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Harnessing Linguistic Variation to Improve Education

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Edited By Androula Yiakoumetti

This volume brings together research carried out in a variety of geographic and linguistic contexts including Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States and explores efforts to incorporate linguistic diversity into education and to ‘harness’ this diversity for learners’ benefit. It challenges the largely anachronistic ideology that promotes exclusive use of an educational monolingual standard variety and advocates the use in formal education of aboriginal/indigenous languages, minority languages, nonstandard varieties and contact languages.
The contributors examine both historical and current practices for including linguistic diversity in education by considering specific bidialectal, bilingual and multilingual educational initiatives. The different geographical and linguistic settings covered in the volume are linked together by a unifying theme: linguistic diversity exists all over the world, but it is very rarely utilized effectively for the benefit of students. When it is used, whether in isolated studies or through governmental initiatives, the research findings point systematically to the many educational advantages experienced by linguistically-diverse students. This book will be of interest to teachers and language practitioners, as well as to students and scholars of language and education.

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Linda Tsung - 6 Rethinking Multilingual Education for Minority Studentsin China 115

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Linda Tsung 6 Rethinking Multilingual Education for Minority Students in China Introduction Enormous diversity characterizes the linguistic and cultural traditions of China’s fifty-five legally recognized minority nationalities, which account for 106.43 million or 9.4 per cent of the population (NBSC, 2005). Each minority nationality has its own language, with the exception of the Hui and the Manchu who use the standard Chinese language – Putonghua. At least 128 languages are spoken among China’s minorities (Sun et al., 2007). Some are bilingual, trilingual, or speak in a variety of dif ferent languages, some of which are completely dif ferent from one another (Tsung, 2009). The Constitution of China grants minority nationalities the freedom to use and preserve their native languages. An essential provision in China’s policies toward minorities is that people of all ethnic groups are guaranteed equal rights to use their own languages in education, as specified in Act 4 of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Constitution. Administrative autonomy was adopted on 31 May 1984 in minority concentrated com- munities, and bilingual education (Chinese and a minority language) was implemented in the mid-1980s. Ethnic languages are now used in teaching, from kindergarten to high school, to preserve ethnic culture. Furthermore, diversity in multilingual education is prevalent in China, which ref lects not only the diversity that exists among China’s minority nationalities, but also an ambivalent attitude toward multilingual educa- tion: learning a minority language has been seen as a transitional measure aimed at facilitating mastery of the standard Chinese language...

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