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Original Message
Author Iftikhar 
Topic Open Letter to Sir Cyril Taylor 
Date Entered 04/02/2007 21:39:13 
Open Letter to Sir Cyril Taylor
Sir Cyril Taylor, the chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, is of the opinion that Muslim children are not doing well in schools because they speak their own mother tongues at home. A very high proportion of the mothers come from the sub-continent, few speaking English. It is a major cause of lower results in English.

If children do not use their home language, it will die and with it they lose a big part of their faith and culture. Children see language as a feature of their identity. By welcoming a child’s home language, schools facilitate the flow of knowledge, ideas and feelings between home and school. Humans have a unique ability to learn more than one language. Jimmy Carter called for the providing all immigrant pupils with a teacher speaking their native language. One of the most powerful ways of boosting the moral and academic ambitions of bilingual pupils is to help them get the easiest qualification of all – their home language GCSE. The result has been stunning. More than 80% of bilingual pupils at st. Martin school in Lambeth who have studied for home language GCSEs have earned As.

According to the Rights of the Child, all children must be allowed to speak their own language and practice their own religion and culture. Schools must recognize bilingualism as positive learning resource. Bilingualism should be explicitly valued as a special achievement. The opportunity to use first language will help development in English. Language is a very important symbol of cultural identity and schools should ensure that they value the linguistic diversity. British schooling is very unwelcoming and intimidating institutions for those with lesser or no English. The studies carried out in Britain concluded that children who speak two languages do better at schools than those who speak only one. Dr Raymonde Sneddon of UEL was able to demonstrate that far from being confused by using different languages, these children display greater comprehension when reading English. They tend to be on higher ability groups – because the skills they acquire and develop in their language use is transferred to other subjects. A study in Leicester by Arvind Bhatt found that bilingualism improved a child’s overall educational performance by instilling a more subtle use of language and better communication skills. The findings contradicted the controversial comments made in 2002 by the Home Secretary David Blunkett and recently by Ann Cryer, who decried the “negative impact” on society of children growing up with different languages at home and at school. Their views were based on the false premise that children can learn only one language at a time and that learning a mother tongue interferes with English. Another study in Watford found that a large number of British children learn to read in more than one language at the same time as they learn to read in English. It is a well known fact that to reject a child’s language in the school is to reject a child. Children’s cultural and linguistic experience in the home is the foundation of their future learning and the school must build on that foundation rather than undermine it. The cultural, linguistic and intellectual capital of British society will increase dramatically when we stop seeing culturally and linguistically diverse children as “a problem to be solved” and instead open our eyes to the linguistic, cultural and intellectual resources they bring from their homes to schools and societies.
Iftikhar Ahmad

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