Project ethos

Gambian languages and education draws on the tools of sociolinguistics, ethnography and participatory action research. Data collected during this research project include interviews with a wide range of social actors, archival data related to language-in-education policy in The Gambia and classroom observations.

The project recognises that language-in-education policy decisions in post-colonial contexts are sensitive and supports the view that the success of language-in-education policy in such contexts is maximised when interference from external parties is absent or minimal. It is supportive of the view that children learn best when taught in a language they understand very well. Concern for the respect of children’s linguistic rights in education and the relevance of language-in-education decisions to Sustainable Development Goals (particularly ‘Quality Education’ and ‘Reduced Inequalities’) have therefore underpinned all stages of the design and implementation of the project.

Gambian languages and education is not an advocacy project. For example, the focus in phase one of the project on the early parallel biliteracy programme does not mean that Gambian languages and education’s research team is either supportive or critical of this programme. It is hoped, however, that the findings of the project, such as the insights gained into the challenges facing this biliteracy programme, will go some way to support teachers and policy makers in particular in their endeavour to sustain/improve the quality of education in The Gambia.

Finally, the research team of Gambian languages and education is engaged in debates concerning colonial and post-colonial ideologies and regimes (we acknowledge the issues with these labels) in language-in-education policy in Africa. Since its inception, the project has been informed by a resolve to bring to the foreground perspectives from educators and others who live in The Gambia, particularly the experiences of (novice) teachers, parents and policy makers. The project therefore contributes to the growing body of multilingual education literature emerging from the Global South.