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Conference on Language Development, Language Revitalization and Multilingual Education for the Minority Languages of Asia.
Bangkok, Thailand, November 6-8th, 2003
Nearly three hundred representatives from various governments, voluntary & academic institutions around Asia met to discuss topics related to language and education. Among them were fifteen Indian delegates.
- SIL International (INGO)
- UNESCO, Asia Area
- Mahidol University, Bangkok
To provide a forum in which practitioners engaged in language development, language revitalization and/or multilingual education programs share their knowledge and experience with government officials, academics and others who are interested in supporting appropriate education and development in ethnic minority communities.
- Government: Shri Madukar Sinha, Dir. Language, Dept. of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Delhi; Prof. Udaya N. Singh, Dir. CIIL, Mysore; Mr. Vinobha Gautam, co-ordinator UNDP Janshala Programme; Dr. D. Barkataki, Dir. SRC Guwahati; Shri O.S.V.D. Prasad, Dir. Tribal Cultural, Research & Training Institute, Hyderabad.
- Academics: Prof. S. R. Sharma, Deccan College, Pune; Dr. Jaya Buragohain, NE University.
- NGOs: Mr. E. David Chandran & Mr. E. Sallatiel Nalli, EFICOR, New Delhi; Ms. Shilpa Jain, Shikshantar, Rajasthan; Mrs. Grace Thomas, BTLS, Chattisgarh; Mr. Alex Matthew, Indian Institute for Cross Cultural Communication, Orissa; Mr. Harold Rajan, Asha Kiran Society, Orissa; Mr. Nanda Laxmi Narayan, Save the Children.
- Others: Government representatives, academics & NGO delegates from various countries in Asia including Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia.
The conference was opened by the Minister of Education of Thailand. Mr. Sheldon Shaeffer, head of UNESCO Bangkok, was the keynote speaker. Shaeffer stressed the need for using the mother tongue in primary stages of education in order to improve the education quality as well as preserving the language. Dr. Susan Malone, linguistic consultant of SIL International, later gave the theoretical backup for this pedagogical statement. Research has proven that students who learn basic reading and writing skills through their mother tongue perform better later in school than those whose basic education is solely through a second language. Prof. Udaya Singh, Dir. of the Central Institute of Indian Languages in Mysore, gave another excellent plenary presentation. He spoke on "Language development and nation building in multilingual contexts".
A wide spectrum of theoretical and practical papers was presented in subgroup meetings. Some relevant topics covered were language planning, language issues at the national level, orthography development, experiences with orthography testing, case studies of minority literacy programs, and a tool for rapid dictionary making. Eleven papers were presented on India.
The conference closed with discussion groups, each focussing on a particular region of Asia. The necessary interventions for India were discussed. This generated a lively discussion, particularly between the NGO & Gov't representatives from India. It became apparent that there is a need for an India-level consultation on multilingual education.
The delegates left the conference with broader awareness about the value and practicality of using local languages in the educational system. "It can be done", but in India a lot more should be done!
The conference web site can be found at: www.lc.mahidol.ac.th/Conference.html. The UNESCO position paper "Education in a Multilingual World" can be viewed at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001297/129728e.pdf. The SIL web page has a wide variety of resources and articles on these issues: www.sil.org.
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