Language Education Policy Studies
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    Multilingual Education (MLE)

The goal of Multilingual Education (MLE) is social justice and a better world with equity and human dignity. MLE unites the different disciplines that come together through language and education, such as anthropology, ecology, education, linguists, psychology. Scholars across many disciplines have shown how multilingual schooling can teach a lingua franca while maintaining cultural and linguistic diversity and contribute to social justice (Skutnabb-Kangas et al., 2009).

Multlingual Education builds bridges between cultures and between home and school, thus challenging the coercive power relations of schools. Pedagogy can be relevant to kids and transformative without privileging a language. It overcomes barriers of monolingualism.

Its first principle is Mother Tongue Instruction (MTI) and it supports the maintenance and/or revitalization of all languages and intergenerational language transfer. Mother Tongue Instruction is immersion for the first eight years and leads to greater overall educational achievement, demonstrating that it is not necessary to sacrifice language through subtractive monolingual education. This also demonstrates that it is false to assume a need to introduce a lingua franca or dominant language at ever earlier ages, something that also perpetuates the myth that formal education is English and that English is good education and necessary for success.

While students who speak a language other than the dominant or language of schooling may actually be the numerical majority, they are considered minority language students. They often fail at formal schooling. MLE demonstrates that it is possible to keep a mother tongue, where self esteem is grounded, and become fluent in another language. Pedagogy can be relevant to kids and transformative without being romanticized, rooted in their values and supporting a dialogue and critical consciousness between knowledge systems without privileging either system.

MLE could also be paired with Foreign Language Learning for the dominant language/ monolingual speakers, allowing all students to learn in more than one language.  See The Field of Language, How Language Situations Affect Schools, Mother Tongue, Subtractive Language Learning.


A few references:


Cummins, J. (2009). Fundamental Psycholinguistic and Sociological Principles Underlying Educational Success for Linguistic Minority Students. In TSK, MLE.


Garcia, O. (2009). Education, Multilingualism, and Translanguaging in the 21st Century. In T. Skutnabb-Kangas, R. Phillipson, A. K. Mohanty, & M. Panda (Eds.), Social Justice through Multilingual Education (pp. 140-158). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.


Mohanty, A. (2009). Multilingual education, a bridge too far? In T. Skutnabb-Kangas, R. Phillipson, A. K. Mohanty, & M. Panda (Eds.), Social justice through multilingual education. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.


Mohanty, A., Panda, M., Phillipson, R. & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2009). Just

Multilingual Education. New Delhi: Orient Longman.


Skutnabb-Kangas, T. e. (2009). Social Justice through Multilingual Education: Globalizing the Local. (A. Mohanty, & R. S.-K. Phillipson, Eds.) New Dehli: Orient Blackswan.


Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2009). Multilingual Education for Global Justice: Issues, Approaches, Opportunities. In T. Skutnabb-Kangas, R. Phillipson, A. K. Mohanty, & M. Panda (Eds.), Social Justice through Multilingual Education (pp. 36-62). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K. (2013). Multilingual Education (MLE). In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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