Decolonising Language Education

19 Jul, 2017 | Michael Protheroe

Social issues

Illustration: Hugo L. Cuéllar

The challenges of reform in a diverse Bolivia

Bolivia, or the Plurinational State of Bolivia, has 37 official languages. Roughly 70% of the population identifies as indigenous and 68% has mestizo ethnic ancestry. Against this complex background, the task of defining one’s identity is not a simple matter. How language learning fits into this vast web of linguistic and identity politics is undoubtedly equally complex. What I want to know is how educational reforms have been received and whether they are perceived as being successful or even relevant.

Recent educational reform began with the Law 1565, which introduced ‘intercultural bilingual education’ in 1994. The first article of the law states that ‘Bolivian education is intercultural and bilingual, because it assumes the cultural diversity of the country in an atmosphere of respect among all Bolivians, men and women.’ Historically, however, Bolivian society has been deeply stratified along ethnic lines. Colonialism still weighs heavily. Efforts to construct a Nation state and shape a unifying national identity have naturally problematised cultural diversity.

The more recent Law 070 Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez (ASEP) addresses four main areas for change in Bolivia’s educational system: decolonisation, plurilingualism, intra and interculturalism, as well as productive and communitarian education. Plurilingualism, in practice, means that children learn at least three languages: Spanish, an indigenous language and a foreign language, generally English.

Aiming to see policy in action, I visited a school in Miraflores, La Paz. I was largely disappointed however, as the teacher seemed unprepared for her class and after making the children recite some English and Aymara, admittedly quite enthusiastically, she informed me that there was no plan for the class. The director of the school clarified later that there was not a dedicated teacher of Aymara, which explained what happened to a certain extent. Although I may not have had a representative experience, my visit raises questions about large scale implementation.

To find out more, I spoke with Carlos Macusaya Cruz, a social communicator and educational activist. In his opinion, ASEP is ‘poetic, rhetorical, literary’ but in practical terms he believes that both rural and urban populations are more preoccupied with handling ‘modern’ technical knowledge, i.e. computers, mobile phones, cars. When asked about language teaching, Macusaya said, ‘I think that the practical sense has to do with people learning more than one language. It’s going to allow them locally, in Bolivia, to link to certain populations. If I speak Aymara I can communicate with the people for whom that language is more common, but it is also important to learn English because it’s a language that is handled in a globalising world.’



Efforts to construct a Nation state and shape a unifying ‘national’ identity have naturally problematised cultural diversity.




His viewpoint is one of practicality and not a romantic recuperation of ‘lost culture’. In his opinion, discourse on identity politics doesn’t seem to chime with people outside the government bubble. As he says, ‘It was never a problem of “I am Aymara, I am Guaraní, I don’t know.” It has always been linked to other topics such as: I am Aymara and because of this I am marginalised from work spaces, I have less agreements with the State, the State neglects my neighbourhood.’

There is a concern surrounding the essentialisation of indigenous cultures. That is, reducing them to stereotypes promoted by language teaching and attempting to recover a past that never really existed. ‘I remember saying somewhere several years ago that I was Aymara and people asked: “Where are your boat and your poncho?”,’ Macusaya says. ‘Looking for an essence in Andean cultures is like taking them from history’, he continues. ‘At the time of colonisation, the indigenous were portrayed as subhuman, as savages, as if that was their nature. In other discourses, promoted by the United Nations, the indigenous are no longer subhuman. Instead they speak with the cosmos, with animals, they are above others. In the end, it always reduces them, it denies their humanity.’

Pedro Apala Flores, Director General of the Plurinational Institute of Languages and Cultures in Santa Cruz, begs to differ, illustrating the other side of the debate regarding language education. ‘Already less shame is felt,’ he says, ‘already there is more openness in wanting to express things in their native languages. 10 or 15 years ago, that would have been very difficult. We hear people conversing in their language in public transport, in markets. Indigenous languages used to be family languages. A certain fear was felt because it categorised people as indigenous. So, there is that evolution, that empowerment.’

This matches a 2006 audit which claims that 71% of Bolivians identify as indigenous, whereas the 1992 census shows few Bolivians doing so. Getting back to the practical reality, however, I asked Apala Flores about the implementation of teaching and he was obfuscatory at best: ‘There are advances that we qualify as very positive and other things that are moving more slowly. In the topic of languages, we are moving with a firm but slow pace, because the linguistic complexity of this country is really alarming. For example: there are some teachers that speak indigenous languages but don’t write them.’ The teacher I met in Miraflores told me that she had to learn Aymara to teach it. Although a 2004 study suggests that reform has been better implemented in rural areas than in the cities, another study made in 2000, points out that only 25% of the indigenous population live in rural areas. It seems there are both practical and structural challenges for reform in a country where the process is only beginning.  



There are practical and structural challenges for reform in a country where the process is only beginning.




If there is to be hope for a future generation in touch with indigenous culture and languages, the romantic and practical need to be balanced, with stereotyping and essentialising deftly navigated. Linguistic complexity aside, the teacher I spoke with told me, ‘The children find it difficult, but really interesting.’ Children, however, offered a different perspective. Urban children admitted they found language education boring and rural children seemed more enthusiastic. People want to be empowered, not forced into a prescriptive box. Whatever the way forward, people need to be respected, not reduced to essentialised images of cultures that ignore the complexities of reality.

Comments

jtaletpfqf
14 Oct, 2018 | 13:36
[url=http://valladium.com]cialis coupon[/url] cialis 5mg http://valladium.com
utaletacpz
12 Oct, 2018 | 20:31
[url=http://canadian-pharmacheap.com]buy cialis online with prescription[/url] buy authentic cialis online http://canadian-pharmacheap.com
htaletcssx
11 Oct, 2018 | 00:17
[url=http://canadian-pharmacyibuy.com]buy cialis overseas[/url] very cheap cialis http://canadian-pharmacyibuy.com
ttaletudcs
10 Oct, 2018 | 02:11
[url=http://top-monterey-salinas-dentists.com]www levitra com[/url] which works better viagra or cialis or levitra http://top-monterey-salinas-dentists.com
staletnayo
10 Oct, 2018 | 00:23
[url=http://canadian-pharmamrdi.com]generic cialis for sale[/url] canadian cialis http://canadian-pharmamrdi.com
btaletxzsf
08 Oct, 2018 | 22:07
[url=http://rabbitinahat.com]buy genuine cialis online[/url] cheap cialis pills online http://rabbitinahat.com
ytaletpenn
06 Oct, 2018 | 03:04
[url=http://canadian-pharmamrdi.com]cialis for sale online[/url] ordering cialis online from canada http://canadian-pharmamrdi.com
ltaletbdhb
02 Oct, 2018 | 19:48
[url=http://valladium.com]cialis online bestellen[/url] buy generic cialis online no script http://valladium.com
dtaletienu
02 Oct, 2018 | 17:27
[url=http://canadian-pharmacyionline.com]order viagra without a prescription[/url] viagra pills sale http://canadian-pharmacyionline.com
ataletnciz
01 Oct, 2018 | 22:25
[url=http://buycialisonlineglka.com]generic cialis 40 mg[/url] order cialis canadian pharmacy http://buycialisonlineglka.com
btaletdjiy
01 Oct, 2018 | 13:01
[url=http://canadian-pharmapills.com]discount viagra[/url] pfizer viagra online http://canadian-pharmapills.com
더킹카지노
01 Oct, 2018 | 10:42
https://pauio.com/theking/ - 더킹카지노 https://pauio.com/woori/ - 우리카지노 https://pauio.com/first/ - 퍼스트카지노 https://pauio.com/yesci/ - 예스카지노 https://pauio.com/yeska/ - YES카지노 https://pauio.com/obamas/ - 오바마카지노 https://pauio.com/super/ - 슈퍼카지노 https://pauio.com/33ca/ - 33카지노 https://pauio.com/basa/ - 바카라사이트 https://pauio.com/casa/ - 카지노사이트 https://pauio.com/kor/ - 코리아카지노 https://pauio.com/live/ - 라이브카지노 https://pauio.com/world/ - 월드카지노 https://pauio.com/mka/ - M카지노 https://pauio.com/ssca/ - 삼삼카지노 https://pauio.com/trum/ - 트럼프카지노 https://pauio.com/mca/ - 엠카지노 https://pauio.com/gatsby/ - 개츠비카지노
슈퍼카지노
01 Oct, 2018 | 10:41
https://dancesweb.com/theking/ - 더킹카지노 https://dancesweb.com/woori/ - 우리카지노 https://dancesweb.com/first/ - 퍼스트카지노 https://dancesweb.com/yesca/ - 예스카지노 https://dancesweb.com/yesno/ - YES카지노 https://dancesweb.com/obama/ - 오바마카지노 https://dancesweb.com/ - 슈퍼카지노 https://dancesweb.com/trump/ - 트럼프카지노 https://dancesweb.com/33casino/ - 33카지노 https://dancesweb.com/gatsby/ - 개츠비카지노 https://dancesweb.com/bacara/ - 바카라사이트 https://dancesweb.com/casino/ - 카지노사이트
우리카지노
01 Oct, 2018 | 10:40
https://stylebet77.com/ - 우리카지노 https://stylebet77.com/theking/ - 더킹카지노 https://stylebet77.com/yes/ - 예스카지노 https://stylebet77.com/first/ - 퍼스트카지노 https://stylebet77.com/obama/ - 오바마카지노 https://stylebet77.com/yescasino/ - YES카지노 https://stylebet77.com/canibal/ - 카니발카지노
우리카지노
01 Oct, 2018 | 10:39
https://como79.com/ - 우리카지노 https://como79.com/theking/ - 더킹카지노 https://como79.com/yescasino/ - 예스카지노 https://como79.com/yes/ - YES카지노 https://como79.com/obama/ - 오바마카지노 https://como79.com/super/ - 슈퍼카지노 https://como79.com/first/ - 퍼스트카지노 https://como79.com/mcasino/ - M카지노 https://como79.com/trump/ - 트럼프카지노 https://como79.com/gatsby/ - 개츠비카지노
월드카지노
01 Oct, 2018 | 10:38
https://custory.com/theking/ - 더킹카지노 https://custory.com/woori/ - 우리카지노 https://custory.com/first/ - 퍼스트카지노 https://custory.com/yes/ - 예스카지노 https://custory.com/yescasino/ - YES카지노 https://custory.com/obama/ - 오바마카지노 https://custory.com/super/ - 슈퍼카지노 https://custory.com/33casino/ - 33카지노 https://custory.com/gatsby/ - 개츠비카지노 https://custory.com/bacara/ - 바카라사이트 https://custory.com/cass/ - 카지노사이트 https://custory.com/trump/ - 트럼프카지노 https://custory.com/mcasino/ - M카지노 https://custory.com/ - 월드카지노
mtaletabpr
01 Oct, 2018 | 00:24
[url=http://unishade.com]cialis 5 mg[/url] generic cialis online pharmacy http://unishade.com
ntaletgabs
30 Sep, 2018 | 02:53
[url=http://usedrestaurantequipmentaz.com]cialis online[/url] cheap cialis sale online http://usedrestaurantequipmentaz.com
ctaletdrdg
28 Sep, 2018 | 17:24
[url=http://canadian-pharmacyiorder.com]cialis online canada[/url] cheap cialis online india http://canadian-pharmacyiorder.com
htaletveyx
27 Sep, 2018 | 16:26
[url=http://canadian-pharmamrdi.com]generic cialis lowest price[/url] cheap cialis canada pharmacy http://canadian-pharmamrdi.com
gtaletgoge
25 Sep, 2018 | 20:08
[url=http://canadian-pharmacyionline.com]cheap viagra online[/url] generic viagra canada http://canadian-pharmacyionline.com
ataleteenp
25 Sep, 2018 | 12:22
[url=http://buyviagraonl1ne.us]buy viagra online without[/url] buy viagra pills http://buyviagraonl1ne.us
btaletjwpg
25 Sep, 2018 | 05:39
[url=http://canadian-pharmacyibuy.com]buy cialis no prescription[/url] canadian online pharmacy generic cialis http://canadian-pharmacyibuy.com
ttaletxqip
24 Sep, 2018 | 15:40
[url=http://valladium.com]order generic cialis india[/url] cialis online coupon http://valladium.com
ktaletrqxe
24 Sep, 2018 | 05:06
[url=http://canadian-pharmaonline.com]viagra price per pill[/url] viagra online canadian pharmacy http://canadian-pharmaonline.com
ttaletozvc
20 Sep, 2018 | 22:44
[url=http://canadian-pharmabuy.com]buy viagra overnight[/url] best online pharmacy for viagra http://canadian-pharmabuy.com
mtaletmarg
20 Sep, 2018 | 00:24
[url=http://baymontelreno.com]order cialis from canadian pharmacy[/url] buy discount cialis http://baymontelreno.com
ttaletftvm
19 Sep, 2018 | 14:15
[url=http://istanbulexpressonline.com]cheap viagra europe[/url] buy viagra overnight http://istanbulexpressonline.com
htaletrvxd
19 Sep, 2018 | 06:20
[url=http://zbloggers.com]how long does propecia take to work[/url] propecia vs finasteride http://zbloggers.com
vtaletemuu
18 Sep, 2018 | 20:13
[url=http://timsbmw.com]levitra effectiveness[/url] how much does levitra cost http://timsbmw.com
otaletbmta
18 Sep, 2018 | 10:29
[url=http://buycialisonl1ne.us]order cialis usa[/url] cialis cheap price http://buycialisonl1ne.us
ktaletcndq
18 Sep, 2018 | 00:07
[url=http://baymontelreno.com]order cialis uk[/url] order cialis australia http://baymontelreno.com
utalethhbd
16 Sep, 2018 | 21:51
[url=http://canadian-pharmabuy.com]canadian viagra online[/url] buy viagra pill http://canadian-pharmabuy.com
ytaletpqoy
16 Sep, 2018 | 13:19
[url=http://h-m-j.com]order brand viagra online[/url] discount viagra pills http://h-m-j.com
ltaletoxog
16 Sep, 2018 | 04:41
[url=http://istanbulexpressonline.com]order viagra canada[/url] discount viagra online http://istanbulexpressonline.com
wtaletpvzo
15 Sep, 2018 | 18:57
[url=http://baymontelreno.com]cheap cialis pills online[/url] buy generic cialis online http://baymontelreno.com
ftaletxlzp
15 Sep, 2018 | 12:07
[url=http://canadian-pharmasale.com]cheap cialis online india[/url] cheap cialis uk http://canadian-pharmasale.com
ztaletgpjj
15 Sep, 2018 | 04:07
[url=http://buycialisonl1ne.us]cheap cialis online canadian pharmacy[/url] buy brand cialis online http://buycialisonl1ne.us
xtalettmhj
14 Sep, 2018 | 16:58
[url=http://h-m-j.com]order viagra online canada[/url] cheap viagra canadian pharmacy http://h-m-j.com
mtaletzrwv
13 Sep, 2018 | 11:38
[url=http://h-m-j.com]buy viagra 100mg[/url] viagra online no prior prescription http://h-m-j.com
jtaletgapt
13 Sep, 2018 | 04:52
[url=http://istanbulexpressonline.com]cheap viagra usa[/url] cheap viagra sale http://istanbulexpressonline.com
ktaletnnsb
13 Sep, 2018 | 03:53
[url=http://zbloggers.com]propecia pills[/url] propecia effectiveness http://zbloggers.com
italetmdzk
12 Sep, 2018 | 20:02
[url=http://zbloggers.com]does propecia regrow hair[/url] propecia results timeline http://zbloggers.com
ptaletrzhx
12 Sep, 2018 | 11:48
[url=http://timsbmw.com]levitra 20[/url] levitra half life http://timsbmw.com
dtaletiucd
12 Sep, 2018 | 09:51
[url=http://buycialisonlineglka.com]order cialis pills online[/url] buy cialis in canada http://buycialisonlineglka.com
ttaletqpvo
12 Sep, 2018 | 02:29
[url=http://gigawatt6.com]order generic cialis online canada[/url] cheap cialis tablet http://gigawatt6.com
xtaletzcdn
11 Sep, 2018 | 16:59
[url=http://rabbitinahat.com]order cialis online without prescription[/url] cheap cialis 20mg pills http://rabbitinahat.com
ktaletbuew
11 Sep, 2018 | 05:43
[url=http://gigawatt6.com]viagra vs cialis alcohol[/url] why do men take cialis http://gigawatt6.com
staletslbe
16 Aug, 2018 | 15:23
[url=http://baymontelreno.com]buy cheap cialis 20mg[/url] order cialis australia http://baymontelreno.com

Make a comment