Language and the economy: Challenges and opportunities for complementary schools Vally Lytra King’s College London firstname.lastname@example.org
Antecedents “The predominance of English and its importance for both our nation and as an international lingua franca are not in doubt. But alongside English other languages are becoming increasingly important to the UK as globalisation, international communications and labour force mobility transform economic and cultural life. Building on existing language skills and expertise is of direct benefit to individuals, fosters greater social cohesion, improves skills available to employers, contributes to our national prosperity and makes us better prepared to contribute positively on the global stage. As a nation seeking to play a key role in global trade and diplomacy we need to be able to draw on a diverse range of languages to further our strategic and economic aims: and these are already represented among the languages spoken by our schoolchildren.” [“Positively Plurilingual. The contribution of community languages to UK education and society”, 2006:1]
Aims of presentation Drawing on interviews, field notes and documentary data, the aims are: • To explore key aspects of the emergent institutional discourse around heritage language learning as instrumentally beneficial articulated by key actors (school administrators, parents, children) in two London Turkish complementary schools; • To inquire to what extent this emergent institutional discourse regarding the instrumental value of Turkish linked to academic success in the mainstream, the attainment of educational qualifications and access to HE and the professions is being mobilised by key actors of the Turkish-speaking communities to address widespread perceptions of academic failure in a significant segment of Turkish-speaking youth. • To discuss some of the challenges and opportunities this emergent institutional discourse raises for complementary schooling in general and Turkish schools in particular.
(1) Linking children’s language learning with the instrumental value of Turkish Vally: How important is it that children learn Turkish? Eşref Bey: <…> London is quite a cosmopolitan city and I believe if they learn Turkish they get their certificates, A level or GCSE or whatever that is, they can they’ve got the chance to get a job easily Vally: Mmm Eşref Bey: in some way because there is quite a big [Turkish speaking community] in London. When they apply for any job it helps them to speak a second language. [interview with education coordinator and former teacher of ‘East London’ Turkish school]
(2) Linking children’s language learning with HE and professional achievement Vally: What do you think is your biggest reward as you’ve been involved with this school for some years now? Asim Bey I believe our school succeeded its target, its aims because we have lots of students in University and some who have graduated already and who like my daughter were in our school. They were here from the first level up to A levels and the main aim I believe as Turkish schools was to help these students get through to University level. [interview with Asim Bey, head of “East London” Turkish school’s managing committee, parent and current teacher at the school, teaching a GSCE level class]
(3) Linking children’s language learning across educational contexts Vally: What would you say are the aims of the school? Ahmet Bey: The aims of the school is supplementary education. Ensuring that the children learn their mother tongue, Turkish language and culture. As you know most of our students [in ‘West London’ Turkish school’] come from mixed marriages. At home, most of them are exposed to English, at home and at school, at mainstream school. So we provide a service really, education for them to learn. Even if they already speak Turkish, they improve it. It [attending Turkish classes] actually prepares them for later education, you know to get their GCSE and A levels. It helps them in their mainstream education to go to University. Vally: So you feel that the school has a broader mission not exclusively related to learning Turkish language and culture but a broader educational mission? Ahmet Bey: Oh definitely, I think our broader educational mission is to help them with their mainstream education. Like this year, we haven’t started yet but from September onwards if you do come we’ll have a number of things in place. We’ll start a homework club we’ll help them you know in Maths, science and English for the mainstream school. We’ll do some sports activities and we’re going to start some drama and music lessons. [interview with Ahmet Bey, head of “West London” Turkish school’s managing committee, parent and Turkish language teacher]
The children’s voices Dilek: Why are you learning Turkish? Baran: ‘coz my mum and dad are Turkish and maybe in the future in my life it’ll be good to have Turkish for a job. Dilek: Oh I see, what kind of job do you think you might do? Baran: I wanna be a pilot Dilek: pilot, ok, a Turkish pilot for Turkish Airlines? Baran: yeah Dilek: I see Baran: that’s why I need Turkish [interview with Baran, 10, “East London” Turkish school]
Dilek: Would you like to carry out your studies in Turkish? Ayten: I don’t mind ‘coz no çünkü İngiltere de yaşarım. Daha çok İngilizce böyle bilirım ve böyle ama isterim GCSE ve A level yapayım <Because I live in England, I’m better at English but I would like to do GCSE and A level>. [Ayten, 10,“East London” Turkish school]
Mobilizing the emergent institutional discourse regarding the instrumental value of Turkish to address academic failure among Turkish-speaking youth “a) tallies for a minimum of 5 GCSE passes at Grades A-C; b) numbers in full-time education beyond 16; c) entry rates to Higher Education and the professions” [“Turkish Cypriot Children in London Schools”, 1999: 47]
Eşref Bey, the educational coordinator, emphasizes the need for the children to know what he calls their “mother tongue” referring to Turkish. He points at us [the researchers sitting in the audience] and references our work when he tells the audience that bilingual children can be more successful in their studies [than monolingual children] provided they are equally proficient in both languages. He then recounts his experience as a mainstream school teacher where he observed that almost no Turkish children took part in extracurricular activities organised by the school. He tells his audience that he investigated the reason behind this and found that either the children could not cope with the level of English required or their parents did not encourage them to take part. One mother takes the floor agreeing with Eşref Bey and adding that Turkish parents only care about earning money and do not care about their children. She further elaborates saying that when a child asks his mum to take him to extracurricular activities his mum usually declines saying “I am working. I can’t take you”. Eşref Bey expresses his disappointment and says: “There are about 30,000 Turkish children in mainstream school. Why don’t we care about them? Why can’t we produce artists, musicians, swimmers and sportsmen? Are we all going to be make and sell kebabs? Don’t get me wrong I’m not putting down this profession but we need to encourage our children to take part in sports, music and art activities”. Ertanç Bey, a member of the school’s managing committee and the Turkish Language, Culture and Education Consortium takes the floor and says: “There are very successful Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot men and women in the UK but sadly they are not in touch with their community. We, as [the Turkish Language, Culture and Education] Consortium will bring them here to this school and introduce them to you”. [field notes 27/05/06, “East London” Turkish School]
Challenges and opportunities for complementary schools • Limited resources; • On-going training of teachers; • Designing the necessary curriculum and teaching materials; • For Turkish complementary schools in particular, managing linguistic and cultural diversity and combating discourses of “semilingualism” associated with children’s use of regional and diasporic varieties of Turkish. • Establishing closer links and partnerships with mainstream schools on an equal footing; • Disseminating some of the good learning and teaching classroom practices and the valorisation of the children’s full linguistic and cultural repertoires.
Selected references • Creese, A., Baraç, T., Bhatt, A., Blackledge,. A., Hamid, S., Lytra, V., Martin, P., Li Wei, Wu, C.-J. and D. Yağcıoğlu-Ali. Investigating Multilingualism in Complementary schools in Four Communities. University of Birmingham, 2008. • Conteh, J., Martin, P. & L. Halvaara Robertson (eds.) Multilingual Learning Stories from Schools and Communities in Britain. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham, 2007. • Francis, B., Archer, L. & A. Mau. Chinese complementary school pupils’ social and educational subjectivities. In: Lytra, V. & P. Martin (eds), Sites of Multilingualism. Complementary Schools in Britain Today. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham, forthcoming 2010. • Lytra, V. & T. Baraç with Creese, A., Bhatt, A., Blackledge,. A., Hamid, S., Martin, P., Li Wei, Wu, C.-J. and D. Yağcıoğlu-Ali. Language practices, language ideologies and identity construction in London Turkish Complementary schools. In: Multilingualism and Identities across Contexts: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives on Turkish speaking Youth in Europe. In: Lytra, V. & J.N. JØrgensen. Copenhagen Studies in Bilingualism, University of Copenhagen. Vol 45, 2008: 15-43. • Positively Plurilingual. The contribution of Community Languages to UK education and society. CILT, 2006. • Turkish Cypriot Children in London Schools. A report for the Turkish Cypriot Forum by the International Centre for Intercultural Studies and the Culture, Communication and Societies Group, Institute of Education, University of London, 1999.