Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Taking Multi-Culturalism Too Far?

This is the list of languages currently spoken at the White Hart Lane School in North London. The new head teacher has said that in future all lessons will be taught in English. The previous head teacher is now a government adviser and reputedly was taken on for his 'innovative' approach in a multi-ethnic school. What do we all think about this? Did the previous approach take multi-culturalism too far? Is a zero tolerance approach to using languages other than English likely to work? My own view is that the best thing for a harmonious society in future is if we take every measure we can to integrate immigrants into British society and being able to speak the language is pretty fundamental to this. Without the capability of speaking English a child is likely to recede into a ghetto culture, from which it might be difficult to escape.

Hat tip for graphic to A WelshView


Anonymous said...

Is there any evidence that any of the mainstream lessons (mathematics, science, English) were NOT taught always taught in English before? Your point about the need to ensure that immigrants converse in English in order to facilitate social inclusion is well made. I do however believe that the example you highlight simply underlines the enormous task that confronts teachers in multi-racial, inner-city schools. What many of them achieve with their pupils is nothing short of miraculous.

Iain Dale said...

Mike, THIS AS I recall from the newspaper articles on this these subjects were indeed taught in other languages, but to what extrent, i don't know. I agree with what you say though. When I was younger I intended to be a teacher. Part of me would still like to be.

Nuke Labour said...

If you teach pupils in a language they have trouble understanding, they'll have trouble learning anything.

The benefits from exposing them more to the non-native language (English), and pressuring them to learn it, will easily be outweighed by the lack of educational progress they'll make in all their other subjects, as a result of their being schooled in a language they don't understand.

That's not to say the pupils don't need to be taught English, as a priority, with great expediency. It's just to say that it's unbelievably stupid to say "well, if you don't learn English, you won't learn anything here", which seems to be the implication of the 'English or nothing' policy.

That policy may win rave headlines in the Daily Mail, and 'hear hear' chants on the right. But the cost will be a lot of pupils failing to make educational progress, and ending up in lousy and low-paying jobs.

Many of those pupils adversely affected will be Muslim. I suspect we'll do ourselves no favours if we support an education system that churns out ill-educated poorly-paid/unemployable Muslims who can't afford social lives save those centred around religion.

Only a very small minority will become terrorists, yet by increasing the recuitment pool through a lousy education policy, we'll increase the number of terrorists and terrorist incidents.

ian said...

Despite what (let me guess, the Daily Mail?) said, the situation actually was that science was taught in English and Turkish as an experiment, which has been abandoned. No other classes were taught in any other language. (listen to the Radio 4 PM programme on listen again, about 5.40 today)

Chris Palmer said...

Why do they come to this country if they can't speak English? I wouldn't go and live in Germany if I couldn't speak German.

The problem is indeed integration. When people who cannot speak the native language congregate, the problem intensifies.

Anonymous said...

I don't know guys but in my classes at school there were many Cuban refugees who hadn't spoken English until they arrived in New York. And guess what? The good nuns taught in English - no exceptions. Guess what else - the Cuban kids all learned Englsih pretty damn quick and most excelled at school. So Nuke Labour, I have never heard such patronising crap in my entire life. This is England and we speak English here. Comprende?

Biodun said...

I'm not sure I could infer the same from looking at this list.
It doesn't say anything more than that there are a lot of bi-lingual students at this school.

To jump to the conclusion that a majority of them have trouble speaking English, is fallacious reasoning.

Speaking for Igbo and Yoruba on this list, which are Nigerian languages, I've never met a Nigerian who wasn't at least bi-lingual.

English is our official language in Nigeria and every school teaches in English. It's the law, as teaching in another language would dis-enfranchise others from a different ethnic group, bla bla bla.

If in Nigeria, where these languages originate, pupils are taught in English, then it would be preposterous to teach them in another language when in England.

It looks like someone just handed out some forms to these kids, and asked them what languages they spoke and the school is assuming these are all mother tongue languages and therefore their English must be deficient.

Children pick up languages a lot better than adults do, and a lot faster too.

False assertions that children need to be taught in their home languages fuel the myth of multi-culturalism being necessary for a peaceful society.

Edward said...

Isn't there one language missing off that list? I know I may be being politically incorrect, but I can't see that one which begins with E....I forget how it's spelt...

Anonymous said...

It lists Ugandian as being a Ugandan language; there's no such language!

Anonymous said...

The list is a bit of a joke - Hindi and Urdu are the same langauage when spoken (written in different scripts and often with a lot of geographic differences in vocabulary but the same is true of Serbo Croat). Is Walloon really a different language from French?