Promoting Inclusion of Ethnic Minority Children through Multilingual Education (MLE) in Bangladesh: Challenges and Opportunities






Prashanta K. Tripuraa and Laila Farhana Apnan Banub

a Part-time Faculty, Department of Economics and Social Sciences, BRAC University.

b Education Officer, UNICEF Bangladesh.


(Received 15 February 2015, Final revised version received 30 August 2016)


At the policy level in Bangladesh, there is generally a supportive environment and commitment among all concerned for promoting inclusive education for ethnic minority children, many of whom experience – due to language barriers as well as poverty and social marginalization – various degrees of exclusion in accessing quality education services. The national education policy recognizes the need to pay special attention to ethnic minority children, and specifies that their respective languages would be taken into account when developing teaching-learning methods, materials and curriculum. However, there is currently no shared understanding among policy makers and practitioners as to what Multilingual Education (MLE) is and how it may be operationalized. In the absence of any well-articulated framework or clear guidelines, substantial differences have emerged in terms of the perceptions and practices of different organizations and service providers. In many cases, initiatives are taken based on ideas or assumptions that are not necessarily in line with international best practices or sound research evidences. Given the mismatch between policy provisions, their interpretations and ground realities, instead of bringing about intended benefits, many MLE initiatives underway actually have the potential for adverse educational effects on children who are already lagging behind and marginalized. Bringing some of the key issues at both policy and practice levels to light, this paper argues that a deeper analysis is called for to make necessary adjustments in existing provisions and interpretations for promoting inclusive education for ethnic minority children through MLE.


Keywords: Multilingual education, ethnic minority children

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