in the UK
discussion of issues concerning pidgins and creoles in education
that we find today in Australia, Canada and the USA has been
going on for many years in the UK. Large-scale immigration from
the West Indies to the UK began after World War II, and rose
rapidly in the late 1960s. By 1971, there were over half a million
West Indians in Britain, a large proportion speaking varieties
of Caribbean Creole English.
in the education system related to this immigration existed
from an early stage, but they did not come to the attention
of the general public until the early 1970s. Statistics were
released showing that non-immigrants did much better than immigrants
in the schools, and all other immigrants did better than West
Indians. Also figures showed that West Indian children were
highly over-represented in schools for the educationally sub-normal.
information is detailed in an influential book by Viv Edwards:
The West Indian language issue in British schools:
Challenges and responses (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London,
1979). In the first chapter, the author considers factors which
might be responsible for this poor performance, such as social
adjustment and educational expectations. But language –
the Creole spoken by the students – is singled out as
the most important factor, both in the problems of acquiring
the standard used in the schools and the very negative attitudes
of teachers towards any nonstandard variety. The general picture
is described on page 14:
is a subject about which West Indians tend to be very defensive.
Because they have been told repeatedly that Creole is “Broken
language” and that those who use it must be very backward,
their reaction is often to insist that they speak standard
English and deny any knowledge of a distinct West Indian variety.
Similarly, the British expect West Indians to speak English
– they come, after all, from former British colonies
where the official language is English. And the British reaction
when they are confronted with speech which is clearly not
standard English is often not favourable.
Chapter Two, the author gives a detailed description of West
Indian Creole and its patterns of use. Following the work of
William Labov in the USA, she then devotes a chapter to verbal
skills of West Indians. The next chapter details how Creole
may actually interfere with the acquisition and use of Standard
English, thus disadvantaging children in the schools.
Chapter Five, Edwards discusses research findings on negative
attitudes of teachers towards Creole-speaking children. She
interrelationship between language differences and attitudes
to these differences can now be seen to be a highly complex
one. The teacher who does not or is not prepared to recognize
the problems of the Creole-speaking child in a British English
situation can only conclude that he is stupid when he gives
either an inappropriate response or no response at all. The
stereotyping process leads features of Creole to be stigmatized
and to develop connotations of, amongst other things, low
academic ability. The teacher is then more likely to allow
the stereotype to determine her behaviour towards the child,
and low teacher expectation will very probably lead to low
pupil performance. The child, for his part, feels threatened,
especially in the early stages, by comprehension difficulties.
These and the teacher’s behaviour towards him produce
a state of linguistic insecurity and he is very likely to
seem inarticulate as a result. This reinforces the teacher’s
preconceived ideas and so the cycle is perpetuated.
6, “Practical approaches to language”, shows the
undesirability (and impossibility) of dialect eradication, and
describes two other approaches: the bidialectal approach and
dialect appreciation. It concludes with descriptions of more
innovative approaches. The final chapter argues for a curriculum
change for a multicultural society.
book by Viv Edwards covers the issues of multicultural education
more generally: Language in multicultural classrooms
(Batsford Academic and Educational, London, 1983). But it does
contain a chapter specifically on language in the British Black
(ie West Indian) community.
and African languages: social history, language, literature
and education (Karia Press, London, 1985) was written by
Morgan Dalphinis, a speaker of St Lucia Kwéyòl
who migrated to England at the age of 11. Part IV of the book
(pp.187-280) is on Creoles and Education. After an introduction
in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 presents the arguments for and against
teaching English as a second language to speakers of creole
languages. These revolve around differing points of view as
to whether English-based creoles are separate languages or merely
dialects of English. According to the author, the main problem
is lack of recognition of Creoles as distinct varieties which
are learned like any other.
3 analyses the different approaches to creole languages both
in the Caribbean (focussing on St Lucia) and in England, keeping
in mind the issue of political power with regard to development
of these languages. In the Caribbean, the change of status of
Patwa (Kwéyòl) to a written language is described,
and the work of the Folk Research Centre and the Society for
Caribbean Languages is outlined. In England, three organizations
dealing with Creole speaking immigrants are discussed. The first
two were within the educational system: the West Indian Supplementary
Service (WISS) and the English Language Service, both of the
London Borough of Waltham Forest. The third is outside the educational
system: the Caribbean Communications Project.
was established in 1971 in reaction to the large number of Caribbean
students being sent to schools for the educationally subnormal.
It was finally realized that the low intelligence attributed
to Caribbean immigrants and their children was largely the result
of differences in Caribbean uses of English. Dalphinis points
in its initial stages was, therefore, an organisation mainly
geared to providing supplementary educational help to Caribbean
pupils, as well as to make schools in which their numbers were
high, more sensitive to their special needs as people from a
different culture.” WISS teachers aimed to teach Standard
English, but by supplementing rather than trying to replace
students’ home languages. In other words, they emphasized
appropriate language use in different contexts in British society.
English Language Service began teaching English as a second
language to immigrant students in 1965. However, this organization
dealt mainly with Asian immigrants because Caribbean Creoles
were not considered to be separate languages.
Caribbean Communications Project was established in 1975 to
promote literacy among adults. It organized literate Caribbean
people to teach adults to read and write and provided input
into training programs run by established institutions.
chapter ends with some recommendations for the use of Creole
literature in the schools and the teaching of some grammatical
aspects of Creole languages. Creoles should be accepted as part
of the culture of Caribbean people and should become part of
mainstream education in Britain and St Lucia.
fourth chapter examines how features of Creole languages affect
the oral and written English of adult learners. Finally, Chapter
5 relates some educational methods for overcoming the problems
of Caribbean students in British schools. These include using
Creole languages in story telling, teaching language awareness,
and running courses specifically about Creole languages.
situation in the UK has been complicated by three other factors.
First, in the Black community there has been large-scale language
shift away from Creole. But the shift has been to nonstandard
varieties of English, such as London working class English,
rather than to standard varieties. Second, many Blacks of West
Indian descent are still learning Creole as a badge of social
identity, but they are learning it as a second language (or
second dialect), often in their adolescent years. Third, many
Whites are also learning Creole from mixing with their Black
Language and Literacy Unit of the Inner London Education Authority
(ILEA), aware of these complications as well as the issues pointed
out earlier by educators such as Viv Edwards, started the Afro-Caribbean
Language and Literacy Project in Further and Adult Education
in 1984. The culmination of this project was the publishing
of a book of language materials for students in multilingual
and multi ethnic classrooms: Language and power (London,
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990). The teachers involved in the
project, such as Roxy Harris, took a wide ranging approach,
aiming at all students who speak nonstandard varieties of English.
They point out (p.iv):
issues surrounding the use of Standard English are of concern
to all students, not just those of Caribbean descent. Standard
English is the language of education and authority but it
is not the first language of the majority of population.
key aspect of the book is “language awareness”.
This is described as follows (p.v):
book is based on the belief that a key part of the language
curriculum for all students should be an outline of the social
and political factors which helped to determine the development
of Standard English. It is also necessary to make available
to both students and teachers as much information as possible
about languages in general and about the history and development
of Caribbean Creole languages in particular. This includes
an understanding of their grammatical structure, pronunciation
patterns, vocabulary and idiom. The students themselves can
contribute a great deal of this information, and their confidence
will grow when their expertise in this area is acknowledged.
Students’ own knowledge and understanding of different
languages and language varieties are an invaluable resource
for language teaching. It is in this context that progress
on the language issue in the multilingual classroom can be
achieved, not just for students of Afro-Caribbean origin,
but for students of all races and backgrounds.
The book is divided into three sections: (A) The history of
Standard English (with four chapters), (B) Language in the world
(six chapters) and (C) Caribbean Creole languages (six chapters).
useful earlier book that came out of the project is My personal
language history compiled by Roxy Harris and Fou-fou Savitzky
(London, New Beacon Books, 1988). This is a collection of students’
narratives about their language:
book aims to allow students to express their perceptions of
their own linguistic situation with all their uncertainties,
ambiguities and pain. The book is intended to be read and
enjoyed and to provide discussion and writing among students
in their classes and amongst teachers in an in-service training
publication produced for the Afro-Caribbean Language and Literacy
Project is Language writing and publishing: Working with
Afro-Caribbean students by Irene Schwab and Jud Stone (Hackney
Reading Centre – City and East London College, London,
ILEA was abolished in 1990, but a scaled down Afro-Caribbean
Education Project continues, primarily working in the classroom
with teachers and students, and in the training of teachers.
Also, more use is being made of Afro-Caribbean literature.
chapters dealing with creole and education in Britain are found
in The language of Black experience edited by David
Sutcliffe and Ansel Wong (Blackwell, Oxford, 1986), described
in PACE Newsletter 2(1991). [Please note that the author of
one of the chapters, John Richmond, was incorrectly given as
John Richard.] A chapter by Roger Hewitt in another book (1989)
is also described in that issue.
more recent book chapter by Morgan Dalphinis appears in Multilingualism
in the British Isles edited by S Alladina and Viv Edwards
(Harlow, Longman, 1991) [not available to the editor].
Sebba’s book, London Jamaican (Longman, London,
1993), is the most recent detailed description of the language
of London’s Black community. The book shows how most adolescents
are now actually bilingual, speaking a type of London English,
similar to that of their White peers, as well as a type of Creole
(London Jamaican), based on Jamaican Creole, but not identical
to it. This Creole is spoken by Caribbean adolescents even if
they are not originally from Jamaica. Detailed conversational
data show frequent code-switching between the two varieties
in everyday interactions.
book also contains a short chapter on Creole as a language of
education (pp.138-45). Some of the past controversies are described
as follows (p.141):
the early 1980s it was possible to discern two largely separate
groups who favoured the introduction of some sort of Creole
element in classroom work. On the one hand some teachers,
in a spirit of multiculturalism and linguistic liberalism,
sought to provide black pupils with a positive view of “their
own” language, by discussing its historical background
and encouraging the use of Creole in creative writing.…On
the other hand, some parents, perhaps influenced by black
consciousness ideology, wanted Creole to become a school subject.
author describes some of the problems with the idea of introducing
London Jamaican as a subject, like the mother tongues of other
ethnic minorities. First, it is not the mother tongue of a large
proportion of the Caribbean population. Most of those born in
the UK speak London English, and of those born in the Caribbean,
many are not from Jamaica but from other countries such as Guyana
and Dominica, where different creoles are spoken. Second, there
is no accepted written standard in Britain for the English-based
Creole is being introduced into the schools in other ways (p.144):
increasing interest in “language awareness” in
English lessons in the 1980s, and especially the emphasis
on linguistic knowledge in the Kingman Report (1988), together
with the introduction by some Examining Boards of new A-level
examinations in English Language as an alternative to the
existing English Literature A-levels, made it possible for
teachers to include units on Creole as part of a wider study
of “language varieties” aimed at all pupils. A
number of textbooks for use at GCSE or A-level have responded
to this possibility.
Language and Power materials, described above, are
also discussed. But the author concludes that the future of
Creole in the UK lies with its use as a spoken language, not
a language of education.
the entry in The encyclopedia of language and linguistics
(Pergamon, Oxford, 1994) on “Black English in Education:
UK”, written by Morgan Dalphinis (pp.366-8), is a good
summary of the historical trends, educational issues and cultural
and identity factors with regard to Creole and education in