be formulated to introduce their languages in local primary schools.
In order to attain this information, I opted to collect data through a triangulation process- interviews with a semi-structured questionnaire, collection of government documents and informal observations. In relation to this, Maykut & Morehouse (1994) state that a combination of methods improves our understanding and ‘the credibility of our finding’ (p. 175).
The questionnaires (See Appendix A) were divided into four categories that commensurate to the four groups of participants. The group-one-questions focused more on the ideological, legal, political and administrative issues; group-two-questions emphasize administrative, curricular and monitoring measures; group-three-questions draw on the ideological and general questions. The forth and last group of questions strived to elicit data on academic matters.
In most cases, I sent the questionnaire in advance to the participants so that they could be mentally prepared for the interviews. However, some of the participants instantly took part in the interview after reading the questions.
The interviews were conducted at a time and place convenient for the participants. All of the interviews were tape-recorded with due consent and later transcribed. As mentioned earlier, it was a semi-structured interview so, the interview questions were very flexible in the sense that they served as a cue for determining the general course of the interview. Richards & Morse (2007) explained that ‘researchers design open-ended questions’ and arrange them in a ‘reasonably logical sequence’ (p.114).
Because of the open-ended nature of the questions and the flexibility in conveyance of opinion, the interviews took the form of open and interactive discussions, which was really enjoyable for both the interviewees and the interviewer (myself). Apart from the formal interviews, I had many opportunities to interact with the people of the CHT. Being a member of the community myself gave me more insight to the phenomenon being investigated. Many of the participants as well as many informal interlocutors also told me about facts relevant to education policy and the ethno-linguistic minorities which enriched my knowledge and experience of the focus of enquiry. Additional contact and communications were made for more data clarification and enrichment. I have also collected government and non-government documents relevant to my study, which provided me with a deeper and greater insight into my inquiry.
Data analysis is ‘a search for pattern in data’; looking for similarities and differences across cases in a view to define categories and concepts by examining the meaning of people’s words and actions (Neuman, 2000, p.426). Similarly, Maykut & Morehouse (1994) posit that there is common ground in the process of qualitative data analysis findings which are derived from the collected data.[A10] They further explain,
Data is collected that relates [A11] to a focus of enquiry. Hypotheses are not generated a priori and thus the relevant variables for data collection are not predetermined. The data are not grouped according to predetermined categories. Rather, what becomes important to analyse emerges from the data itself, out of a process of inductive reasoning. (p. 126-7)
Discourse Analysis Approach
There are many approaches to qualitative research. I have adopted the discourse analysis approach to analyze my research data within the framework of the social constructionist theory. I will approach my study from the perspective of the marginalized ethnic minority people of CHT, where I hope to unpack the inequality of the distribution of opportunity, power and dominance in the arena of the existing education system and national policy.
In discussing discourse analysis, it is probably necessary to understand the definition of discourse first. Foucault defined discourse as
A group of statements which provide a language for talking about-a way of representing the knowledge about-a particular topic at a particular historical moment. Discourse is about the production of knowledge through language. But…..since all social practices entail meaning, and meanings shape and influence what we do –our conduct-all practices have a discursive aspect (Cited in Hall, 1992, p.291).
He further argued that nothing meaningful can exist outside discourse. The idea is that physical things and actions exist, but they only take on meaning and become objects of knowledge within discourse. Hall (1997) contends that the idea of production of meaning argued by Foucault is the heart of the constructionist theory of meaning and representation. So, to understand the meaning of words or language, they must be put in their contexts. Potter and Wetherell (1987, p.198) argued, in this regard, “the function of language can not be understood instrumentally; the context of the language use must be counted to understand it.”
From the understanding of the definition of ‘discourse’, we can point out that ‘discourse analysis’ is the discussion of knowledge and meaning produced through language and human conduct, which has implications for the complex dynamics of social, political, and psychological phenomenon. Potter and Wetherell (1987, p.198) state that “Discourse analysis is a radical new perspective with implication for all socio-psychological topics”.
As knowledge and meaning is constructed through language, discourse analysis may unpack whose language it is and what this means. We can find this in Wetherell’s (2001) opinion as she says, “Social scientists who study discourse have been interested in how people, groups and institutions mobilize meanings. How have some interpretations become dominant and whose interests do they serve?” (p. 14).
Another important concept of the discourse analysis involves exploring the alternative versions appropriate for the purpose of the researchers[A12] . In line with this argument, Wetherell (2001) argues that discourse constructs ‘a version of social reality’. “Any one description competes with a range of alternatives and indeed some of these alternatives emerge” through discourse (p.16). She has further extended that we, as discourse analysts, have to ask the following questions,
Why this version or this utterance? What does it do? What does it accomplish here and now? And what does it tell us about the wider discursive economy or the politics of representation which influence what is available to be said and what can be heard? (p.17)
Terre Blanche and Durrheim (1999), in this respect advised researchers to “adopt a suspicious and politicized epistemological stance, and employ methodologies that allow the researcher to deconstruct versions of reality” (p.16).
For the same reason, I like the structure that the social constructionist theoretical framework provides to my research as I believe that the existing educational policy of Bangladesh is highly politicized and purposely biased for the Bengali speaking majority people, and hence, it ignores the interest of the minority communities. This clearly indicates that there is a space for criticism of the current version. Therefore, I intend to explore the place of the CHT people in the domain of the national education policy and would like to argue that another version of the policy be adopted which will benefit the CHT people. Thus I will take part in the ‘active construction’ of ‘other possible versions’ (Wetherell 2001, p. 17). To do this, I will need to ‘deconstruct versions of reality’. In brief, the data analysis of this research went through the following steps:
(I) Preparing the data for analysis
The audio-taped interviews were transcribed and only the relevant parts of the transcriptions were translated into English. Each excerpt of the transcriptions was numbered and each page of the transcriptions (T) and questionnaire (Q) were labeled and the transcribed excerpts were presented with reference to the participants (P) (written permission was given by them). The participants involved in the research were grouped into four categories and they were coded as G1, G2, G3 and G4.
The coding system uses the following order: Respondent/participant- data collection method: Excerpt or question number. Thus, P1G1-T: 7, for instance, means excerpt 7 of the transcribed interview with participant 1 of group 1 (direct names of the participants will be referred to where appropriate), and P4G2- Q: 11 means question 11 of the questionnaire responded to by participant 4 (or name) of the second group.
(II) Organizing the data into manageable units
The data was coded according to particular themes. The coded excerpts were grouped under a broad spectrum of themes based on the original research questions. In addition to that, new themes came up through the analysis of data.
(III) Analyzing the content
I reread the categorized data and highlighted the comparisons and contrasted the respondents’ opinions on particular issues. Following this, I identified key concepts and findings in relation to both the data and literature. Based on the results of the data analysis, recommendations and conclusions were drawn.
Like other research methodologies, my research may have some limitations both pragmatically and philosophically. Firstly, as I will be doing discourse analysis related to the primary education policy in Bangladesh, there may be a great challenge in achieving the objectives, because the introduction of bilingual education in the primary schools of the CHT would be a totally new program. Therefore, the existing policy documents will not offer guidelines on how to implement bilingual education in the primary schools of the CHT. The interviewees may not also offer enough thoughts on the policy issues. However, I hope to receive important insight into the problems and needs, through explaining the absence of the policy-issues in the government document, as well as through eliciting the thoughts of stakeholders. However, a synthesis of the realized problems and literature reviews will help to come up with the necessary policy guidelines for how to implement bilingual education in the CHT.
Another significant limitation of my study is that the focus of my research is concentrated only on the policy issues. There may be many other aspects involved in implementing this kind of program however my contribution will be limited only to providing policy guidance for the program.
As this type of research involves people’s opinions, I have received the appropriate ethics approval and followed the ethical guidelines of the Standing Committee on Ethics in Research involving Humans (SCERH) of Monash University. As almost all of the participants gave consent to disclose their identity, I have referred to them by name in this research. The ethical approval number for my research is CF07/ 4581-2007001974.
This chapter presents research findings which are derived from government documents as well as from interviews and informal observations. They are categorized according to the research purpose and as per the groups that have arisen from the data itself.
Thirty four persons from the ethno-linguistic minority communities of the CHT were interviewed. They can be grouped into four categories as shown in the following table:
Nature of Roles
Chairperson of the Regional Council (or representative)
Regional Council is the coordinating authority of the administration of three hill districts
Chairpersons of Hill District Councils (or representative)
The hill district councils are the local authority of a particular district with administrative power of some departments handed over to it
Ex. Education Officers of the Hill Districts
Education officers are in charge of the supervision of the administration of the local schools.
The community leaders are in leading positions in society and have active roles in social construction. Their opinions on any issue regarding the interest of the communities are very important. Academically, most of them are highly educated.
The headmasters are liable for the administration of particular schools.
Table 2: Profiles of the research participants
The CHT people speak ten distinct languages (See chapter one), but I could not interview people from all the ten language backgrounds. I did, however, interview people of eight linguistic backgrounds. The two language backgrounds I missed were Khayang and Pankhu. Almost all of the participants are bilingual (Ethnic language and Bengali) and some of them are multilingual (ethnic language, Bengali and either Chakma or Marma language). Most of them also have good competence in English.
I asked/discussed 51 questions/topics with the participants. The questions were divided into four groups, the same as the division of participants. Though each group of topics/questions has a particular focus, some topics/questions overlapped across all groups. The focus of discussion in G1 was mainly based on policy issues while the focus in G2 was the academic and administrative issues. Discussion with/ questions to G3 were related to the general issues of CHT languages, culture and education. Finally, G4 looked[A13] at the academic matters (See appendix 3).
Focus of questions/discussions
Academic and administrative
Table 3: Focus of questions/ discussion with different groups
Since the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, CHT people have been approaching the government with demands for provision of safeguarding their language, culture, heritage and the distinctiveness of identity. The moves for these demands have been made both inside and outside the national parliament. But the urging, appeals and demands of the CHT people were not taken into consideration while the national constitution was drafted and accepted in the parliament in 1972. As a result, the one and only member of the then parliament from the CHT walked out from the session of parliament. However, the constitution delineates that Bangladesh will be a ‘unitary’ country, where Bengali will be the state language. According to Hossain & Tollefson[A14] (2006), “The new constitution of Bangladesh...placed the Bengali language at the centre of Bangladeshi nationalism” (p. 248). Not only this, the constitutional narrative of the independence struggle highlights the central role of the Bengali language,
The unity and the solidarity of the Bengali nation, which deriving its identity from its language and culture, attained a sovereign and independent Bangladesh through a united and determined struggle in the war of independence, shall be the basis of Bengali nationalism (Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972, p. 1)
This declaration would not be harmful to the minority peoples if the constitution, at the same time, had recognized the variety of ethnicity and languages, and if it had guaranteed the protection and development of the variety of languages and cultures. Rather article 23 states,
The state shall adopt measures to conserve the cultural traditions and heritage of the people, and so to foster and improve the national language, literature and arts that all sections of people are afforded the opportunity to contribute towards and to participate in the enrichment of the national culture.
This article discloses the theoretical set of values that is called ‘assimilationist ideology’. As it is defined that the objective of cultural conservation is ‘to foster and improve national language’, which is Bengali, all other ethnic languages are discarded. Hossain & Tollefson[A15] (2006) are astonished, as they exclaimed, “No provision addressed the many minority languages” (p.248). Baker (2006) interpreted this attitude as follows,
The politically and economically dominant group often has a vested interest in preserving its privileged position by asserting that its majority language is a symbol and creator of a unified and integrated nation. (p.400)
Though the plurality of ethnicity and languages is not clearly recognized in the constitution, it has an open-ended clause (clause 4 of article 28) which enables the government to initiate any special steps for disadvantaged people. It reads,
Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making special provision in favour of women or children or for advancement of any backward section of citizens.
It reminds me of the words of Professor Thanjama Lusai (G1), “all depends on the will of government”. In the light of the above clause, government can pass any law and policy in the parliament for the protection and development of minority languages and cultures if it had been forgotten at the time the constitution was adopted. It is even possible to amend the constitution to provide constitutional recognition to the ethno-linguistic minority peoples. In this regard, we can refer to the constitutional amendment of India (see the literature review section). Bangladesh has also amended its constitution more than a dozen times.
If constitution is the spirit of a nation, education policy is the agenda for the spirit. We can see the reflection of the assimilationist spirit of the constitution in the education policy of Bangladesh. Just like the spirit and aspiration of the national constitution, the education policy has also totally ignored the existence of plurality of ethnicity and languages. The fully fledged education policy of Bangladesh was passed in the national parliament only in 2000. Prior to that, three educational commissions were constituted to guide the education system of Bangladesh. These included the Kudorat-E-Khuda Education Commission (1974), Commission of 1987 and 1997. All the educational commissions and even the national education policy (2000) stayed silent, blind and passive about the special needs of the ethno-linguistic minority peoples, which is a clear rejection of the understanding and agreement of the CHT Peace Accord, 1997. Hossain and Tollefson [A16] ( 2006) commented,
Like the Constitution, the Commission’s report presented an ideology of Bangladesh nationalism in which the Bengali was the embodiment of national aspirations and culture. The commission also provided a pedagogical rationale for Bengali-medium instruction. The Report claimed that Bengali has many advantages as medium of instruction, particularly its value in developing students’ “natural intelligence, original thinking and imagination (p.249)
The pedagogical claim in particular clearly discloses the stance of the commission- who it was representing and whose voice it was making heard. Thus both the constitution and the education commissions are safeguarding the vested interest of the dominants and pushing the non-dominants towards marginalization.
However, some key words and statements have attracted my attention, which are beautiful and ambiguous at the same time. They are beautiful if we look at them from the perspective of the dominant group of the society, but they are full of ambiguity if we examine it from the perspective of the non-dominant groups. Some of these key words and statements that appear in the objectives of education and the strategy for primary education of the National Education Policy (2000) are as follows,
(i) ‘Creating opportunity of equal standard education for all through mother-tongue’
(ii) ‘establishment of cultural values’,
(iii) ‘building of international brotherhood, non-communal and harmonious relationships among the peoples’,
(iv) ‘flourishment of national history, heritage and cultural stream and passing them to next generation’
(v) ‘Opening equal opportunity of education for all’ etc.
I believe that the plurality of ethnicity and identity and the diversity of language, culture and heritages of the country were not considered when the national education policy was adopted. As a result, it has generated ambiguity of meaning and demonstrated its inability to fulfil the ‘national demand’. With the word ‘national’, I understand it to mean all citizens of the country with their diversity of identity and culture. But from the practice of Bangladesh and from my experience since childhood, I perceive ‘national’ to mean only the dominant Bengali-speaking people, not the ethno-linguistic minority peoples- not the Tripuras, Chakmas, Mandis, Marmas and others. From childhood, we are taught that ‘Bengali is our mother-tongue’, ‘We heard and learned it from the mouth of mother’, but it is not true for me and other minority people at all. We heard and learned Bengali from school. The language we heard and learned from the mouth of our mother is different from Bengali. In light of this experience, I want to ask the following questions for the corresponding points stated above,
(i) Does mother tongue mean only the mother tongue of Bengali speaking children or does it also include the mother tongues of ethno-linguistic minority children?
(ii) Will the national education policy (NEP) recognize the cultural values that I learned from my Tripura community?
(iii) Will the NEP introduce and promote my identity, culture and values alongside the ‘national’ ones so that all the people can develop cognitive flexibility and mental readiness to accept and respect each others identity and values, which is the necessary foundation for ‘building of international brotherhood, non-communal and harmonious relationships among the peoples’,
(iv) Does ‘national’ mean the one including my one or just the one of the dominant group?
(v) Does ‘equal opportunity’ mean that the ethno-linguistic minority children will get the opportunity to have education in a language (their ethnic languages) that they understand well just like the Bengali speaking children get?
I know that either there is no answer for my questions or the answer is ‘no’. Hossain and Tollefson [A17] ( ) in this regard, expressed their grief, “To date, the government has no language policy for the ethno-linguistic minorities of Bangladesh” (p.243). If the same theory and idealism of the nineteenth century- assimilation and uniformity- goes on in the twenty-first- century, we as a nation will only fall behind. So, we must adopt the policy of ‘harmony in diversity’ and policy of ‘productive diversity’. So, I will advocate adapting productive diversity in the same vein of Cope and Kalantsiz (1997) as they contend,
From London to Los Angeles, and even from Athens to Tokyo, cultural and linguistic diversity is increasingly a feature of the peoples who populate the streets, the schools and businesses. Those nations that are able to adapt and facilitate these differences are the ones that will go forward without blood on the street…Traditional notions of nation that construct national homogeneity by suppressing varieties of language and custom are no longer relevant (p.262) in this century onward.
Otherwise, we will only fall behind as a nation. Hossain and Tollefson[A18] (2006) has precisely argued, “Until the educational challenges facing speakers of other languages are incorporated into language policies, their education will continue to be inadequate” (p.255). We can find the reflection of their warning in the ADB Report (2001), which discloses that the drop out rate of the CHT primary students, is the highest in the country. Apart from the impact on education, there are many other socio-economic and political consequences that underlie the vacuum of language policy for ethno-linguistic minorities. (See the chapter on this in the literature review).
However, the necessity for the introduction of minority languages as the medium of instruction (MI) in local primary schools did not go totally unrealised by the policy makers. We can find the reflection of this realization in at least two government documents, as follows,
(i) Article 33(a2) of Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, 1997
(ii) Primary Education Development Program II
Besides, the National Education Policy 2000 also mentioned in its introduction that an “International Institute of Mother Tongue” would be established for the teaching, training and research of the various languages of Bangladesh.
Though the national education policy document does not clearly mention anything about the introduction of ethnic minority languages as the MI in local schools, the PEDP II designed a plan for ‘Tribal Languages’ within the inclusive education plan, which would be- if implemented- the first ever education program in the CHT languages. This is a five year project. However, although the program was agreed and funded by both government and donor agencies, it has not yet been implemented. The set timeline for the implementation of the project is July 2003 to June 2009. As it has not been implemented in the last four years, there is no hope that it could be implemented in the one year remaining.
Thus it is crystal clear that the problem of introducing the minority languages as MI in local primary schools is not the lack of resources and funds, nor lack of expertise and knowledge. The problem is with the intention of assimilation and suppression, which will give nothing to the nation but which will take away everything from the minority peoples.
Though the citizens of Bangladesh are identified by the constitution as Bengali/ Bangladeshi; though the national language of Bangladesh is Bengali, there are many other ethnic races living in Bangladesh, who have distinctive identity, culture and languages. The Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL, 2007) identified 45 ethnic minority languages, apart from Bengali and according to Ethnologue (2007), there are 38 other languages in Bangladesh. The major concentration of these languages is in the CHT, where eleven ethnic indigenous communities live (See chapter one for details). Instead of acknowledging the fact that there is a diversity of languages in Bangladesh, there are no policy guidelines in the constitution and no education policy on how to conserve and develop the language diversity. In fact, the constitution and education policy in Bangladesh emphasize and highlight only the majority Bengali people and Bengali language, not others. As a result, the languages and literatures of the ethno-linguistic people are becoming weaker. Even in some places, many of the indigenous people have forgotten their languages. There are many examples of language shift and language death, e.g. the Tripuras of the Rangamati Hill District and the younger generation of the Tripura in Chandpur and Foridpud Districts have totally forgotten Kok Borok. This is not the shame of the community alone; this is the shame of the government and the policy makers as well. Consequently, the minority people are now demanding that their home/ethnic language be introduced at local primary schools as MI. The introduction of ethnic languages in local primary schools as MI will help the minority children to understand the lesson quicker, will attract the students to school and will also help them to remain in school. Jatindra Lal Tripura (G3P) narrated that in 1952-53, while he went to school, he found 22-23 students, but later only 2-3 students continued schooling. He explained that the language of the teacher was totally alien to the students. They did not understand anything of the teacher’s words and lessons. So, many students lost interest and stopped going to school. He further posits that if the language of the teacher were intelligible to them, they could learn quickly and easily. As a result, their cognitive development would be better and would take place earlier. In this regard, Mongol Kumar Chakma (G3P) contends, “If a child finds at school that lessons are delivered in a different language, they loose attraction toward school. At the same time, it hinders the cognitive development of the child”.
Sagorika Roaza (G3P) argues, “If children do not understand the words of the teachers, they will naturally lose interest in school”. U-Kyaw Zen (G3P), Abhilash Tripura (G3P), Parkhum Lusai (G3P), Indira Chakma (G3P) and others reported that children of the CHT struggle a lot to continue with their schooling because of the unfamiliar medium of instruction. Children have to depend basically on the strategy of rote-memorizing to absorb the lessons. Indira Chakma expressed her grievance that she understood the meaning of “every body hates a thief” much later. She did not understand it while she memorized it in her early schooling. Abhilash Tripura (G3P) said that it took him three years of schooling before he started understanding the words of the teachers and the textbooks. Mothura Tripura (G3P) stated that he started to understand the lessons after passing class six (grade 6); before that he mainly depended on rote-memorizing. He further explained that the introduction of students’ home language at school will upgrade the status and self esteem of the students.
If the children have to struggle so much to comprehend the books and teachers, how much progress, interest and cognitive development can we expect from the CHT children? Not only this, the language barrier also hinders the communication between teachers and students. As a result, students feel helpless at school as they cannot even express their needs such as seeking permission to go to the toilet or tube-well (similar to a water tap). U-Kyaw Zen (G3P) told of his personal experience at primary school. Once he wet his pants in the classroom, because he did not know how to seek permission to go to the toilet. As a result he was scolded by the teacher. When he told the story to his father, his father taught him a sentence in Bengali (“Sir, aami mutibo”) which meant “Sir, I need to piss”. But the next day he could not utter the sentence properly, which is very natural in the early stage of cross cultural language learning. Instead of saying “Sir, aami mutibo”, he said, “Sir, aami moribo” meaning “Sir, I will die”. The teacher was amazed and kept asking him why he wanted to die, he was insisting over again saying, “Sir, I will die”, “Sir, I will die” and finally he cried and wet his pants again. Sobnob Roaza (G4P) also stated that the children in her class do not understand anything when she teaches in Bengali and they look very confused. That is why she has to use ethnic language in the class and it is very effective for making the lessons understandable to the students. “They look happy and learn quickly if I teach in their home language” she explains. Now we can see very clearly, why the drop out rate in the CHT primary schools is still the highest among other districts in Bangladesh (See ADB report, 2001). So, the implementation of the CHT ethnic languages in local primary schools is not only a necessity, it should be part and parcel of children’s rights. “Not only that, this provision will also help to preserve and develop the diverse languages of the country”, Mongal Kumar Chakma (G3P) asserted.
There may be different perspectives which explain the reasons for non-implementation of the ethnic minority languages as MI in the local primary schools of the CHT. The government may have its own explanation, but almost all of the research participants believe that the government’s lack of goodwill or intention is the main reason for the non-implementation. Other reasons, such as expertise and resources (both material and human) are manageable. It is even known from informal discussions with the local people that some government agencies have forbidden the local community organizations from developing any materials and books in local languages. The agency even seized the documents and materials when the community organizations initiated materials development. It clearly shows the assimilationist policy of the government or some government agencies is the main obstacle in implementing the ethnic languages as MI in primary schools. Although some policy documents, such as Article 33 A2 of the CHT Peace Accord 1997 and PEDP II recognise the necessity for ethnic languages as MI in the primary schools for the sake of better primary education, language preservation and development of the minority peoples, it has not been implemented yet. Consequently, the ethno-linguistic minority people continue to be frustrated.
Sagorika Roaza (G3P), for example, says, “Though there are many ethnic languages in Bangladesh, they do not care about any of them, except Bengali”. Kirti Nishan Chakma (G3P) grieved that the ethnic minority people are not constitutionally recognized in this country. “If they are looked for in the constitution, it will be very difficult to find them in the whole constitution; you can find only the Bengali people in the constitution.” In line with Kirti Nishan Chakma, many of the participants demanded constitutional recognition of the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh.
Another important factor for the non-introduction of the languages of the indigenous minority people in schools is the improper representation on HDCs. Though the hill district councils were designed to represent the people with democratically elected personnel, it has never happened this way. Since their establishment in 1989, the three hill district councils have always been run by government nominated people. As a result, naturally and rationally, the chairpersons and counsellors always tend to please the government to save their chairs instead of fighting for people’s agenda. In this regard, the chairperson of Banderban Hill District, Thanjama Lusai (G1P) has honestly confessed, “I am not the people’s representative; the government has placed me in this chair to supervise its programs and agenda.”
If this is the reality of the hill district councils, people cannot expect much from it. Notwithstanding the absence of moral obligation of the chairs, HDCs could play a vital role because the department of primary education of the CHT has transferred authority to the HDCs. But, of course, there are also some other legal, technical and political bindings which will be discussed later in this chapter. Thanjama Lusai (G1P) also posits that the issue of introducing ethnic minority language as MI in the primary schools is completely dependent on the government’s intention.
The research participants have also demanded that their cultural issues and events be included in the course content. The present course materials and text books are completely highlighting the culture of the majority Bengali people, except in some rare cases. When minority cultures are included they are presented negatively, e.g. the habit of indigenous peoples’ eating of shrimp paste is presented as ‘eating rotten fish’. Similarly true facts are presented in a negative, condescending manner, e.g. “They eat snakes, worms and beetles”. Another two participants contended in anonymity that CHT children should be taught about Lord Buddha rather than Prophet Mohammed, because it would create more appeal and attachment to their feelings. Indira Devi Chakma (G3P) pointed out that the primary text books are highlighting Eid Festivals and other cultural events of Bengali people, but instead, if the local culture and religious festivals were presented to the children, it would make more sense to them. Surojit Narayon Tripura (G3P) contends that without the inclusion of cultural themes of the children, merely translating the existing textbooks would be in vain. Abhilash Tripura (G3P) and Kirti Nishan Chakma (G3P) believe that in parallel to national heroes and stories, if the stories of “Punda Tannai” (a Tripura lyrical Ballad) and “Radamon-Dhonpudi” (Chakma lyrical ballad) and the life of Manobendra Narayan Larma were taught to the CHT children, they would read these with more ardent interest. If these cultural events and issues were included in the course content, they would certainly arouse interest among the students and guardians, which would have a far reaching positive impact both on education and politics (See the literature reviews for details). Jatindral Lal Tripura (G3P) argues that in parallel to the benefits to students, people from other communities would also know more about the life and culture of the ethnic minority groups. Mothura Tripura (G3P) explained, “it does not mean that we will not learn about the culture of the mainstream society”.
The alphabet issue is the haziest and most confusing case that many of the educated indigenous people do not clearly understand. Most of them believe that a distinct alphabet is necessary for the practice and development of any language. But in fact, language is a medium or carrier of our thoughts. We can express our thoughts and meaning through sound, sign and symbols. Signs or symbols are necessary for written expression of our thoughts. Any sign or symbol (alphabet) is able to express the language itself. It does not matter for the language itself whether other people are already using it or not. So, distinct alphabets are not intrinsically necessary to preserve and develop the language itself. Separate alphabets may be necessary for other purposes, not for linguistic purposes. In some cases, it may even hinder the language development and preservation, because printing of these alphabets may create huge technical difficulties. It may also cause additional pressure on the children. Nonetheless, the distinct alphabet adds one more aspect to the distinct identity of the pertinent ethnicity. However, participants of different communities expressed different opinions about the choice of which alphabet should be used in the course materials or textbooks if the languages of the CHT indigenous peoples are introduced as MI in the local primary schools.
The choices are presented in the following table:
Name of the communities
Choice of alphabets
Chak Alphabet/ Chak Akhra
In relation to the choice of alphabet, only one participant, Kirti Nishan Chakma (G4P) posits that the Roman script should be used for Changma Koda, because he thinks, “it would be very easy to write and learn”.
Among the languages of the CHT indigenous peoples, Kok Borok has more varieties than any other. The Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) (2007) found “at least ten Kok Borok varieties” (p. 63). The varieties I found were Naitong, Fatong, Dendak, Khali, Gabing, Usui, Kewa, Kema, Harbang, Muiching, Anok, Asolong, and Tongpai. Though there are some nuances among the varieties, they are mutually intelligible. SIL (2007) also states, “In spite of some differences, these people generally see themselves as one group and often able to communicate across groups, each using own mother tongue” (p.63)”. The Usui variety is difficult for others to understand compared to the other varieties. In other CHT ethnic languages too, different varieties exist though they are very insignificant. The absence of ethnic languages in the formal education system has created multiple problems for not only the languages of the CHT nationalities, but also for their identity and integration. For example, Parkhum Lusai (G3P) states that Pankhu, Bwan and Lusai used to belong to the same community (Zou Hna Klak) by origin and their languages are mutually intelligible. But now they are identified as three different ethnicities. So, an initiative is being taken to standardize their language. The same phenomena are noted among the Tripura and Chakma communities, too. In the late nineties of the last century, the Usai clan started to identify themselves as ‘Usai’ not as ‘Tripura’, but the educated persons in the community became aware of their mistake and currently all of them identify themselves as ‘Tripura’ again. Thus the integration of the community is also assured. Linguistically, the Tanchongyas are very close to the Chakmas. In fact, they started identifying themselves as a separate community only in late nineties of the last century. Yet, they still prefer to use the Changma alphabet for their written practice. Sudatta Bikash Tanchangya (G3P), Prasanna Kanti Tanchongya (G3P) and Suchitara Tonchongya (G3P) have stated that they want to use Changma alphabet for the writing of Tanchongya language. I, therefore, believe that the absence of a common/standard language is the root cause for the emergence of racial de-integration of the CHT nationalities. It is, therefore, very clear that both for educational, linguistic and ideological reasons, the CHT communities should have the opportunity to create and use a common language of the pertinent communities.
There are several ways to create a language- standardization, pidginization and creating Creole. For the vein of the effort of Pankhu, Lusai and Bwam languages, I believe that creating Creole would be a solution. For Tripura people, picking up the most dominant and easiest variety with the creation of Creole at the lexical level would be the best solution. The Summer Institute of Linguistics (2007), in this regard, recommends the Naitong variety be chosen. It argues,
Currently literature is being produced in at lest two varieties: Naitong and Dendak...Information from leader interviews, intelligibility testing, and sociolinguistic questionnaire responses all point to Naitong as the language variety of choice for early development. Dendak could also be considered as the variety for focussed development, but there are strong indications that Dendak is not widely understood as Naitong. Thus, we recommend that those involved in language development in Khagrachari funnel their efforts into developing more and more materials in Naitong at this point. (p.63)
Khageshwar Tripura (G3P) posits than Naitong variety is more advanced among all other varieties of Kok Borok in terms of literary practices. All my research participants from Tripura nationalities also mentioned Naitong variety as their choice for the common language of Tripura. But, at the same time, they insisted on borrowing words (as synonyms) from all varieties. The other CHT communities do not have significant varieties. So, they do not have the hassle of choosing one.
The curriculum framework will depend on the type of program. I discussed heritage language bilingual education programs in the literature review chapter and argued that this would be the most suitable type of education program for the CHT primary schools to achieve the objectives of preservation and development of the indigenous ethnic minority peoples’ languages as well as to attain the political and ideological objectives. In a heritage language bilingual education, the minority students’ home language is used for almost half of the curriculum time. (See literature review for details).
In the case of CHT, some of the participants expressed their desire to introduce the ethnic languages as a subject; but most of the participants advocated for both national and ethnic languages. No one wanted a program where the whole curriculum focuses on ethnic language or national language alone. All the participants wanted to see English as a subject to be included in the curriculum. Only one participant, Momong Chak (G3P) suggested creating a lingua franca for the eleven ethnic minorities of CHT.
I find the concept of including ethnic languages as merely a subject as inconsistent. On the one hand, the participants have reported that CHT children are struggling to understand the lessons and teachers’ words; on the other hand they want the ethnic languages to be introduced as a subject, not as MI. Introducing the ethnic languages as a subject may help to preserve the language, but I don’t believe it would help the children to understand the teachers or the lessons any better so it would not be easing the burden of schooling for the minority children. Creating a lingua franca would only create additional burdens, not only for the children but also for the teachers, instead of solving the existing problem.
Consequently, I suggest the following curriculum:
Literature, Language arts, Social studies and Health should be taught in the minority languages; Maths and Science in Bengali, and English as a subject (not as a medium of instruction). Both local and national cultures should be addressed in the content. The allocation of time and content I propose for CHT is as follows,
Elementary level or play group: 100% of home or ethnic language
Grade 1: Heritage language- 80%, Majority language- 10%, English- 10%
Grade 2: Heritage language - 70%, Majority language - 15%, English - 15%
Grade 3: Heritage language - 60%, Majority language - 25%, English - 15%
Grade 4: Heritage language - 55%, Majority language - 30%, English - 15%
Grade 5: Heritage language - 50%, Majority language - 35%, English - 15%
All the participants stated that the option of ethnic minority languages should be open to all students, i.e. if the students from the Bengali community or of another ethnic minority community would like to study the language arts subject of any particular community, they should be allowed to study that subject.
The existing administrative framework for education and others is as follows:
The Ministry of CHT Affairs is the policy making body and the highest authority in the government agency regarding CHT issues. Regional Council is the coordinating and supervising authority for the three hill districts and the HDCs are the implementing and operational body for the pertinent districts. According to the CHT Peace Accord 1997, 33 departments were supposed to be transferred to the authority of HDCs, but in the last eleven years only 13 Departments have been transferred to HDCS. However, the department of primary education has been transferred to the HDCs. But, till today, HDCs are empowered only in the areas of recruitment and supervision of teachers. Bihary Lal Chakma (G1P), chairman in charge of Rangamati HDC stated that “Teacher training is bestowed upon the Primary Teachers Training Institute (PTTI). PTTI and the development of textbooks are beyond the authority of HDC”. It is a serious inconsistency that the department of primary education is bestowed upon HDCs, but the staff development is not their responsibility. However, for the proposed heritage language bilingual education program, the following administrative framework will be needed:
(I) A “Minority Language and Education” cell should be opened in the Ministry of Education and Ministry of CHT Affairs, as the Education Ministry deals with education and the Ministry of CHT affairs deals with CHT issues.
(II) The RC should have a unit for the coordination, monitoring and evaluation of the program as well as for textbook and materials development for primary education. The PTTI should also be transferred to the RC, as the RC is the coordinating body for the three HDCs.
(III) HDCs should have an operational unit for primary education, especially for the proposed bilingual education program.
(IV) The Head Masters of every primary school in the CHT and the Education Officers should be bestowed with the responsibility of submitting an annual report about the overall effectiveness of the new program to the concerned units of HDCs. The HDCs should be bestowed with a similar responsibility of submitting a report to the RC so that necessary adjustments, improvements and measures can be introduced.
No education program or policy can be sustained long term without legal foundation. In relation to this, Anjolika Khisa (G2P) states, “No one gives importance to any program that does not have legal recognition”. The example of the 1984 initiative for introducing Marma Language in local primary schools in the Banderban Hill District can be drawn here. Thanjama Lusai (G1P) and KS Prue (G3P) reported that Mongshiprue Chowdhury, the then Chief of Bhumang circle received permission from the Ministry of Education for the above program while he was a Member of the Parliament (MP) in 1984. Today, the program no longer exists in Banderban because there was no legal or constitutional support for this. So to ensure long term sustainability there must be a legal basis for the proposed ‘heritage language bilingual education program’. Much of the legal basis for the proposed program is founded in the CHT Peace Accord 1997 as article 33 (a2) guarantees that primary education be provided in ‘mother tongue’ and the accord was approved by the national parliament in 1998. Prosenjit Chakma (G3P), Anjolika Khisa (G2P), Thanjama Lusai (G1P), Surojit Narayon Tripura (G3P), Arunendu Tripura (G4P) and all other research participants contended that for them mother tongue means their own languages, e.g. Kok Borok for Tripura people, Changma Koda for Chakma people, Marma Chwaga for Marma people and so. So, the provision of primary education in ‘mother tongue’ means education in the CHT languages here. The legal issue is addressed in the Regional Council Act 1998 and Hill District Councils Act 1998, which were devised in the light of the Peace Accord. So, it would appear that there are no legal obstacles. However, in fact there are more obstacles. These could be defined as bureaucratic, rather than legal obstacles, because any law of the RC and HDCs has to be activated by the Ministry of CHT Affairs. Milton Tripura (G1P) stated that any sort of empowerment of the HDCs has to be handed over by the government either through written order (e.g. gazette notification or government order) or formal discussion.
Many of the participants believe and demand that an Education Act as well as constitutional recognition and direction would be needed to ensure the long term sustainability of this kind of program. Ethnic diversity and the issues of their identity and rights are, in fact, a permanent phenomenon. Therefore, a viable and sustainable measure must be taken for the greater success, achievement and wellbeing of multicultural and pluralist Bangladesh statehood. Backer (2006), in this regard suggests that the status and planning of languages can be maintained “through laws, rights and constitution, but also by persuasion and precedent” (p.50).
Two popular slogans in Bangladesh are “Education is a right, not an opportunity” and “primary education is the responsibility of the government”. In regards to the minority children too, the same slogans apply to the government’s responsibility. We can, in this respect, recall Article 350A of the Indian constitution discussed earlier. Surojit Narayon Tripura (G3P), Provangshu Tripura (G3P), William Bawm (G3P) and Khamlai Mro (G3P) explained that the CHT minority people are financially very poor. So, they contend that the government should bear the expenses for this program. The program does not actually require much additional expense; because, it does not involve new schools or additional infrastructure. The new textbooks could be developed at almost the same cost as what is spent now on developing the free primary textbooks. The only additional thing is including a component on bilingual education in the curriculum of the teacher training institute as well as forming an expert committee for textbook development. The issue of materials/textbook development would not be very difficult for the government as different local organizations, mentioned earlier, have already initiated this project. UNPD alone has a big budget for this project. Prosenjit Chakma (G3P), the Chief of UNDP CHTDF project stated, “We are working in collaboration with Save the Children, SIL and Ahsania Mission for textbook development in CHT languages”. Moreover, the government has received millions of dollars from different donor agencies for PEDP II, where it was mentioned that separate education strategies would be taken for the CHT. Unfortunately these are not yet visible, even though the tenure of PEDP II is approaching the end.
There would be many far reaching positive impacts if the bilingual education program was introduced in the primary schools of the CHT. This program envisages significant educational, linguistic, cultural and political benefits, which are briefly discussed below:
The implementation of the indigenous minority languages of the CHT would be a tremendous motivation and blessing for the children. They will be the first beneficiaries of this program. All the language barriers and communication barriers that have been mentioned in the earlier chapters would be removed and a new gateway would open for them to access education. Consequently, enrolment rates would increase and the drop-out rate would be lowered. In this regard, I would like to quote Buddha Jyuti Chakma, who reported Mro people had been repulsed by education for a long time, because they believe, “one would lose his/her own identity if one received education in another language and script; and as a consequence they would be assimilated into another nation” (The Daily Prothom Alo, February 3, 2007). In one sense, the belief of the Mro people is true. So, the introduction of children’s own language in the schooling system in the CHT would definitely encourage the people to send their children to school. At the same time, the children will also feel comfortable at school as they will understand the lessons and will be able to communicate with the teachers. As a result, their cognitive development will be greater and quicker.
Besides the educational benefits, the program will play a vital role in language preservation, maintenance and development. According to Michael Krauss (1992, 1998) and Wurm (2001), 20% to 50% of the 6000 living languages of the world are “likely to die or become perilously close to death in the next 100 years” (cited in Baker, 2006, p.45). By introducing the proposed program, the languages of the minority people of the CHT will be saved. As mentioned earlier, Tripura language is already dead and vulnerable to death in many parts of Bangladesh. U-kyaw Zen (G3P) stated that the Marma language is already 30% to 40% code mixed in some places. He expressed his apprehension, “I am afraid, our people will use 99% Bengali over the course of time”.
So, it is expected that through the bilingual education program their languages will be preserved. Children will be encouraged to use their own languages and as a result of regular usage at school, they will be encouraged to keep speaking and writing in their ‘mother tongue’ in the future, which will play an important role in language development.
The political benefits of the program will be far-reaching. This will be the first ever initiative of this kind, which will play multifarious roles- cognitive, educational, cultural, ideological and political. It was the political movement that made the government and the nation realize the necessity of primary education in ‘mother tongue’ for the indigenous ethnic minority children just as the privileged Bengali children receive education in their ‘mother tongue’. The National Educational Policy of Bangladesh 2000 also states that mother tongue is necessary in primary education for children’s natural understanding and imagination. But it was evident that while saying this, the policy makers forgot the ‘mother tongues’ of the minority children. It was the political agreement that brought the government’s commitment. So, the first day the people see the school textbooks written in their own language, they will be thrilled and overwhelmed by an impulsive emotion which will help relieve the feelings of deprivation. Ananta Bihari Khisa (G3P), Milton Tripura (G1P) Pravangshu Tripura G3P), Surojit Narayon Tripura (G3P), Anjolika Khisha(G2P) and others believe that having primary education in ‘mother tongue’ is a fundamental right of children. Lelung Khumi (G3P), in this regard, contends, “The introduction of mother tongue in the primary schools is likely to reduce the cultural-misunderstanding between minority and majority students which will create a more friendly environment and help maintain peace and harmony”. In a similar vein to Lelung, all the research participants stated that if the children receive this right, they will be more friendly and obedient to the state as they will realize in their later years that the government is taking care of their language, culture and identity. This feeling and realization is, in fact, necessary for the peace and stability of a multicultural and multilingual state. It is the non-introduction of a bilingual education program which will actually destroy all the positive possibilities as the indigenous peoples’ frustration and agitation will rise again and the hard-earned trust they put in the government by depositing their rebellious arms in 1997 will vanish. Lelung Khumi (G3P) states, “the non-introduction of native languages in schools is more likely to increase the negative stereotypical attitudes toward minority students. In other words, it will also be difficult to maintain the balance of social-solidarity and various forms of racial and cultural discriminations between minority and majority students in schools”.
Ideologically, looking into the issue of the rights of ethnic indigenous minority peoples of Bangladesh, I can sense that the minority people are victim of the ultra-nationalist political ideology of Bangladesh statehood. Since the birth of the country, it was declared as a unitary state, where the nationalism was based on Bengali people and Bengali language. Kirti Nishan Ckakma (G3P) observed that “the minority people could not be found anywhere in the constitution of Bangladesh”, even though many other ethnic races do exist. At the present time, it is noted that the ideological stance of Bangladesh statehood is slowly changing both from external pressure and internal movement. Externally, we can find the movement of the indigenous peoples worldwide and the support of UN for them. The declaration of the decade for world indigenous people by UN in 1993 has shaken the dynamics of the nation statehood of Bangladesh, as the 45 indigenous peoples of the state have been demanding that they be recognized. As yet this has been unsuccessful. The movement of Parbattya Chattagram Janasonghati Samity (PCJSS) for self determination and the Peace Agreement between the Bangladesh government and PCJSS in 1997 began the melting of the assimilationist views of the state, though still no one can find the recognition of pluralistic characteristics in neither the constitution nor the education policy. Nonetheless, the CHT Peace Accord 1997, Inclusive education Strategies in PEDP II and the participation of civil society in the rally of indigenous peoples shows the melting of the iceberg.
All the facts discussed in the ‘presentation and analysis of data’ section unpack the power relationships of the majority Bengali people and the minority indigenous peoples. The majority people are in the position of power and dominance. Hence they are making all the decisions of the state and enjoying the privileges. In contrast, the minority people are living in a marginalized position, where they are even struggling for survival, sustenance and identity. The demand for an education policy supportive to the introduction of their home languages as MI in the local primary schools is nothing but a struggle for survival and identity. This is to protect their language, culture and identity; to help their children flourish so that they can survive.
It is apparent that there are people in government who support the diversity of language, culture, heritage, and the pluralist existence of the state, which we can feel in the agreement and projects mentioned above. In parallel, there are also people who still ascribe to the ideology of last century- the assimilationist ideology. This group is stronger in the domain of public policy. We can see this from the non-implementation of the agreed peace accord and devised project as well as from the non-recognition of the plurality of ethnicities in the constitution.
Contrary to this view, the recognition of the plurality and introduction of their languages in the schooling system would bring many benefits and advantages both for the individual children, their culture and for the state, which are highlighted in the previous section.
I felt the pulse of the ethnic minority races of the CHT, while I was there in the field for data collection. They were deeply frustrated by the non-implementation of the CHT Peace Accord 1997, because they consider it as a first ever achievement in the Bangladesh state, which guarantees them the opportunity to exist along with their distinctiveness of identity and with the minimal rights that would protect them. Clause A2 of article 33 is very important for them as this promises them the right to get primary education in ‘mother tongue’. So, the delay or non-implementation of this clause may spark a violent protest over the course of time, which would be very unfortunate for the already marginalized people and for the peace and stability of the state.
I would, therefore, like to advocate for the pluralist view in the same vein of Cope and Kalantsis (1997) here. They argued, “Those nations that are able to adapt and facilitate these differences are the ones that will go forward without blood on the street…Traditional notions of nation that construct national homogeneity by suppressing varieties of language and custom are no longer relevant” (p.262) in this century. They explained that “Pluralism as a principle of social order represents a new ethos of citizenship, from the micro-politics of team membership, to corporate citizenship, to citizenship of multicultural nation, to global citizenship” (p.185).
The introduction of the CHT indigenous ethnic minority peoples’ languages in local primary schools is not merely a demand; it is both a need and a necessity. The indigenous people believe that it is their birth right. In fact, this notion of necessity of mother tongue is now recognized by many researchers, organizations and conventions such as UNESCO (1953 document), UNICEF, Convention of European Union ((Brussels/77486/EEC Document), Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989, Article 17) and World Declaration of Education for All (1990), Dakar Declaration (2000) and so on. This is even recognized in Bangladesh, e.g. the CHT Peace Treaty (1997) and PEDP II (2003), though the realization of this is not yet visible.
It is very unfortunate that this has not been implemented as many positive outcomes could be achieved through the implementation of a program to address these important needs and demands. In parallel, the continued non-implementation will give rise to many negative implications which would be undesirable and disastrous both for the state and the minority people. It is peoples’ natural tendency that they fight for access to education, assets and opportunities. If the majority and dominant group of the society take all and deprive the minority and weaker groups forever, it would be a severe flaw in the state policy, which is similar to nurturing a disease in the body of the state. If this situation is not addressed with a sense of civility and justice, it is natural that the deprived people will fight for their share. It is the government’s responsibility to divert the struggle into positive possibilities. Otherwise the perennial struggle will find its own natural way which may be “both disastrous possibilities and the positive possibility of constructing a new, pluralist society” (Cope and Kalantzis (1997, p.244). They further argued, “negotiating diversity is now the only way to produce social cohesion; that a pluralistic citizenship is the most effective way of holding things together; and that an outward-looking, internationalist approach to the world is the only way to maintain the national interest” (p.262). I also believe that adopting ‘civic pluralism’ and addressing the diversity with the sense of civility and justice would be the most rational, modern and humanistic approach.
The reason for the non-introduction of the minority languages in school instruction is likely to be more political and ideological rather than material and technical. This political and ideological stance can be defined as an ‘assimilationist view’ that attempts to maintain homogeneity of the nation. In reality, national homogeneity is a ‘monolithic perception’, which is ‘a myth, not reality’. The ideology of assimilation and effort of maintaining cultural and linguistic homogeneity is nothing but an expression of state hegemony. Cope and Kalantsis (1997) defined this notion as ‘anachronistic’ and they further explained, “Traditional notions of nation that construct national homogeneity by suppressing varieties of language and custom are no longer relevant” (p.262)
Nonetheless, there are visible signs of progress in the ideological change within the government and the dominant group of Bangladesh, though this trend is not yet strong enough to implement the realized necessity; yet the indigenous people are continuing and should continue to express their pain and need. In this way, more people will realize that the fulfillment of the needs of minority peoples is necessary for a modern, stable, peaceful, harmonious, prosperous and righteous nation. I would, in this regard, advocate in the same vein as Pozzi-Escot (1981) for a “flexible and diversified education that would take into account the social and regional variety of the nation, without giving privilege to any particular member, but with a broad spirit of justice” (Cited in Hornberger, 1988, p. 23).
I believe that the following recommendations and measures will lead to the successful and effective implementation of the proposed ‘heritage language bilingual education program’ in the ethnic indigenous peoples’ languages in the CHT primary schools:
1. Discussions about appropriate ways of implementing and potential hindrances which may be encountered in introducing the ethnic languages as MI in schooling should be opened at a national level both by the government and civil society.
2. The relevant ministry should issue a government order (GO) to the HDCs so that they can take the necessary initiatives on this issue.
3. The existing Primary Teacher Training Institute (PTTI) located in Rangamati Hill District should be enriched with a component on bilingual education.
4. The PTTI should be transferred to Regional Council.
5. A bilingual education cell should be opened in the Ministry of Education and Regional Council.
6. A technical expert committee should be formed for materials development, curriculum design (both for teacher training and schools) as well as for other technical frameworks.
7. The ongoing NGO activities relating to this educational issue should be coordinated.
8. The HDCs should be democratized and represented by people’s choice, not by government nominees.
9. The necessary educational act should be passed for all the indigenous peoples inside and outside CHT with a view to addressing this issue permanently.
10. Constitutional recognition of the distinctive identities of the indigenous peoples and instructions for the preservation and development of their language, culture and heritage should be ensured.
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- Chairpersons of the Regional Council and three Hill district Councils
- Education Officers of the three Hill Districts,
- Headmasters of the best three primary schools of the three Hill Districts,
- Leaders of the thirteen communities of the three Hill Districts.
Title: Implementing Primary School Bilingual Programs in Minority Languages: Policy Issues
My name is Borendra Lal Tripura and I am conducting a research project with Dr. Margaret Gearon, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education towards a Master of Education (General) at Monash University. This means that I will be writing a thesis which is like a government report. As a member of the ethnic minority Tripura community of Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, I understand that the participant groups are in the leadership positions in the region to provide important information or opinion in relation to formulating an education policy for the local primary schools. That is why I have chosen to invite you to participate in an interview in regard to eliciting your views and opinions on the topic of my research.
The aim/purpose of the research
The aim of this study is to produce a first draft of an education policy regarding the implementation of Bilingual Education Program in the primary schools of CHT.
I am conducting this research to
(1) Identify principles, on which aspects of policy should be based.
(2) Identify problems in policy development and implementation.
(3) Develop a first draft of policy to begin the process of implementation.
(4) Identify a process by which policy can be developed and monitored.
By taking part in the interview, you will provide important insights in understanding the underlying policy issues for the purpose stated in the research topic. Thus you will contribute substantially in recommending an effective education policy for implementing a bilingual education program in CHT primary schools.
What does the research involve?
If you participate, the study involves you in a semi-structured interview being interviewed by me and this being tape-recorded.
How much time will the research take?
Each session of interview will be conducted individually and it will require approximately 45 minutes.
Can I withdraw from the research?
Being in this study is voluntary and you are under no obligation to consent to participate but you will not be able to withdraw from the study once the interview is completed.”
Unless you provide written consent to disclose your identity, full confidentiality will be maintained by using only pseudonyms and by excluding designations and other identifiable clues.
Storage of data
Storage of the data collected will adhere to the university regulations and be kept on university premises in a locked cupboard/filing cabinet for 5 years. A report of the study may be submitted for publication, but you will not be identifiable in such a report unless you provide written consent.
Use of data for other purposes
If you provide written consent, data may be used for other purposes in future.
If you would like to be informed of the aggregate research finding, please contact Borendra Lal Tripura on +61 0430 344 263 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The findings are accessible till July 22, 2008. However, you will be provided with a written summary of the result.
If you would like to contact the researchers about any aspect of this study, please contact the Chief Investigator:
If you have a complaint concerning the manner in which this research CF07/4581-2007001974 is being conducted, and you need to give your complaint in your own language, please contact:
Dr. Margaret Gearon
Faculty of Education
Ph: +61 03 9905 2769
Fax: 9905 2779
Dr Sharif, As-Saber on 61 3 9905 8176 or email to email@example.com
For complaints in English, please contact:
Human Ethics Officer
Standing Committee on Ethics in Research Involving Humans (SCERH)
Building 3e Room 111
Monash University VIC 3800
Tel: +61 3 9905 2052 Fax: +61 3 9905 1420 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Borendra Lal Tripura)
do here by give my consent voluntarily only to be interviewed for the purpose of Mr. Borendra Lal Tripura’s research, titled as “Implementing Primary School Bilingual Education in Minority Languages: Policy Issues”.
I understand that this interview will be audio-taped and data will be used in his research report, possible academic publications and conference presentations.
I do /do not (please cross out the one that does not apply) consent to disclose my identity in the research report.
I do here by also confirm that I have read and understood the ‘explanatory statement’ which clearly states the purpose of the research and when I can withdraw myself from the research.
I do/do not (please cross out the one that does not apply) consent for the data to be used for further research or other purpose.
For Group 1: Chairpersons of the three Hill District Councils and the Regional Council
1. Purposes or objectives to maintain and develop the ethnic minority languages
2. Hindrances of introduction of local languages in the local primary schools: political, legal, administrative and resources
3. Relation between the introduction of mother tongue in the primary schools and peace and harmony
4. Relation between the non-introduction of mother tongue in the primary schools and conflict / potential political threat.
5. Do you want to see the minority languages taught as a subject or as a medium of instruction for some subjects?
6. What are the challenges/ problems to implement the minority languages in the local primary schools?
7. What kinds of resources do you need to introduce the minority languages in schools?
8. What roles do you expect from the state (legal, administrative- frame-work and constitutional and resources, e.g. funding, teachers, text books),
9. What roles do you expect from the community and individuals in language maintenance and development?
10. What are the legal, administrative and constitutional frame-works to enable a language development program?
11. How should the funding be allocated?
12. What are the policy-processes to empower district councils for implementing bilingual education in CHT (legal aspect, administrative procedures, funding etc)?
13. Should the minority languages be taught to the children of the same minority groups or it should be open to Bengali speakers, too?
14. As this is a new program, what is the monitoring framework to measure its effectiveness (annual report from teachers, monitoring and evaluation committee, program modification committee etc.)?
15. Is there any teacher training institute in CHT? If yes, is it/ are those equipped with the resources, knowledge and skills to take up the training for bilingual programs? If not, what measures are wanted?
16. What is your general thinking or comment about the bilingual education programs in the CHT region?
17. What are the relevant social forces that appeal to the necessity of a bilingual/multilingual education program?
18. What outcomes (educational, social, cultural and political) are expected from this type of program?
For Group 2: Education Officers of the three Hill Districts
19. What are the challenges/ problems to implement the minority languages in the local primary schools?
20. What kinds of resources do you need to introduce the minority languages in schools?
21. From which grade do you want to introduce the ‘mother tongues’ and how (Grade one and onwards etc.)?
22. What are the legal, administrative and constitutional frame-works to enable a language development program?
23. How the funding should be allocated?
24. What is the curriculum frame-work of the bilingual education program (how many subjects, content, time, evaluation, values etc.?
25. Should the minority languages be taught to the children of the same minority groups or it should be open to Bengali speakers, too?
26. As this is a new program, what is the monitoring frame-work to measure its effectiveness (annual report from teachers, monitoring and evaluation committee, program modification committee etc.)?
27. Is there any teacher training institute in CHT? If yes, is it/ are those equipped with the resources, knowledge and skills to take up the training for bilingual programs? If not, what measures are wanted?
28. What is your general thinking or comment about the bilingual education programs in the CHT region?
For Group 3: Community Leaders
29. Benefits of introducing local languages in the local primary schools.
30. Relation between the introduction of mother tongue in the primary schools and language maintenance and development,
31. Relation between the introduction of mother tongue in the primary schools and peace and harmony
32. Relation between the non-introduction of mother tongue in the primary schools and conflict / potential political threat.
33. Do you want to see the minority languages taught as a subject or as a medium of instruction for some subjects? Do you want to see your own culture to be included in the text books or content? Why or why not?
34. Purposes or objectives to maintain and develop the ethnic minority languages
35. Do you want the minority language only to maintain or to develop as well (e.g. Maintenance bilingual education, developmental bilingual education, developmental maintenance bilingual education, heritage language bilingual education etc.)?
36. What alphabet do you want to see and why?
37. What do you want to see in the content (subject matter of the text book)?
38. Do you have variety of your language? If yes, do you want to standardize it? How? (Creating creoles, pidginazation or picking up one of the variety). If picking up, which one?
39. What roles do you expect from the community and individuals in language maintenance and development?
40. Should the minority languages be taught to the children of the same minority groups or it should be open to Bengali speakers, too?
41. What is your general thinking or comment about the bilingual education programs in the CHT region?
For Group 4: Head Masters
42. Relation between the introduction of mother tongue in the primary schools and children’s cognitive (mental) and literacy development
43. What are the challenges/ problems to implement the minority languages in the local primary schools?
44. Do you want to see the minority languages taught as a subject or as a medium of instruction for some subjects?
45. What type of education program do you want to see ( bilingual, multilingual)
46. What kinds of resources do you need to introduce the minority languages in schools?
47. From which grade do you want to introduce the ‘mother tongues’ and how (Grade one and onwards etc.)?
48. What is the curriculum frame-work of the bilingual education program (how many subjects, content, time, evaluation, values etc.?
49. What kind of human resources do you need to implement a bilingual program (teachers, staffs……………)?
50. What is your general thinking or comment about the bilingual education programs in the CHT region?
[A12]I’m not sure what you mean here? Do you mean “exploring the alternative versions which arise throughout the research”? Or “exploring the alternative versions which are relevant to the research”??