Educators discuss on language medium of instruction transitions |28 October 2023
Educators from various primary and secondary schools, post-secondary institutions and officials from the Ministry of Education took part in a one-day workshop on Wednesday to discuss the challenges involved in second language medium of instruction transitions, where children move from being taught in their first language to English.
The workshop held under the theme ‘Language and Education’ took place at the Seychelles Institute for Teacher Education (SITE), Mont Fleuri. It forms part of a project called ‘Understanding’, which aims not only to address these challenges but seeks to gain a better and more systematic understanding of the guiding principles behind language in education policies.
During the workshop there were various presentations by the international researchers and discussions centred on topics such as language of instruction and education equity, challenges, are teachers and students prepared for learning in a second language, and solutions on how the system can be improved to help.
The project represent an important step forward in bringing about well-informed change in Seychelles’ current language in education policies. Seychelles place great faith and expectations in the project’s potential impact.
The Language and Education workshop was organised by the Education and Socio-Economic Research Institute (ESERI), and sponsored by the Swedish Research Council project called ‘Understanding’.
Addressing those present, the principal secretary for education services, Merna Eulentin, said as children progress from being taught in their first language to being instructed in English, they embark on a journey filled with both promise and potential obstacles.
“The very essence of this project is to foster a deeper and more systematic understanding of the guiding principles behind language in education policies,” she added.
Ms Eulentin noted that since the partnership with ESERI started last year, the Ministry of Education has witnessed significant progress.
The exchange of research knowledge and expertise has enriched the country’s educational landscape, allowing us to improve our practices and establish a broader platform for disseminating our work, she said.
“The knowledge and insights gained from this workshop will be instrumental in shaping the language education policies and practices within Seychelles and hence, creating a positive impact on the education landscape.”
On his part, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Development at the University of Seychelles (UniSey), Dr Justin Zelime, thanked the education ministry for its support which he said was very important. Dr Zelime also thanked SITE for allowing the workshop to take place in its auditorium and spoke on the importance of the partnership between UniSey and the institute.
He also urged the educators who were present to share their views on the roles of the three national languages – Creole, English and French – in the education system.
In an interview, Professor Mats Deutschmann, research consultant at ESERI and principal investigator in this project, said the idea of transition of languages was the main focus for the workshop, as well as the idea of transition, the problems children are experiencing, challenges teachers are facing and how well policy makers are aware of the related issues in the schools.
He added that in the local context, the transition will be from Creole to English.
“For the project, we start looking at policy documents are aware of the issues, we then go to the schools to interview teachers and learners, and observe lessons. The aim is to have data that can inform policy change and better take the language situation into consideration,” he added.
The initiative here is from the Örebrouniversity in Sweden, UniSey, the Swedish Research Council and also universities from Tanzania and Zanzibar involved in the project, he said.
Photos by Joena Meme