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Multilingual education policy and practice: Ten certainties (grounded in Indigenous experience)

  • Nancy H. Hornberger (a1)


Although multilingualism and multilingual education have existed for centuries, our 21st-century entrance into the new millennium has brought renewed interest and contestation around this educational alternative. Ethnolinguistic diversity and inequality, intercultural communication and contact, and global political and economic interdependence are more than ever acknowledged realities of today's world, and all of them put pressures on our educational systems. Now, as throughout history, multilingual education offers the best possibilities for preparing coming generations to participate in constructing more just and democratic societies in our globalized and intercultural world; however, it is not unproblematically achieved. There are many unanswered questions and doubts as to policy and implementation, program and curricular design, classroom instruction practices, pedagogy, and teacher professional development, but there is also much that we understand and know very well, based on empirical research in many corners of the world. Here I highlight Bolivian and other Indigenous educational experiences with which I am most familiar, and which capture certainties that hold beyond the particular instances I describe. My emphasis is on what we know and are sure of, and my goal is to convey my deep conviction that multilingual education constitutes a wide and welcoming educational doorway toward peaceful coexistence of peoples and especially restoration and empowerment of those who have been historically oppressed.



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