Multilingual Education and Sustainable Diversity Work:

 From Periphery to Center

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Kathleen Heugh (eds)

New York: Routledge, 2012



This book includes recent and compelling data of successful bi/multilingual education policy, planning and delivery in Africa, South and South-East Asia, Latin and North America, accompanied by surprisingly modest costs and investment. It brings new, long-awaited and system-wide data to the international theory of bi/multilingual education. The richly textured evidence has the potential to influence educational debates for the next decade and beyond. This is particularly because low-cost cum high-return education, with relevance in “developing” and “developed” contexts, is of particular interest during the current downturn in the global economy. The volume shows successful case-studies of bi/multilingual education at work amongst Indigenous and minority linguistic communities in North America, Peru, Nepal, India, South-East Asia, Burkina Faso; and across the entire education system of Ethiopia. The volume also includes contemporary and high cost cum low return challenges to multilingual education in case-studies from Morocco and Ethiopia. This is the first time that it has been possible to compare student achievement in different system-wide bi/multilingual models of education. Simultaneously, it is also the first time that it has been possible to focus on what research and expertise in low-income countries and contexts can contribute to the international field of bi/multilingual education. The implementation of linguistically diverse education as discussed in this volume, therefore, has significance for both low-income countries and dominant world powers experiencing unprecedented in-migration and socio-cultural diversity.


The Ethiopian case-study, in particular, confirms decades of theory in the work of international experts (Colin Baker, Jim Cummins, Ofelia Garçia, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Robert Phillipson, Nancy Hornberger, Wayne Thomas and Virginia Collier) amongst others. It also builds on earlier research on mother-tongue-medium and bilingual education in Africa and South Asian countries from the 1940s onwards (e.g. Malherbe, Bamgbose, Heugh, Agnihotri, Annamalai, Mohanty, Pattanayak). The collection of studies responds to a gap in the international literature on bi/multilingual education by including significant research from marginalized communities, and revealing successful practices from ‘peripheried’ contexts amongst Indigenous peoples of India, Nepal, Peru, and the USA. In each example we find that where governments decentralise language education planning, local communities emerge as active participants in their children’s education; and where children receive mother-tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education, their overall achievement increases and they remain in school for longer. Richly sourced evidence of effective multilingual education in this volume has immediate relevance for the UNESCO Education for All goals and commitments across the wider global stage of both South and North