Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas
This book is the fifth volume of the Encyclopedia of language and education. The overall introduction by the series editor, Nancy Hornberger, is followed by an introduction to the volume by Jim Cummins, wherein he outlines the scope of the term ‘bilingual education’: the use of at least two languages of instruction somewhere along a student’s school career. He goes on to discuss some of the extreme negative reactions to it (with figures like former President Reagan and former House Speaker Gingrich joining the chorus) and how such impulsive reactions are belied by recent research.
The volume contains twenty-three chapters, presented under two sections: ‘21st century bilingual education: Advances in understanding and emerging issues’ and ‘Illustrative bilingual education programs and policies’. The latter presents case studies from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Pacific Region and Australia, and South/Central America. The volume is rounded off with a subject index and a name index.
Section 1 contains a wealth of interesting and informative articles on key concepts in the area as well as their many ideological and sociopolitical resonances. There is also some effort to grapple with the identity issues that invariably crop up in bilingual education as well as issues related to differences in the lectal power of the different languages involved. Many authors are also concerned with questions relating to how the students and teachers involved in multilingual education programs face the challenge of straddling the linguistic and cultural interfaces they are called upon to inhabit.
The panoramic views presented by the authors in Section 2 illustrate the complexity as well as the diversity of realities in different parts of the world. While the situation in the continent of Africa is far from homogenous across the board, it is also the case, as Margaret Akinyi Obondo tells us, that ‘the colonial experience continues to influence and define postcolonial issues and practices’ (151). Ajit Mohanty affirms that in India education helped perpetuate, until more recently, the social and linguistic inequalities that date back centuries and were reiterated during different periods in the history of the country when Sanskrit, Persian, and English ruled the roost. Liming Yu suggests that bilingual education in China has much to do with the Westernization Movement willfully started in the second half of the nineteenth century as part of a move to ‘bring […] in techniques of capitalist production already operating in the west’ (175).
Writing about the situation in the United States, Teresa L. McCarty claims that ‘[bilingual education for Native peoples […] is no less fraught with controversy today than it was in the 1960s when indigenous educators such as Agnes Dodge Holm introduced the then-radical notion of schooling in the native language’ (239). Luis Enrique López and Inge Sichra trace the origins of bilingual education for the indigenous populations of Latin America to 1900s, with the natives themselves welcoming the move as counter-hegemonic.
This volume is well-balanced in its theoretical approach and inclusion of facts pertaining to each topic.