On September 13, 2013, the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education Network (MTB-MLE Network), with support from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), launched an international initiative to develop a collaborative research agenda on language and education issues. The goal of this initiative is to provide information, ideas and guidance to researchers, academics, donors and program implementers regarding research needs related to language use in education in policy and practice.
More than 30 people from universities (students and faculty), donor agencies, and organizations implementing education programs throughout the world attended a kick-off event held at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. Approximately a dozen people and groups from several countries also joined remotely. The specific objectives of the meeting were to:
• review the key existing research on MTB-MLE issues,
• identify major gaps,
• consider how research can be applied to education programs and policies, and
• identify next steps for carrying out a research agenda focused on MTB-MLE.
The American Institutes for Research (AIR), GPE, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), RTI International and World Vision provided financial support for the day-long event.
As Penelope Bender of USAID emphasized, “Advancing new research topics is critical for the field of language and education; we’ve moved past the basic issue of whether children should learn in a language they understand to needing to solve key problems of practice through a deeper research agenda.”
Dr. Jessica Ball, a professor at the University of Victoria, Canada, and Dr. Sylvia Linan-Thompson, an Associate Professor from the University of Texas-Austin, were keynote speakers. Dr. Ball noted the relevance of language in improving learning in multilingual contexts and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. She presented an overview of existing research regarding early language acquisition and bilingual/multilingual language development and learning, highlighting areas requiring further research regarding teacher preparation, curriculum, and assessment. She encouraged participants to consider how research could help identify effective and culturally appropriate MTB-MLE approaches for the provision of education in multilingual societies.
Dr. Linan-Thompson presented the research implications of cross-linguistic transfer in bilingual and biliteracy development. She reviewed current research on the topic, identified its application to international development efforts focused on improving language and literacy, and highlighted challenges and potential solutions to conducting research on language and literacy issues.
Throughout the day, participants identified topics for future research around language and education; challenges and opportunities for conducting and applying research in their current work; the resources needed and available to move forward a research agenda; and ways to communicate existing research, conduct new research, and involve a broad range of stakeholders globally in an effort to advance an expanded research agenda.
Recommendations in these areas included the need to conduct longitudinal studies of MTB-MLE education programs in non-European contexts to identify effective models in different contexts. Many noted the importance of collaborating with researchers in non-Western institutions. Participants also emphasized the need for donor agencies to better integrate research into their programs and to provide dedicated human and financial resources to support the continued advancement and coordination of an MTB-MLE research agenda.
Suggested next steps that were identified during the kick-off event include:
• developing a proposed research agenda with specific topics that could be posted on the MTB-MLE Network website and communicated widely to universities and professional networks;
• compiling an annotated bibliography of key existing research;
• developing research summaries for important topics; and
• conducting more outreach to universities and organizations outside the U.S. that could contribute to implementing the research agenda.
The MTB-MLE Network is consolidating ideas and will be organizing follow-up discussions and other events to carry the research agenda forward. If you would like to participate in the forum discussions on developing a research agenda for MTB-MLE please click here.
To access the presentation materials from the kick-off event please click on the following links:
- Dr. Ball's presentation on Mother-Tongue Based Multilingual Education Advancing Research-Based Understandings
- Dr. Linan-Thompson's presentation on Research Implications of Crosslinguistic Transfer in Bilingual/Biliteracy Development
If you would like to receive periodic updates from the MTB-MLE Network, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Everyone is welcome to join the network and participate in activities!