Scottish Parliament: Report on Inquiry into the role of educational and cultural policy (English)
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2nd Report 2003
Report on Inquiry into the role of educational and cultural policy in supporting and developing Gaelic, Scots and minority languages in Scotland
SP Paper 778 Session 1 (2003)
Remit and membership
To consider and report on matters relating to school and pre-school education and such other matters as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Education and Young People; and on matters relating to culture and sport and such other matters, excluding tourism, as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport. (As agreed by resolution of the Parliament on 13 June 2002)
Karen Gillon (Convener)
Jackie Baillie (2)
Mr Frank McAveety (5)
Mr Brian Monteith
Cathy Peattie (Deputy Convener) (7)
Murdo Fraser (1)
Marilyn Livingstone (3)
Fiona McLeod (4)
Karen Whitefield (6)
Committee Clerking Team:
Judith Evans (8)
Susan Duffy (9)
The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows-
1. The remit of this Inquiry is to investigate the role of educational and cultural policy in supporting and developing Gaelic, Scots and minority languages in Scotland.
2. A general call for written evidence was published and the written submissions received are attached as Annex A. Some fact finding interviews were also conducted. Those spoken to include Professor Richard Johnstone (Director, Scottish CILT), Joanna McPake (Deputy Director, Scottish CILT) and Dharmendra Kanani (Head of CRE Scotland) (10).
3. This report seeks to examine current attitudes and approaches taken towards language in Scotland; specifically the approach being taken towards the recognition, use and teaching of Gaelic, Scots and minority languages.
4. To do this, it is necessary to look at the content and application of current initiatives and legislation.
5. In order to be representative and for the sake of clarity, it is also necessary to define "minority languages" in Scotland.
6. With increasing regularity, many institutions and organisations are reporting or commenting on the use of languages, contributing to greater public interest. It is becoming more widely acknowledged that support for language use is needed in order to ensure people can retain a sense of identity, embrace cultural diversity and contribute to the nation's economic vitality.
7. Despite its many advantages, globalisation is threatening linguistic diversity. In particular, the future for Scotland's two heritage languages, Scots and Gaelic, could be at risk. In one of the documents of the Nuffield Inquiry on Languages in the UK, it is stated that:
"It has been estimated that 90% of the world's languages will either be extinct or doomed to extinction by the end of the next (21st) century. A language - or, rather, its last remaining speaker - dies every two weeks. This language loss is closely associated with a loss of cultural diversity, together with a loss of small communities and their specialised knowledge and social practices. The loss of cultural and linguistic diversity facing the world in the next decades is far greater than the parallel loss in the biological world. (Graddol 1998"(11)
8. With this in mind, investigating ways in which to support and develop language use in Scotland is pertinent.
Language and Literacy Policy in Scotland
9. Visiting Professor and expert consultant to the SCOTLANG (12) project for the Scottish Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT), Professor Joseph Lo Bianco, claims that a country which has no specific language policy for its indigenous heritage language/s does in fact have a covert policy. Its policy is to let the languages die out.
10. Professor Lo Bianco believes that:
"Scotland needs a National Policy on Language because language and literacy policies are in the national interest and in the best interests of Scotland's citizens in the dynamic and uncertain world of the future." (13)
11. From Professor Lo Bianco's report (14), there are three principles around which the overarching language policy for Scotland needs to be organised:
· conservation and revitalisation of Scotland's existing linguistic heritage
· integration of Scotland's language resources with public policy priorities
· development of new and extended opportunities
National Cultural Strategy
12. In August 2000, the Executive published its National Cultural Strategy. The Strategy has four strategic objectives; one being to "Celebrate Scotland's cultural heritage in its full diversity". Under this objective is key priority 2.1 which is to "Promote Scotland's languages as cultural expressions and as means of accessing Scotland's culture".
13. The five statements made under Key Priority 2.1 are as follows:
2.1.1 Continue to support, where demand is sufficient, Gaelic-medium pre-school and primary education.
2.1.2 Examine the feasibility of a centre for the languages of Scotland covering Gaelic and the varieties of Scots, which could incorporate the Scottish National Dictionary.
2.1.3 Ensure that through their initial training and continuing professional development (CPD), teachers are well prepared to promote and develop all pupils' language skills.
2.1.4 Continue to support the production of education resources which encourage language diversity and learning about all the languages spoken.
2.1.5 Establish an action group to consider how the languages and cultural traditions of Scotland's ethnic minorities can be supported and how their contribution to Scotland's culture can be recognised and celebrated. (15)
14. The first report on the National Cultural Strategy detailing work carried out to date on the objectives and their key priorities was published on 25 October 2001. It should be noted that many of the submissions to this Inquiry were received prior to the publication of this report. Opinions centred around the extent to which it was perceived that the objectives and key priorities as published in August 2000 were being implemented.
15. In response to objective 2.1.2 a feasibility study into an Institute for the Languages of Scotland, funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland is now underway. Among others, the aims of the study are:
To investigate the types of information on the languages of Scotland required by the government, education at all levels, the cultural sector and the public at large.
To distil priorities relevant to the Scottish situation and recommend a strategy for the future.
16. Progress on some of the objectives has been slower, particularly objective 2.1.5. The implementation action taken from the annual review states that the Executive "is giving further consideration to this proposal". While there may be political will to support cultural input from ethnic minorities into Scottish society, action to support this has not been as forthcoming.
The European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages
17. The UK Government ratified the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages on 27 March 2001. The Charter defines "regional or minority languages" as those that are:
"traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of that State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the State's population; and
different from the official language(s) of that State;
it does not include either dialects of the official language(s) of the State or the languages of migrants;"
18. The territory in which the regional or minority language is used refers to the "geographical area in which the said language is the mode of expression of a number of people justifying the adoption of the various protective and promotional measures provided for in this Charter" (16)
19. Part II of the Charter sets out the main principles and objectives underlying states' policies, legislation and practice, and is regarded as providing the necessary framework for the preservation of the languages concerned.
20. Part III of the Charter serves to translate the general principles affirmed in Part II into precise rules. The rules relate to education, judicial authorities, administrative authorities and public services, the media, cultural activities and facilities, economic and social life and transfrontier exchanges.
21. When the Charter was ratified by the UK Government, it was deemed that Scots met the Charter's definition of a regional or minority language for the purposes of Part II, while Gaelic should be covered under Part III.
Citizens of a Multilingual World
22. An Action Group for Languages was established in 1998 by the then Minister for Education, Helen Liddell. One of the first issues for the group was the development of a rationale for language learning. This rationale was encompassed into the report published by the Scottish Executive called "Citizens of a Multilingual World".
23. This report noted that Scotland has two indigenous heritage languages - Gaelic and Scots (17). It also identified that there are several, what the report calls, community languages such as Urdu, Cantonese, Bengali, Polish, Arabic, Italian and Japanese. The report states that:
"The continuing vitality of our lesser-used heritage and community languages is important not only for the communities who speak these languages. It also enriches our entire society and makes it more socially inclusive." (18)
24. It is essential for languages to have an integral role in society and in education. As noted in the report, in a global marketplace, multilingualism can bring real economic and social benefits.
25. Although in relation to the learning of modern European languages, the "Citizens of a Multilingual World" report states that:
"It will help (students) thereby to understand that experience of the world through another language can be just as `real' and `valid' as experience of the world through English. It will allow them to derive cognitive benefits through problem-solving, memorisation, recall, making connections, attending to detail and pragmatic strategies" (19).
European Year of Languages 2001
26. The European Year of Languages was organised by the European Union and the Council of Europe. An enormous range of events were organised and work done throughout the 45 participating countries during 2001. The three main messages of the European Year of Languages were:
Europe is multilingual and always will be.
Learning language brings people opportunities.
Everyone can do it.
5-14 National Guidelines
27. In 1991, the English Language 5-14 National Guidelines were produced. These guidelines gave advice on the learning and teaching of English language in Scottish schools. The guidelines also make specific reference to "taking account of diversity of language and culture in the English language classroom." (20)
28. In the section "Rationale", the Guidelines state that:
"Children's earliest language is acquired in the home and in pre-school groups, and schools will build on that foundation and on the children's widening range of experience. This early language will be varied: sometimes it will be dialect and occasionally it will not be English. But it will mirror the diversity of the community the school serves and will contribute to the learning that occurs in the classroom. This language will be handled knowledgeably by teachers so as to meet individual needs, encourage confidence and make learning a pleasurable experience." (21)
29. Further, the Guidelines stipulate 3 aims, as follows:
develop pupils' skills and knowledge so that they can realise to the full their ability to understand English and use it accurately;
support pupils' personal development through language and literature, including intellectual, emotional, aesthetic, social and moral development;
develop in pupils a range of positive attitudes towards their own and each other's language development, including concern for tolerance, enjoyment, co-operation and sharing." (22)
30. Reinforcing this is the statement that "It is the school's duty to develop an awareness of this diversity of culture and language, helping pupils, through language, to value themselves and their own beliefs, while respecting and valuing the beliefs and perceptions of others." (23) (emphasis added)
31. If the English Language 5-14 National Guidelines were fully implemented, they would achieve much for social inclusion, and it would, it should be noted, encompass Gaelic and Scots and the community languages.
The Use in the Scottish Parliament of Languages Other than English
32. Following work done by the Parliament's Procedures Committee, a language policy group was convened. Their report was considered by the Procedures Committee and the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body who decided that English and Gaelic will continue to be the official languages of the Parliament, though Braille will included on the signage in the new Parliament building.
Scots: A Statement O Principles
33. Following a recent meeting of the Cross Party Group on the Scots Language in the Scottish Parliament, the Minister for Culture, Mike Watson MSP, indicated that the knowledge and experience of group members might form the basis of a strategy for the language, which would be of interest to the Scottish Executive. (24)
34. A useful input to the development of such a strategy is currently underway, and it is hoped that the Cross Party Group report, `Scots: A Statement o Principles', will be launched early in 2003.
35. The issue of secure (or legal) status for the Gaelic and Scots languages is one that has attracted much attention in recent years, with the first Parliamentary attempt to legislate for Gaelic made in the House of Commons in a Private Member's Bill introduced by Donald Stewart in 1981. Comunn Na Gaidhlig and other influential Gaelic bodies have backed attempts to secure legal recognition of the language as a means for ensuring its use in a variety of settings. A commitment to secure status was promised by three of the four main political parties during the 1999 Election campaign.
Definition of Minority Languages
36. This inquiry seeks to cover the languages of Scotland. Its remit was to inquire into the role of educational and cultural policy in supporting and developing Gaelic, Scots and minority languages in Scotland. For the purposes of clarity it is necessary to define what is meant by the term "minority languages".
37. The most fulsome definition of regional and minority languages is contained in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and is detailed in paragraph (17). It is this definition which will underpin this report.
38. Several submissions argued that to have a truly inclusive language debate, communication systems for the visually and aurally impaired should also be considered. Of those submissions, most were concerned with British Sign Language (BSL). This report encompasses these forms of communication in its consideration of the languages of Scotland.
39. From the submissions received, it would appear that not enough is being done to promote and to introduce into mainstream education the notion of bilingualism and multililingualism. Whilst some success has been achieved in the promotion and teaching of Gaelic, Scots and community languages appear to have been, so far, neglected.
Why is it important to develop Bilingualism and Multilingualism?
40. From the submissions received, it is evident that monolingualism has been looked upon by British society as the normal standard. The perception has been that the teaching of languages, other than English, would interfere with learning English.
41. Of the submissions received, several refer to research carried out which contends that the learning of two or more languages increases cognitive and literate abilities and broadens the student's outlook on life.
42. Professor Richard Johnstone, in his submission, cites his own research for the Scottish Executive Education Department on Gaelic-medium primary education. One of the findings revealed that in national assessments for English Language carried out in Primary 7, Gaelic-medium taught children performed better than those children taught only English. Similarly, he cites research carried out in Italy. For a year, researchers worked with two groups of Italian pupils in Primary 1 who had been matched for social background. One group was taught only Standard Italian, the other group was taught Standard Italian but with a small amount of English and a small amount of their local dialect blended into the teaching. At the end of the year, the group who had been taught three languages performed better in a test of Standard Italian than the group who had only been taught Standard Italian.
43. Professor Johnstone contends that multilingualism has been viewed in different ways, e.g. as a "problem" or as a "right" but that the most productive way in which to view it is as a potential "resource" - in terms of education and the integration of diverse cultures into Scottish society. Multillingualism should be seen as "the norm", not monolingualism as at present. In part, the "Citizens of a Multilingual World" bears this out. Professor Johnstone suggests that multilingualism does not imply that everyone need be equally proficient in each of his or her languages. Instead, their proficiency levels in their different languages may properly vary according to their needs and interests.
44. In its publication "A Vision and Mission for 2000-2005, the Welsh Language Board states that:
"There is now a general acceptance in Wales that bilingualism is beneficial for individuals and communities. For individuals, bilingualism provides wider communication opportunities, giving access to two windows on the world by being bicultural, enabling access to two literacies, raising self-esteem, enabling a secure sense of identity and widening employment opportunities. For communities, bilingualism provides continuity with the past, cohesiveness for the present and a source of collaborative endeavour for building the future." (25)
45. This can be extended to multilingualism and the idea that individuals would have access to greater opportunities worldwide. It also signals that a multilingual society could help to provide cohesion within and between communities, and contribute to a more socially inclusive society.
46. It is this idea of multilingualism, which underpins the arguments presented in support of Scots, Gaelic and community languages being recognised and used in education and in culture.
47. It is only right that Gaelic, Scots and community languages are taken together for the purposes of this inquiry as languages of Scotland. However, for the purposes of the next part of report and only for the sake of clarity, each will be looked at separately.
48. The majority of written submissions concentrated on the Scots Language. Whilst many submissions focused on Scots and the education system, it is clear that the ways in which language is treated within education and within culture are inextricably linked. A lack of recognition of Scots in schools will lead to the fragility of the language. Writers of the future will lose the ability to communicate in Scots. If cultural resources in Scots are no longer produced for and by theatre, television, literature or poetry then reference will be lost and there will be a dearth of teaching materials.
49. It was clear from the submissions that there is concern that Scots is seen as inferior to English. Often quoted was the example of a child being reprimanded by either their parent or teacher for using Scots, being told that this was "slang" and an unacceptable way in which to speak. In many submissions, the parallel was drawn with community languages where a person's first language is effectively suppressed.
50. As Professor Richard Johnstone states in his submission:
"There is not much current research in Scotland on attitudes to different languages, but what there is suggests that these attitudes may at times be confused and misinformed (with personal or institutional racism possibly lurking in the background in some cases). If we wish to devise policies for helping public attitudes to language to become better informed and more positive, then we need to be measuring systematically any attitudinal changes which actually occur." (26)
51. The submissions highlighted the need for Scots to be given official status and therefore adequate recognition in public life. There were concerns that Scots does not have sufficient recognition either in the education system or in culture. It should be understood and appreciated that language is integral to cultural identity.
52. Scots has been designated as a regional language under Part II of the European Charter, not Part III under which Gaelic is protected. This, it is argued, means there is not as much onus or impetus to implement specific measures in terms of education and culture and is indicative of the fact that Scots is treated as an inferior language.
53. Whilst it is recognised that initiatives such as the National Cultural Strategy have gone some way toward promoting the ongoing debate about Scots, it is widely agreed that there is little cohesion and that far more needs to be done.
54. J. Derrick McClure, Senior Lecturer in the Department of English , University of Aberdeen, in his paper to "Languages Policy in the Isles" - a conference to launch the European Year of Languages in Scotland in 2001 stated:
"The Scots language, traditionally neglected or actively suppressed in the education system, has in recent years enjoyed a quite dramatic reversal in its fortunes. In chronological order, the following related developments have taken place; a remarkable literary efflorescence, including a corpus of brilliant, inventive and strongly politically-motivated poetry; a major improvement in the status of the language as a field of academic research, both in its historical and contemporary forms; the increasing availability of published materials for research and teaching, most notably the two multi-volume Dictionaries and their derived works; a vigorous effort to improve its status in the classroom; and finally the proclaimed intention of the new Scottish Parliament to give active encouragement to the language. However, as a counter to this, an abysm of ignorance on both popular and administrative levels has still to be confronted; initiatives have been exercised largely on an individual and piecemeal basis; and the Parliament has so far failed to develop, much less to promote, a coherent and practical policy designed to encourage the language and secure its status as a national language of Scotland." (27)
55. Whilst many of the submissions received, recognised that some credibility had been given to Scots in the Scottish Executive's National Cultural Strategy, the general feeling expressed was that little had been done to turn the objectives into practical reality.
56. There were some individual examples of a comprehensive policy on Scots, notably Angus Council which has produced a Policy and Guidelines on The Scots Language and Scottish Culture.
57. Concern was also expressed that despite the National Cultural Strategy and the 5-14 Guidelines, Scots is not being valued in schools and teaching of it is patchy to say the least. Too frequently the language is not included in school as the terms of the 5-14 Curriculum Guidelines already state.
58. In many instances, the teaching of Scots consists of studies of poetry written in Scots (eg, Hugh McDairmid). However, according to Matthew Fitt, Writer/ Teacher, even if Scots poems and vocabulary are used in schools, there is little or no explanation of what particular words mean and learning is merely by rote.
59. The view expressed as to why this should be so was that there was little in the way of support for teaching Scots. Many submissions acknowledged the "Kist" materials produced by Learning and Teaching Scotland and the recently launched Itchy Coo project but made the point that materials such as this were rare.
60. In his submission, Matthew Fitt states there are few ways in which Scots is or can currently be taught: (1) reliance on an individual teacher being interested in Scots, (2) reliance on a teacher having attended an in-service about the Scots language and (3) reliance on a teacher having developed an interest in Scots and then having developed their own teaching materials.
61. He cites one example of a teacher, through her own interest, creating an example of Scots Medium Education (ie, teaching in Scots in the same way as Gaelic through Gaelic Medium Education):
"Morag and I led the class through an exercise about alliteration. We spoke in Scots; we gave examples of alliteration in Scots; the children responded in Scots; the children wrote in their jotters in Scots. What was amazing is that the lesson did not involve discussing in English about what Scots is or not; the whole lesson was conducted in Scots. When it was finished, Miss McKie clapped her hands and told the class they were going to do sums and that they were going to speak in English. The class switched for the next hour (and the rest of the day) to English. And they had no problem distinguishing between the two languages." (28)
62. Educational visits by those who are involved with work on the Scots Language, while a valuable asset, are inconsistent, sparse and should be looked at as an enjoyable addition rather than the sole experience pupils have of the language. Sheena Blackhall, Creative Writer in Scots based at Aberdeen University's Elphinstone Institute, is one such enthusiast who has visited 66 country schools and 39 city schools during her last four years in post. During her visits she has been,
"teaching basic Scots vocabulary and encouraging children to write and sing in Scots". (29)
63. Despite Sheena Blackhall's obvious belief in the advantage of these visits, she advocates the provision of free and varied resources, in the form of websites, which can be used to increase the use and appreciation of Scots. The Elphinstone Kist is put forward as an example (30). The Elphinstone website will include over 600 web-mounted pages of Scots material and a list of other institutions involved with Scots Culture.
64. The lack of funding for Scots Language projects and lack of research into Scots was often cited as a major problem. Many contributors felt this lack of funding and lack of research could be attributed to the low esteem in which Scots is held. An example of this attitude is given as the way in which Scots is funded, as opposed to the way in which Gaelic is funded. Gaelic is funded directly through the Scottish Executive Education Department whereas funding for Scots comes through the Scottish Arts Council. A problem exists for Scots projects in developing proposals for Arts funding which are primarily educational.
65. The point is also made that Gaelic receives a greater amount of funding than does Scots. For example the Scots Language Resource Centre receives a core grant of only £25,000 per annum, which is much less than its Gaelic counterpart.
66. In his submission, Paul H Scott, President, The Saltire Society, also makes the point about meagre funding for the Scots Language Resource Centre and mentions the lack of funding for the Scottish National Dictionary Association (now Scots Language Dictionary (SLD)).
67. While many contributors to the debate did compare the situation for Scots with that for Gaelic, this disparity of funding does not point to an over-funding of Gaelic (as this report will show that there are still problems faced by Gaelic education) but to a chronic under-funding of Scots.
68. Many submissions do suggest that research and a linguistic study should be carried out into Scots but that lack of funding and lack of recognition have made this very difficult to achieve. With debate surrounding the usage of Scots it could be argued that it is all the more important to carry out research and a linguistic study to provide solutions to these difficulties. Some believe that a report with similar substance to the MacPherson report, Gaelic: Revitalising Gaelic a National Asset, should be carried out for Scots. (31)
69. Before strong and specific recommendations can be developed to support Scots, Professor Johnstone believes that,
"more information from research and other sources will be needed than is available to decision-makers at present." (32)
70. There are some research projects currently being undertaken, notably SCOTLANG, based at Scottish CILT, University of Stirling. This project is concerned with developing a national infrastructure for research into language education and use and is funded by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council. Scotlang has generated six specific projects, one of which is "Mapping the languages of Edinburgh" being undertaken by Joanna McPake. This seeks to establish what 12-year-old pupils in Edinburgh secondary schools perceive to be the languages (modern foreign, heritage, community etc) which they think they know and where they have acquired these, e.g. home, community, school or elsewhere.
71. As part of any research, it is argued that statistics should be gathered on how many people speak Scots. Currently, the only statistics that are available are for Gaelic, not for Scots or for community languages. In his submission, Dr Dauvit Horsbroch, Honorar Research Cheil, Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies Aberdeen University, cites the non-inclusion of Scots in the 2001 Census as an opportunity missed as well as using Scots, in his opinion, "as a political football." Dr Dauvit Horsbroch also argues that there is a lack of understanding of what can be called "Scots". In his submission, he talks of the need to be aware of the difference between speaking Scots and using Scots words in English:
"Many members (of the Scottish Parliament) appear to think that using a word or two from the language counts as speaking in Scots. It would be no more the case if a person speaking English used the Gaelic Slainte Mhath and claimed to then be speaking in Gaelic, and therefore, as using the language." (33)
72. It is apparent from the submissions that there is some debate over what constitutes "Scots". As highlighted by P H Scott, President, The Saltire Society,
"Scots both benefits and suffers form the fact that it shares a common origin, and much common vocabulary, with English. Their relationship is similar to that between the Scandinavian Languages, or between Dutch and German, or between those of Latin origin." (34)
73. This report does not seek to further fuel this debate or to express a definitive view of what constitutes the Scots language. The debate is mentioned to highlight some difficulties which may be experienced. For this report it will be sufficient that Scots is recognised as a language under The European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages which has been ratified by the UK government.
74. Despite different opinions as to the definition of `Scots', the submissions were unanimous in the view that it is essential for Scots to be recognised, incorporated and validated in schools in order to preserve the language and create greater understanding of Scotland's cultural heritage.
75. As was stated in paragraph (48), education and culture are inextricably linked and having a national theatre for Scotland is seen as an essential part of allowing Scots to flourish by many people. A few of the submissions expressed concern that political will to introduce a national theatre for Scotland, as pledged in the National Cultural Strategy, was waning. It has been a lengthy process but a Steering Group set up by the Scottish Arts Council has been convened to advise on plans for the theatre and a timetable to launch.
76. In summary, the submissions received have highlighted various problems and have proposed various solutions to the problem of the recognition and promotion of Scots. These solutions include:
· increased funding for Scots and for that funding to come directly from the Scottish Executive Education Department
· conducting research into the use of Scots and a subsequent statistical analysis
· provision of more in-service training for teachers and emphasis on Scots through Continuous Professional Development
· encourage multilingualism and teach reading and writing of Scots from Primary 1 onwards
· provision of more material in Scots for schools
· recognition of Scots under Part III of the European Charter (although it was recognised that this is a reserved matter)
· investigate the possibility of introducing a standardised orthography
· provide more television and radio programmes in Scots
· continue to work towards the establishment of a National Theatre of Scotland
· consideration by the Scottish Executive of The Cross Party Group's Statement of Principles
77. Overall, these concerns and solutions can be distilled into one solution, suggested by many submissions, which is that there needs to be a cohesive National Languages Policy. It is recognised that a lot of preparatory work would need to be done before introducing such a policy, but the overwhelming view is that a co-ordinated, systematic approach, is the best solution to the problems highlighted.
78. There were fewer submissions received on Gaelic than on Scots. It would appear that there is a perception that Gaelic has been recognised in Scotland in a way that Scots and community languages have not. With the advent of Gaelic Medium Education, the appointment of two Gaelic parliamentary officers and, symbolically, signage in the Scottish Parliament, the situation for Gaelic is rather different to that of the other languages.
79. That said, the submissions were very clear that recognition of Scots and minority languages should not be done at the expense of Gaelic. Instead, all of these languages should co-exist and have equal status as the languages of Scotland.
80. It is evident that a lot of work has been done to promote Gaelic. In a recent flourish of activity, the Ministerial Advisory Group on Gaelic made secure status the first recommendation of its report in June 2002, and a Private Member's Bill seeking very limited secure status in the area of public administration was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in November 2002, both of which have served to bring issues surrounding the revitalisation of Gaelic back into the public eye. However, concerns were raised that more still needs to be done.
81. Reflecting on the approach neighbouring nations take towards protecting their heritage languages can help to reveal some of the shortfalls in Scotland's handling of Gaelic.
82. In Wales, a Welsh Language Board was established by statute in 1993 and the board produced a Strategy for the Welsh Language in 1996. It has since published "A Vision and Mission for 2000-2005" which details the achievements made in the promotion of the Welsh language, bilingualism and Welsh Medium Education and sets out its priorities and timetable for the future. In its paper, the Board states:
"No minority languages in the world will survive unless there is deliberate language planning. One reason that the Welsh language has bucked the world trend is due to considerable efforts by various organisations and individuals to plan for language maintenance and increased Welsh language vitality."
83. Along with making available traditional teaching materials in Welsh, the Welsh Language Board has been instrumental in producing "Cysill" which is a Welsh language spelling and grammar checking software package, guidance on bilingual design and development of welsh language CD-ROMs. The Board sets out its vision for Welsh Medium Education and bilingual education throughout primary, secondary and higher education and throughout lifelong learning and it is also examining expanding the use of Welsh in the private sector, thereby enhancing employment opportunities.
84. While the situation in Wales is cited as a direct comparison with the situation for Gaelic in Scotland, it should be noted that many of the submissions believe that strategies should be created for Gaelic and Scots. A Languages Bill for Scotland which ensured that the main languages of Scotland were treated on the basis of equality (the definition applied to Welsh and English in the Welsh Language Act) may be a wider way forward and one which could enlist support from Scots speakers as well as Gaelic speakers.
85. Comparison was also made with Ireland and the provision made for Irish Gaelic. While there has been a concerted movement to support the language in Ireland, one submission pointed out that there is only one all-Gaelic school in Scotland. It was felt that to ensure the preservation of the language in Scotland the number of young people who come into contact with Gaelic during pre-school education should be maximised and that this should be extended into Secondary education.
86. The submission from Norma MacLeod, Acair Ltd, highlighted the need for additional funding for Gaelic publishing in order that Gaelic speakers can enjoy the written word in the same way that English speakers do. Her contention is that initiatives in Gaelic education will not come to fruition unless written materials are more readily available. She cites the example of Gaelic Medium Education where she claims that there are not enough books. An interesting point was made that educating children in a particular language will help serve to save that language.
87. Similar concerns were raised in connection with Scots and the lack of teaching materials available, albeit in the context of not having a formal teaching structure.
88. There is a great deal of endorsement for increased exposure to the language. In a submission to the Gaelic Broadcasting Inquiry, Alasdair Morrison MSP surmised that,
"Broadcasting is of crucial importance to the maintenance and development of Gaelic.
An increased level of broadcasting in Gaelic would have significant advantages for the Gaelic-speaking population and for the future of the language." (35)
89. BBC Scotland brought to the attention of this inquiry an extract from their earlier submission to the National Cultural Strategy debate in respect of Gaelic.
"The ways in which we live our lives have changed to the detriment of verbal communication and if we are to seriously arrest decline and nourish lasting and meaningful language development, established theory and practice must be challenged and strategy, appropriate and workable in our times, devised." (36)
90. So many voices have expressed concern in relation to current usage and attitudes towards our national heritage languages that it is necessary to find a new and innovative approach to language development and support.
91. Gaelic is still in a fragile state, considerably more needs to be done to preserve the language. An interesting point was made comparing Gaelic with Community Languages. Although very little is being done for the promotion of Community Languages in Scotland, they are unlikely to die out as they are spoken in many other countries. If Scotland does not protect Gaelic, who else will?
92. Recurring issues from the submissions include:
· a lack of cohesion in policy terms with regard to Gaelic.
· the need for more resources to be made available, particularly for teaching materials.
· desire for the extension of Gaelic Medium Education.
93. These concerns and proposed solutions could also be addressed through a cohesive National Languages Policy, since the overwhelming view is that a co-ordinated, systematic approach, is the best solution to the problems highlighted.
94. Paragraph (17) of this report focussed on the definition of "minority" or "community" languages, and the European Charter was quoted. At this point, it is useful to consider definitions used by the Scottish Executive.
95. The Scottish Executive claims that there is no standing definition of "minority languages" to which reference is routinely made. In relation to the National Cultural Strategy, the Executive intended the document to refer to all of the languages used in Scotland (including BSL). It may be helpful to be aware of the list of languages into which Executive documents are translated. These are: Gaelic, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Chinese and Arabic.
96. Immediately apparent from the submissions received, are the similarities between prevailing attitudes towards Community Languages and Scots. In a submission from, Hilary McColl, Educational Consultant, the perception that learning another language, or making provision for maintenance of community languages, will interfere with learning English. This again relates to the idea that monolingualism is the accepted "norm". The Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES) believe that there is a "lack of appreciation of bilingualism". (37)
97. There is the same lack of statistical data with regard to Community Languages as there is with Scots. The point made repeatedly in submissions was that people are stigmatised for speaking a Community Language rather than the education system valuing and making provision for languages other than English. It is worth bearing in mind that many children who speak a community language may effectively be trilingual, not bilingual, in that in addition to their community language they may speak a dialect of Scots as well as English in the playgroup and in the local community. Their trilingualism does present a challenge to the education system, but it is more productive to view this challenge as a "resource" to be developed rather than as a "problem" to be eradicated.
98. Hilary McColl acknowledges that resources are not infinite but says:
"the number of languages we can make full provision for is probably limited, but valuing all languages costs no money at all."
99. Continuing with the notion of monolingualism could be seen as effectively suppressing Community Languages and could indeed be a form of institutionalised discrimination. A literate bilingual capacity, which is not nurtured and encouraged, is a wasted resource.
100. As with Scots, several submissions addressed the issue of the shortage of formal teaching in Community Languages. Current provision was criticised for being patchy. As an example of this, it was emphasised that Standard Grade arrangements only stretched to Urdu. Whilst there are some promising individual initiatives, there is a lack of cohesive policy with regard to Community Language provision.
101. One submission sets out a vision for a way forward in supporting Community Languages:
"Given the range of community languages in Scotland and the dispersed nature of the populations which speak them, it is not reasonable to expect schools to provide X-medium education on demand for each and every community language as is the case with Scottish Gaelic.........However, in order to benefit the child (if not to maintain the speech community), it will be important to find new and exciting ways of helping children from diverse language communities to access and maintain their community language." (38)
102. Edinburgh City Council currently supports community language classes, which are held at weekends or after school hours. The classes currently supported are in Chinese, Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, Arabic and Persian. The form the support takes is the provision of accommodation in schools and community centres and payment for teachers' salaries. There are approximately 500 learners involved in these classes.
103. The Education Department of Edinburgh City Council believes that their support for Community Language classes is one way of ensuring accordance with priority three of the Standards in Scotland's' Schools Act 2000 which is defined as follows:
"To promote equality and help every pupil benefit from education, with particular regard paid to pupils with disabilities and......to Gaelic and other lesser-used languages." (39)
104. Edinburgh City Council also cites an example of alternative routes of accreditation in, for example, Chinese. Although there is no Standard Grade in Chinese, students have been presented for GSCE and `A' Level through Edexcel in London. Similarly with the lack of Higher Urdu to follow on from the Standard Grade, students in Urdu have also been presented through Edexcel.
105. Whilst recognising these advances, the submissions received highlighted gaps in the provision cycle. The limited supply of teachers for all Community Languages and the lack of career opportunities for fluent speakers of Community Languages were offered as examples.
106. Whilst many submissions did call for expanded provision of after-school classes or informal networks, concern was raised that unless the teaching of community languages is introduced into mainstream schools, then education could become segregated. The situation could arise where, for example, Urdu is only taught in Muslim schools. The whole notion of language development should be based on social inclusion. As stated in the Ministerial Action Group in Languages publication "Citizens of a Multilingual World:
"in line with current policies favouring ethnic diversity and social justice, it will be important to provide opportunities for linguistic development and accreditation for those who wish to continue or develop their skills in a heritage or community language." (40)
107. Concerns were raised that due to the lack of recognition in education and in culture of community languages, children whose first language is not English will try to suppress their first language so that they are not looked upon as `different', their perception being that their community language is inferior to English. The argument is then put forward that mainstreaming the teaching of Community Languages will increase the status of those languages and, in turn, the confidence and sense of belonging of children whose first language is a Community Language.
108. As with earlier submissions concerned with Scots and Gaelic, many of those received on Community Languages pointed towards the need for a cohesive languages policy. John Landon, Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of Education Studies at Edinburgh University, writing on behalf of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES) states that:
"There has been a lack of joined-up policy which sees the connections between provision for Gaelic, modern European languages, Scots, ethnic minority community languages and BSL and their contribution to the definition of Scotland as a multilingual and multicultural society. Integration of initiatives is best achieved through the development of a Languages Policy for Scotland (see Australia and South Africa), which establishes a common framework for the development of the languages of Scotland and for their provision in education, local government and other public sectors." (41)
109. In summary, from the submissions received, it is deemed important to:
· promote the notion of bilingualism and multilingualism.
· provide training for teachers through CPD training and initial teacher education on Community Languages.
· explore ways in which people can access and maintain their Community Languages.
· ensure people are allowed ample access to their language and culture.
110. These concerns and proposed solutions could again be addressed through a cohesive National Languages Policy, since the overwhelming view is that a co-ordinated, systematic approach, is the best solution to the problems highlighted
British Sign Language (BSL)
111. Concerns surrounding social inclusion, which are of great significance to those who work in Community Languages, are also of particular consequence to those who advocate better recognition of BSL.
112. In her presentation to the Cross-Party Group on Deafness, "Current Issues within Deaf Education in Scotland", Dr Mary Brennan of the University of Edinburgh says that:
"We need to take an inclusive approach to language within Deaf Education: this will mean including the language of the Deaf Community, British Sign Language (BSL) as well as the spoken/written languages within the child's community. This means having a positive attitude to both - or all - of the relevant languages.
Deaf pupils have the right to access education in their preferred language - and the right to have the basis for making such a choice (ie waiting until a child is seven years old or ten or sixteen before offering access to BSL means denying choice)". (42) Whilst it is acknowledged that the availability of BSL has improved, there are still concerns about the paucity of materials, lack of recognition in the formal education system and lack of resources. "
113. Dr Mary Brennan asks that deaf children should have access to all of the curriculum and not just selected elements. The recently passed Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Educational Records) (Scotland) Act which will ensure that all education providers produce an accessibility strategy, should be able to alleviate some of the problems. However, Dr Mary Brennan also asks for BSL and deaf studies to be included as subjects in their own right. This would not necessarily be covered by the Act.
114. Another concern raised was that whilst BSL could be made available to deaf children, it is not recognised as a subject for legitimate study by hearing pupils in the formal education system (43). This is perceived as missing an opportunity particularly as there is a national shortage of signers. It has been suggested that, in common with other Community Languages, that BSL should be incorporated into mainstream education and taken out of Special Educational Needs. This would go some way toward removing stigmas and allow all children to benefit from the learning of different languages. It is encouraging to learn that in some primary schools, elements of BSL are taught to all children as part of their general language education. This is beneficial not only because it helps children become more aware of language as a means of human communication but also because of the social inclusion which it promotes.
115. The overarching message from submissions is that:
· a review of the role of BSL in schools must be considered.
116. This could again be addressed through a cohesive National Languages Policy, since the overwhelming view is that a co-ordinated, systematic approach, is the best solution to the problems highlighted
117. The recommendations for Scots, Gaelic, Community Languages and BSL can be summarised as follows:
118. Promote bilingualism and multilingualism instead of monolingualism, recognising the intellectual and economic benefits of such an approach and the benefits to bringing about a more diverse and inclusive society. With centres of economic power moving to non-English speaking countries such as China, multilingualism will become increasingly important. Globalisation, population mobility, the technological revolution and the emergence of `new markets' mean that small countries must develop the skills to fit into niche markets - language is a big part of this.
119. Increase funding for initiatives which will maintain and promote Scots, Gaelic, Community Languages and BSL thereby helping to validate the status of the various languages of Scotland. (44)
120. Provide more in-service training for teachers on the languages of Scotland and ensure that the subject is part of initial teacher education and continuous professional development.
121. Provide access to more material in the various languages of Scotland to complement improved teacher training.
122. The conclusions for Scots, Gaelic, Community Languages and BSL are:
· This report concludes that the many questions and concerns surrounding the languages of Scotland and their place in education and culture can only be properly addressed by creating an inclusive, cohesive Languages Policy.
· To ensure the development of a satisfactory Policy, substantive research, consultation and reporting needs to be carried out to gather much more information than is currently available on the specific needs of each language.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF RESOURCES CONSULTED
· Scottish Executive: Ministerial Action Group on Languages (2000) Citizens of a Multilingual World; Tactica Solutions
· Learning and Teaching Scotland (2000) Education for Citizenship in Scotland A Paper for Discussion and Consultation
· CERES (1999) Bilingualism, Community Languages and Scottish Education: a challenge for policy makers and practitioners in a devolved Scotland; Moray House, University of Edinburgh.
· Commission for Racial Equality (2001) The General Duty to Promote Racial Equality Guidance for public authorities on their obligations under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000; Belmont Press
· Scottish Executive (2000) Creating Our Future: Minding Our Past, The National Cultural Strategy; Tactica Solutions
· Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum (1999) The School Curriculum and the Culture of Scotland A Paper for Discussion and Consultation
· The Scottish Office Education Department (1991) Curriculum and Assessment in Scotland, National Guidelines ENGLISH LANGUAGE 5-14
· The Scottish Office Education Department (1993) Curriculum and Assessment in Scotland, National Guidelines GAELIC 5-14
· Scottish Executive Education Department (1999) The Attainments of Pupils Receiving Gaelic-medium Primary Education in Scotland; Scottish CILT: University of Stirling
· Commission for Racial Equality in Scotland (2000) Annual Report
· Council of Europe (1992) European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages; European Treaty Series - No. 148
· Craddol, D (1998) Will English Be Enough? London: Nuffield Language Inquiry
· LoBianco, J L (2001) Language and Literacy Policy in Scotland
· Welsh Language Board (2000) A Vision and Mission for 2000-2005
1 from 16 May 2002
2 Jackie Baillie became a member of the Committee on 29 November 2001.
3 from 26 September 2002
4 from 16 May 2002
5 Frank McAveety was Deputy Convener from 11 December 2001 until his resignation from the Committee on 9 May 2002.
6 from 9 May 2002 to 26 September 2002
7 Cathy Peattie was Deputy Convener until her resignation from the Committee on 28 November 2001. She was reappointed as a member of the Committee on 9 May 2002 and became Deputy Convener on 14 May 2002.
8 from 9 April 2001 to 7 January 2002
9 from 7 January 2002
10 Spokespeople from the Scottish Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (Scottish CILT, University of Stirling) and Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) were visited and interviewed.
11 Graddol, D. (1998) Will English be enough? London: Nuffield Languages Inquiry. In "where are we going with languages?"
12 "The principal aim of SCOTLANG is to help to establish a national infrastructure to enhance, extend (to other sites) and co-ordinate Scotland's capability for high-quality research on the use, learning and teaching of, and societal and sectoral attitudes towards, modern foreign languages." Taken from Scottish CILT, http://www.scilt.stir.ac.uk/Scotlang/Index.htm
13 LoBianco, J.L (2001) Language and Literacy Policy in Scotland; preamble
14 LoBianco, J.L.(2001) Language and Literacy Policy in Scotland. p78
15 Scottish Executive - National Cultural Strategy, First Report 25 October 2001
16 European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages
17 These guidelines also note that Scots has "a much larger though not systematically qualified number of speakers" Scottish Executive "Citizen of a Multilingual World" Rationale p7.
18 Scottish Executive: "Citizens of a Multilingual World"
19 Scottish Executive: "Citizens of a Multilingual World"
20 Scottish Office Education Department Curriculum and Assessment in Scotland National Guidelines English Language 5-14
21 Scottish Office Education Department: Curriculum and Assessment in Scotland National Guidelines English Language 5-14
24 Meeting of the Scots CPG, 10 September 2002
25 Welsh Language Board: "A Vision and Mission for 2000-2005"
26 Submission from Professor Richard Johnstone
27 Languages Policy in the Isles: Paper by J Derrick McClure
28 Submission from Matthew Fitt
29 Submission from Sheena Blackhall
30 Submission from Sheena Blackhall www.abdn.ac.uk/elphinstone
31 Gaelic: Revitalising Gaelic a National Asset Sept (2000)
23 Submission from Professor Richard Johnstone
33 Submission from Dr Dauvit Horsbroch
34 Submission from P H Scott, President, The Saltire Society
35 From Paper on Gaelic Broadcasting for the Gaelic Broadcasting Inquiry by Alasdair Morrison, ED/01/22/4
36 From submission by BBC Scotland.
37 Submission from CERES
38 Submission from Professor Richard Johnstone
39 From submission by The City of Edinburgh Council, Department of Education.
40 Scottish Executive: "Citizens of a Multilingual World"
41 Submission from John Landon, on behalf of CERES
42 Current Issues within Deaf Education in Scotland - Dr Mary Brennan, University of Edinburgh
43 It should of course be noted that not all people with hearing impairments use BSL.
44 Mr Brian Monteith registered his dissension from paragraph 119 on the grounds that the paragraph contains a commitment to increased funding.
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Scottish Parliament: Report on Inquiry into the role of educational and cultural policy (English). 2023. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 29 November 2023, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1061.
"Scottish Parliament: Report on Inquiry into the role of educational and cultural policy (English)." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2023. Web. 29 November 2023. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1061.
The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Scottish Parliament: Report on Inquiry into the role of educational and cultural policy (English)," accessed 29 November 2023, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1061.
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