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Social interaction in multilingual classrooms in Fiji

Shameem, Nikhat (2007) Social interaction in multilingual classrooms in Fiji. In: Language Learning and Teaching as Social Interaction. Palgrave Macmillan, UK, pp. 199-217. ISBN 978-0-230-59124-0

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This chapter looks at how education policy can differ widely from classroom practice in the use of languages in multilingual classrooms. In many parts of the developing world current in- country language and education policies or written curriculum documents do not necessarily reflect the ways in which languages are learnt and used among young learners who are multilingual. This chapter reports on such a case from the island nation, Fiji, situated in the South Pacific where there is a clear dichotomy between policy and practice in language learning and use. Much of Fiji’s policies in education have been influenced by a 100-year colonial heritage followed by sluggish growth and change following three coups in its recent history. Policy supports a transitional language-in-education programme with children beginning instruction in English from Class three (Age 8). Reality shows that English language use for instruction begins in Class one (Age 6) although all the known languages are used for various other purposes. This is regardless of urban or rural or mono-ethnic (Indo-Fijian) or multi-racial background of school. Indo-Fijians know Fiji Hindi as their mother tongue, English as the lingua franca for use with other ethnic groups and as the official language, learn Hindustani/Shudh Hindi/Urdu (SH) at school and pick up Fijian from their neighbours and friends. Educational policy places SH as the ‘vernacular’ to be used for teaching Indo-Fijian children in the first three years of primary school. Indo-Fijians have limited proficiency in this language. It is clear that each language fulfils differing roles in the classroom, depending on context, purpose of communication, interlocutors, topic and activity-type. A blanket language policy in education which stipulates the use of one language over another for learning is not reflective of the reality of classroom language use among multilinguals.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: School of Pacific Arts, Communication and Education (SPACE)
Depositing User: Nikhat Shameem
Date Deposited: 25 May 2023 23:39
Last Modified: 25 May 2023 23:39

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