Multilingual education for the 21st century: Moving from trending to meaningful through criticality and collaboration
This presentation aims to engage with some of the complexities of multilingual education that has emerged in our current era of intense social and educational transformations –changes that are often associated with the 21st century. Our aim is to move past the more dominant ‘trending’ discourses and practices regarding multilingual education towards more complex and critical conceptions that can promote meaningful and inclusive plurilingual education and contribute to social cohesion. As a focal point for this reflection, we provide examples of interactions from ethnographic research in both formal and non-formal educational settings, ranging from a university subject, a project in compulsory primary education to an after-school program. In all of the cases, plurilingual practices naturally emerge in the interactions in ways that promote meaningful collaboration and opportunities for learning –by both students and teachers/teacher educators. The participants’ practices are characterized by hybridity and fluency, as participants from multicultural backgrounds engage in creative and challenging cognitive tasks.
In particular we look at the notion that multilingual education can be effectively approached from a paradigm of critically-engaged collaboration between all agents involved: pupils, teachers and researchers/teacher educators. We argue that this collaborative paradigm holds transformative potential that can ‘disrupt’ traditional practices, rather than merely producing (and reproducing) notions of ‘best practice’ promoted by current social and educational trends. This collaborative research paradigm can help bridge gaps between formal and non formal contexts, everyday out-of-school and in-school language practices, and foster meaningful multilingual education that encompasses and operationalizes pupils’ full linguistic repertoires while promoting the development of 21st century competences such as plurilingualism, criticality and creativity.