10 Feb 2010

EU to Abolish the Mother Tongue Teaching Directive

Sorry for the lack of originality, but I found this newsletter from the BAAL (British Association of Applied Linguistics) mailing list particularly important and thought the best way to share it was here.  Please read, comment and act as you see fit.  Thanks to Ben Rampton for posting. 

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Dear sociolinguistic friends,

Apparently the EU, or a strong force within the EU, is planning to abolish the Mother Tongue Teaching Directive (Council Directive 77/486).

A short repetition fo directive's importance:
Directive 77/486 obliges the member states to provide mother tongue teaching for minority students in the grade schools - with the provision that "minority languages" as a term refers to the national languages of EU citizens, but with the very important, although not binding, addition that this right should be extended to all minorities. The directive has been followed up by a range of decisions, particularly in the European parlament, about integrating minority mother tongue teaching into the mainstream curriculum of grade schools.

New developments:
It seems that a Swedish initiative taken while Sweden was the chair of the EU had the purpose of automatically extending the directive. However, perhaps as a consequence of a government change in Sweden, it may have become an effort to abolish the directive. A hearing has been carried out based on a "green paper" (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2008:0423:FIN:EN:PDF.  The themes of the hearing process are on the last pages of this report (point 42). The documents of the hearing and the ensuing conference are at http://ec.europa.eu/education/news/news1875_en.htm - before the conference 101 reactions had arrived with a massive overrepresentation from Germany. In addition a report was presented to the conference http://www.nesse.fr/nesse/activities/reports/activities/reports/education-and-migration.pdf which is by and large a copy of Esser, H. (2006): Migration, language, and integration. AKI Research review 4. Berlin: http://www.wzb.eu/zkd/aki/files/aki_research_review_4.pdf, i.e. a report in a tradition which has been refuted by, inter alii, Jim Cummins (2008): Total Immersion or Bilingual Education? in: J. Ramseger & Matthea Wagner (eds.): Chancenungleicheit in der Grundschule und Wege aus der Krise. VS verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

In the conference program there was nothing about the juridical or language scientific positions on the directive. The only person with qualifications in language was Verena Putzlar from Austria (who is not researchwise active with respect to language).

At the conference attempts to cite the critique by Cummins and François Grin were quelled.

Subsequently, the Danish and Austrian participants with scholarly credentials (i.e. definitely not the civil servants) have agreed to direct the attention of colleagues to this development and to alert them that a cornerstone of language right formulations is being discreetly abandoned without relevant scholars being consulted.

We therefore suggest you take this up with the relevant authorities in the nation state where you reside or work, and that you ask what is being done to ensure that a decision is made which is based on relevant scholarly work, particularly sociolinguistics. You may also address the incoming commissioner of education, culture, and multilingualism, Androulla Vassiliou of Cyprus, and the head of the unit, Adam Podkorny whose e-address is: Adam.Pokorny@ec.europa.eu. Examples of letters of concern which have already been sent to EU authorities are attached, together with the replies, to this letter.

If you find the time to do so, please keep us informed.

Thank you very much

Christian Horst (horst@dpu.dk)
Anne Holmen (anho@dpu.dk)
Normann Jørgensen (normann@hum.ku.dk)

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