Education and ethnicity cannot be discussed without taking language into account. This paper will argue that any discussion of ethnic minorities cannot ignore the question of language, nor can any discussion of human rights ignore the question of language rights. Unfortunately, in today's globalised world, governments and minorities are faced with conflicting pressures: on the one hand, for the development and use of education in a global/international language; on the other for the use and development of mother tongue, local or indigenous languages in education. Language complexity and ethnic plurality were largely brought about as a result of the creation of nation-states, which were spread around the world as a result of European colonialism. European languages and formal education systems were used as a means of political and economic control. The legacy that was left by the colonial powers has complicated ethnic relations and has frequently led to conflict. While there is now greater recognition of the importance of language both for economic and educational development, as well as for human rights, the forces of globalisation are leading towards uniformity in the languages used, in culture and even in education. They are working against the development of language rights for smaller groups. We are witnessing a sharp decline in the number of languages spoken. Only those languages which are numerically, economically and politically strong are likely to survive. As a result many linguistic and ethnic groups are in danger of being further marginalised. This paper will illustrate this thesis both historically and from several contemporary societies, showing how certain policies have exacerbated ethnic conflict while others are seeking to promote harmony and reconciliation. Why this should be so will be explored. This paper was presented at 'Conflict Prevention and Peaceful Development: Policies to Reduce Inequality and Exclusion', a CRISE policy conference held on July 9-10, 2007 at Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford.
International Journal of Educational Development, volume 27, issue 3, May 2007, 252-265 (subscription required)