Ethnic minority students in HK have difficulty getting into post-secondary programs

A new study in Hong Kong shows that ethnic minority students who have learned Cantonese as a second language often have difficulty getting into post-secondary schools of their choice due to interviews conducted in Cantonese. The study reveals that this difficulty is often due to their skills in Cantonese, the dominant language of Hong Kong. This study may corroborate Dr. Becky Chen’s research, noted in yesterday’s post found here, that highlights the advantages of first language development and first language literacy for strengthening second language development and second language literacy.

Minority language speakers around the world typically do not have access to school based first language development or first language literacy. Education systems in multilingual contexts often use immersion education as a means of teaching the second language. However, this becomes problematic when available resources are not the same as in contexts where immersion education has been highly successful, namely Canada. Typically teachers in southern contexts do not have access to training in bilingual education pedagogies. As such, they merely use vast amounts of the second language in order to facilitate second language acquisition rather than ensuring comprehensible input and scaffolding of output. Neither do teachers have access to a wide variety of materials in both languages that Canadian teachers in successful immersion programs  typically had. Additionally, parents in Canadian immersion programs were supportive of first language literacy development in their children’s second language immersion education. Parents in southern contexts often do not support home language development at school but prefer 2nd language immersion programs for their children. Preference of immersion education is a result of a lack of knowledge of what the research actually says. For example, OISE researchers Becky Chen and Jim Cummins, as well as many other scholars show the value of the first language in education for strong development of the second language. However, access to this body of literature is not common in many places.

The result of this lack of attention to minority language and literacy development actually produces tremendous inequality for speakers of minority languages.  As indicated by the Hong Kong study, the consequences often lead to inequitable access to further education and career choice. Thus there is a huge need for all of us to understand and value all languages for social and academic development rather than merely attending to the most dominant languages. Valuing and celebrating linguistic diversity contributes to a more equitable society.

Language and Literacy Transfer – what does the research say?

At OISE’s home page, on the right hand side there is a short video of Dr. Becky Chen’s research. She looks at transfer of language and literacy between first languages and second languages. Her research has found that first language development and first language literacy is very important for transfer to second language development and second language literacy.  Her findings are helpful for classroom instruction and for parent planning for language use at home. Take less than two minutes to hear her informative and short video.

Preparing teachers to work with culturally diverse students and their families

Harvard Family Research Project has an informative and in-depth blog about preparing teachers to work with culturally diverse students and their families. The most recent entry discusses the need to build on the knowledge learners bring to the classroom. Author Sherick Hughes discusses teachers’ need to understand the histories and lived experiences of families of their students in order to utilize what he calls diversity capital,  or “teaching skills that breed high educational performance by bridging the gaps that separate school and home.” Read his full post here.

Bilingual or monolingual pedagogies?

Have you ever wondered whether following monolingual pedagogies in your ESL or EFL classes is better than employing bilingual pedagogies for your diverse students? Recent research in two different contexts looks into teachers’ preferences from the perspective of the literature. Have a look at our own DIT website under the CLD presentations tab. Here is the direct link:

Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners

Chapter 2 of the book Educating Everybody’s Children, edited by Robert W. Cole, is a rich resource offering research based strategies to meet the needs of diverse students toward closing the achievement gap.  Teachers make a difference and strengthen their practices by understanding the context and needs of all their students and addressing those needs by incorporating these practices in their classrooms. Directly facing our personal stereotypes begins to allow us to change our thinking and see our students from a different light, one that values them and chooses to build on what they know and bring to the classroom.  The entire chapter is available for free here. While each focus is important, my favorite strategies are 2.5, 2.6, 2.10 and 2.17. What are your favorites?