London School of Islamics
An Educational Trust
63 Margery Park Road London E7 9LD
Tel/Fax: 0208 555 2733 / 07817 112 667
Bilingual education is a human and civil right. Being bilingual and bi-cultural is an important resource in today’s global economy and the British government should be encouraging this rather than suppressing it. It is crucial that children feel secure in their bilingual identity. A research project at the Institute of Education, University of London, shows that five and six years olds cope well with biliteracy and gain advantages from it. If young people see their community language and culture is valued, they will feel integrated into British society. There is a great demand for individuals fluent in English and mother tongues by educational institutions, TV Channel, radio stations and service industries.
Bilingualism has positive effects on children’s linguistic and educational development. The level of development of children’s mother tongue is a strong predictor of their second language development. Mother tongue promotion in the school helps develop not only the mother tongue but also children abilities in the majority school language. Spending instructional time through minority language in the school does not hurt children’s academic development in the majority school language. When parent’s culture are recognized by the school, their interest and involvement in the curriculum often increase dramatically.
Children’s mother tongue is fragile and easily lost in the early years of school. Language lies at the heart of any culture. The different languages spoken provide clear links with the family and community traditions which enrich British culture. To reject a child’s language in the school is to reject a child. Children cultural and linguistic experience in the home is the foundation of their future learning and we must build on that foundation rather than undermine it. Increased cultural and language awareness could help to combat hooliganism.
Languages, by virtue of their direct contribution to economic competitiveness, intercultural tolerance and social cohesion, should have the status of a key skill alongside literacy, numeracy and ICT. The government should establish a national strategy for developing capability in languages and a system capable of supporting such a strategy. A language supremo should be attached to the cabinet office and have direct access to the Prime Minister. He should persuade the notoriously monolingual British to learn a language. New languages supremo must persuade reluctant Brits to speak something other than English. British society is already a multilingual society. The first wave of immigrants arrived with two or three languages from the sub-continent but its young generation is unable to feel pride in its mother tongue. The government should declare a firm commitment to early language learning for all children at age five. The key to success in business, the law and politics in the future will be the mastry of at least one foreign language. Knowledge of more than one language demonstrates that a candidate has the ability to think across cultural boundaries. Bilingualism enhances children’s development.