Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) Benefits All Children from Myanmar: Ethnic and Refugee Teachers Possess Necessary MLE Competencies

There are 116 living languages in Myanmar. Currently the official language of oral and written instruction in all government schools is the national language: Myanmar language. In many of Myanmar’s ethnic minority communities the national language is only first encountered in schools and rarely used at home.

An extensive body of literature demonstrates the benefits of (MTB-MLE) in promoting the learning of further languages. Continued advocacy for MTB-MLE must remain a priority area as Myanmar continues to have variable interpretations and varying degrees of implementation of the national language policy.

After a review of international literature regarding best practices in multilingual education (MLE) classrooms, an MLE teacher competency framework was produced that incorporates 20 MLE teacher competencies, each with a 10-point rating scale. The result: a 200-point classroom observation tool that assesses a teacher’s ability to use effective MLE methodologies.

To gain insight into the MLE competencies of teachers in Southeastern Myanmar as well as in the refugee camps on the Thai-Myanmar border, a pilot study was conducted to assess teachers’ professional knowledge, skills, and practices, and values and dispositions using an MLE competency classroom observation tool.

This Policy Brief provides details on the study of the Mother Tongue-Based Multi-Lingual Education, the study methodology and results, as well as limitations and recommendations.

Using the MLE teacher competency observation tool it was found that observed teachers demonstrated proficiency in both professional knowledge and professional skills related to multilingual education. Teachers described key concepts and objectives for learning of the primary curriculum for the grade level/s taught, engaged the students in the learning process through the use of a variety of learning activities, and utilized a variety of assessment methods to identify students’ language levels and needs. The observed ethnic and refugee teachers exhibited MLE competencies to help children become more fluent and literate in the children’s L2: Myanmar Language or English, depending on the service provider. World Education, Inc. & partners. 2017.

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