Inclusive learning for a multilingual, mobile world

Photo by Andy Min
SIL representatives Dr. Michel Kenmogne and Dr. Catherine Young participate in discussions at IMMLE 19.

Nearly 500 participants from more than 30 countries recently gathered together to address issues of language and development at the Inclusion, Mobility, and Multilingual Education Conference (IMMLE 19)

IMMLE 19, held from 24-26 September in Bangkok, Thailand, combined the 6th Multilingual Education Conference and the 13th Language and Development Conference, providing a platform for educators, researchers, policy makers, and activists to meet, present findings, and share new ideas.

Organizations that contributed to IMMLE 19 included SIL International, British Council, Language and Development Conference Trustees, Asia-Pacific Multilingual Education Working Group, Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation, Srinakharinwirot University, UNESCO, UNICEF, The Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia - Mahidol University, CARE International, and Save the Children. 

SIL International Executive Director, Dr. Michel Kenmogne highlighted the challenges non-dominant language speakers face, especially in a world with increasing human mobility, while expressing hope for change. 

In his address at the opening reception, Dr. Kenmogne said, “Let us aim for a new day in education which is marked by a new form of cultural and educational hospitality, in which inclusive classrooms acknowledge the first language of each child, maximise the potential for all to succeed, preserve their identity, and contribute to a global community that maintains the richness of its cultural diversity.” 

IMMLE 19 began with a keynote address from Prof. François Grin, PhD Faculty of Translation and Interpreting, University of Geneva, Switzerland. He discussed priorities for research on language policy and multilingualism, based on the findings of a large-scale research project, “Mobility and Inclusion in Multilingual Europe”,  funded by the European Commission. 

When it comes to inclusion, Prof. Grin said, “There must be a social, political, cultural, linguistic environment to be included into – language policy, when supporting multilingualism and linguistic diversity, should prioritize local linguistic specificity, which contributes to lending each locale its unique profile.” 

With 55 panels and 138 presentations, IMMLE 19 participants had a wide variety of options to choose from. Conference panels were organized into the following three thematic tracks:

  • Language and Inclusion
  • Language and Mobility
  • Multilingual Education 

More than 40 SIL representatives gave 26 presentations and moderated 14 panel discussions during the three-day event.

The conference also focused on areas where MTB-MLE is considered the standard practice for achieving SDG 4. During a plenary session, Dr. Nath Bunroeun, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in Cambodia, spoke passionately about the importance of MTB-MLE, which is now a national policy in Cambodia. "All children have the right to a quality education - and as part of this commitment, children from indigenous ethnic groups should learn in their mother tongue - as a bridge to learning the national language."

High-level officials from 16 countries in Asia and the Pacific also met for three roundtable discussions during IMMLE 19, related to strengthening and improving the quality of mother tongue based multilingual education programmes and policies within the framework of SDG 4. 

On the final day of IMMLE 19, Mr. Arthur Albert, Assistant Secretary for the National Department of Education in Micronesia, read out the draft Bangkok statement on Language and Inclusion, the first ever regional recommendation of this kind, which includes seven action plans to ensure all students are learning: 

-Highlighting language(s) of instruction issues in the national educational discourse

-Fostering investment for quality multilingual education

-Enhancing the quality of multilingual education

-Diversifying the teacher workforce

-Gathering data disaggregated by home or first language

-Strengthening partnership with relevant stakeholders and partners

-Tracking the progress on SDG indicator 4.5.2

Mr. Albert reported that the draft Bangkok Statement would be shared with government officials in the Asia-Pacific region for approval.

*All presentations will be available on the conference website here.
Photos by Andy Min.

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