Members of the ACTRC MTB-MLE team were involved in a ground-breaking conference on language policy and issues in Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) from 8 to 11 February 2016. The conference was largely planned by Professor Joe Lo Bianco of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education of the University of Melbourne, who was also involved in presentations on work he has been doing in South East Asia on language and social cohesion in conflict zones. Language planning and mother tongue based-multilingual education (MTB-MLE) were the major points of focus for the conference, which was attended by over 350 delegates, including international delegates as well as many from Myanmar. There was an air of excitement around this conference, which was historic for Myanmar. Attention is on language issues relevant to the immediate future of the multilingual country, where over 131 languages are spoken, as it moves towards a new, democratic political order under the recently elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
Interest is strong in MTB-MLE because of the opportunities it provides for Myanmar to improve educational standards as well as affirming the place of its many language groups in the new democratic Myanmar. The ACTRC MTB-MLE team organized and presented a two and a half hour panel presentation: Implementation of MTB-MLE in the Philippines: Patterns and possibilities. The ACTRC MTB-MLE team, Dr Rom Metila, Ms Lea Pradilla and Dr Alan Williams, presented two parts of this presentation: Patterns of challenges and strategies across contexts in Philippine MTB-MLE (Dr Metila and Ms Pradilla) and Emerging issues in the early years of MTB-MLE implementation (Dr Williams). The final presentation in the panel was Promoting quality and equality in education for children of marginalized communities, presented by Ms Xinia Skoropinski of SIL and Ms Bonna Duron-Luder of Save the Children. The panel presentation gave a comprehensive view of what is happening in the implementation of MTB-MLE in the Philippines and the way the ACTRC MTB-MLE project is contributing to a data-based understanding of a significant and complex educational reform. A number of senior education officials attended the presentation, including Dr Khine Mye (Director General of Myanmar Education Research).