Exploring diversity: teacher education policy and bilingualism

Butcher, John; Sinka, Indra and Troman, Geoff (2007). Exploring diversity: teacher education policy and bilingualism. Research Papers in Education, 22(4) pp. 483–501.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02671520701651102


Although issues of inclusion, diversity and achievement have become a powerful agenda for change in teacher education policy in England, bilingual pupils are still conceptualised in policy terms as a problem. This absence of linguistic integration in English teacher education is in tension with the increasing number of school pupils speaking a diversity of languages at home, and contrasts with policy towards bilingual pupils in other parts of the United Kingdom, in Europe and in the United States. The standards for qualified teacher status only require trainee competence to be demonstrated in understanding pupil language backgrounds and in providing support for those learning ‘English as an Additional Language’ (EAL). The authors’ research investigated the way teacher education policy in England ignores the positive attributes of bilingual learners and the resultant lack of debate about the preparedness of trainee teachers to work effectively with bilingual pupils.
This article presents key findings from their work with secondary schools in the south of England. They interviewed trainees, teachers and Local Education Authority (LEA) officers, administered a questionnaire to trainees and analysed policy documents. The findings indicate teacher education in England pays bilingualism lip service at best, persisting with a policy discourse emphasising the problem of EAL. The research raises important questions concerning teacher education policy in
relation to bilingualism, and highlights the significance of school contexts in relation to effective teacher preparation. The article concludes by arguing for policies to improve teacher confidence and competence in England’s increasingly linguistically diverse classrooms.

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