Original Research

Biography, policy and language teaching practices in a multilingual context: Early childhood classrooms in Mauritius

Aruna Ankiah-Gangadeen, Michael Anthony Samuel
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 4, No 2 | a204 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v4i2.204 | © 2014 Aruna Ankiah-Gangadeen, Michael Anthony Samuel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 December 2014 | Published: 24 December 2014

About the author(s)

Aruna Ankiah-Gangadeen, Mauritius Institute of Education, Mauritius
Michael Anthony Samuel,

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Abstract

Language policies in education in multilingual postcolonial contexts are often driven by ideological considerations more veered towards socio-economic and political viability for the country than towards the practicality at implementation level. Centuries after the advent of colonisation, when culturally and linguistically homogenous countries helped to maintain the dominion of colonisers, the English language still has a stronghold in numerous countries due to the material rewards it offers. How then are the diversity of languages – often with different statuses and functions in society – reconciled in the teaching and learning process? How do teachers deal with the intricacies that are generated within a situation where children are taught in a language that is foreign to them? This paper is based on a study involving pre-primary teachers in Mauritius, a developing multilingual African country. The aim was to understand how their approach to the teaching of English was shaped by their biographical experiences of learning the language. The narrative inquiry methodology offered rich possibilities to foray into these experiences, including the manifestations of negotiating their classroom pedagogy in relation to their own personal historical biographies of language teaching and learning, the policy environment, and the pragmatic classroom specificities of diverse, multilingual learners. These insights become resources for early childhood education and teacher development in multilingual contexts caught within the tensions between language policy and pedagogy.

Keywords

biographical experiences of learning English, multilingual context, language policy, pedagogical practices in ECE

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