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Govt. policies & (multilingual) literacy: Case of Mexico

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  • Don Osborn
    FYI, this is another interesting case evolution of language and educational policies to more multilingual approaches. Interesting parallels to some other
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 24, 2006
      FYI, this is another interesting case evolution of language and
      educational policies to more multilingual approaches. Interesting
      parallels to some other countries (monolingual -> subtractive
      bilingual -> more fully bilingual but encountering teacher training
      issues), but the starkly frank linguicidal goal enunciated in the
      1920s is most like those of 2 other countries in North America during
      the same period. DZO

      Educators in Mexico had sought to wipe out indigenous language

      By Ted B. Kissell, tkissell@... November 19, 2006

      Difficult as it might be for them to adjust to U.S. schools, Mixtecos
      and other indigenous Mexicans are used to facing educational barriers,
      among other indignities, in their home country.

      Like most such groups, the Mixtecos didn't get to choose their own name.
      The term Mixteco comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs -
      itself still spoken by some 1.6 million Mexicans - and means "People
      of the Cloud Place." Mixtecos call themselves "Ñuu Savi," or some
      variation of that term, which means "People from the Place of Rain."

      After centuries of near-total neglect of those "Indios" who maintained
      their indigenous language and traditions, the Mexican educational
      system established in the 1920s, after the Revolution, officially
      recognized that these languages existed and declared that they needed
      to be wiped out.

      Called "castellanización," or "Spanishization," this policy called for
      a system of Spanish-only schools in indigenous communities that would
      ease the assimilation of these poorest and most marginalized of
      Mexico's peasants into the Mestizo culture.

      According to Sylvia Schmelkes, head of the Department of Bilingual and
      Intercultural Education for Mexico's federal education system, this
      educational model gave way, roughly in the middle of the 20th century,
      to a different approach.

      "Teachers started to work with the indigenous language as a tool to
      help them achieve speaking Spanish," she said. By the 1970s, Schmelkes
      said, a separate system of bilingual schools was created, whose
      objective was "to achieve an integral bilingualism, a fluency in both

      "But many teachers still follow the old philosophies," she said.

      When compared to mainstream Mexican schools, the system of bilingual
      primary schools in indigenous communities is still separate and unequal.

      Fausto Sandoval, a teacher in Oaxaca who lives and works in his home
      community, is a Triqui, a group of some 30,000 people whose towns are
      surrounded by Mixteco communities, and who speak a language closely
      related to Mixteco.

      "There are schools in indigenous communities," Sandoval said. "In the
      majority of them, there's an indigenous teacher. The problems begin
      with, how do they teach, in what language do they teach, and in what
      language are the books?"

      The biggest problem, he said, is teacher training, or the lack of it.
      "The majority of teachers come in without any training to be teachers,"
      he said.

      According to the most recent statistics from the Mexican government,
      35 percent of teachers in the state's indigenous schools have no more
      than a high school education.

      Others have teacher training, but no specific training on how to teach
      a bilingual curriculum. Very few have gone to a "Normal Bilingüe" to
      be trained in running a truly bilingual classroom, the stated mission
      of all indigenous primary schools in Mexico.

      - Ted B. Kissell

      Copyright 2006, Ventura County Star. All Rights Reserved.
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