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Equal Rights to the Curriculum: Many Languages, One Message

reviewed by Andrea Sterzuk - November 24, 2008

coverTitle: Equal Rights to the Curriculum: Many Languages, One Message
Author(s): Eithne Gallagher
Publisher: Multilingual Matters, Clevedon
ISBN: 184769067X, Pages: 168, Year: 2008
Search for book at Amazon.com

We live in a world of increasing local diversity and global connectedness, one where communication is multimodal and fluency in multiple languages and language varieties is desirable and even necessary (Cope & Katlantzis, 2000). This period of intense social and cultural change means that school administrators, teachers and parents must ask themselves tough questions about how linguistic diversity is promoted in schools and how the needs of minority language children can be met in increasingly heterogenous schools and societies. Accelerating globalization means that, now more than ever, schools and parents must work together to ensure that minority language children have equal access to learning and that their linguistic human rights are respected (Phillipson & Skutnabb-Kangas, 1995).

Eithne Gallagher’s manuscript is the latest publication in Multilingual Matters’ Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides series. In the words of the series editor, Colin Baker, “[t]his series provides immediate advice and practical help on topics where parents and teachers frequently seek answers” (Multilingual Matters, 2008). By drawing on some fundamentals of second language acquisition theory, this particular book provides practical information about the educational experiences of children whose first language is different from that of the school classroom.

Gallagher’s primary audience is likely educators and administrators working in international education and parents who enroll their children in international schools. To provide some background, international schools were created after the Second World War to provide English education for children of businessmen from English-speaking countries while they were working in other countries. Today, the student population of these schools consists largely of children for whom English is a second or additional language. Unlike the children for whom these schools were originally built, many of today’s students have never lived in an English dominant country like the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom. Though the student bodies of international schools may have changed since the nation-building post-war times, their curriculums—largely based on national standards of the countries of the original students—have not. This reality can present particular challenges for the non-Anglophone families whose children attend international schools.

Gallagher explains that the intention of the book is to “inform parents so they can be instigators of reform” (p xiv). She maintains, however, that changes in schools work best when parents and administrators work together. This book, then, seeks to reveal inequities in international schools, provide examples of good pedagogy and practices, and explore how additive bilingualism—learning a second language while fully maintaining and developing the first—can be better achieved in international schools. Her theoretical discussions and practical examples of language, power and transformative pedagogy are designed to help parents, school administrators and teachers create school reforms that allow these minority language students to have equal access to school curriculums.

The book is divided into six chapters. The first two are theoretical and provide the reader with an overview of second language theories and links between language and power. Here, Gallagher explores language-learning theories developed by applied linguists and educational researchers such as Stephen Krashen, Jim Cummins, and Michael Halliday. Those unfamiliar with second language acquisition theory will appreciate the author’s concise approach to explanations of some potentially dense ideas. Particularly interesting, is the author’s detailed discussion of the origins, theoretical underpinnings, and programs of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). The remaining four chapters of this book build on the theory introduced in the first two chapters and provide practical explanations about cultural transitions (Chapter 3), parental involvement (Chapter 4), interlingual classrooms (Chapter 5), and school selections (Chapter 6). The author’s use of photographs, real-life examples and clear guidelines helps to make salient the links between the theoretical ideas of Chapters 1 and 2 and the more practical information of the rest of the book. Also highly useful are the glossary of terms and the reading list as well as the book’s many numerous lists of Implications for Educators and Implications for Parents as a further method of clarifying links between theory and practice. Gallagher is to be commended for the book’s readability and accessibility.

Gallagher draws heavily on the work of Canadian researcher Jim Cummins (1981, 2000, 2001a, 2001b, 2004). Indeed, his theories influence the work of many second language researchers and educators (and rightly so.) Much of what Cummins says about bilingualism and schools’ roles and responsibilities in developing and promoting additive bilingualism is easily extended to the types of educational contexts that Gallagher describes, namely international schools. More tenuous, however, is the author’s use of this body of work to support the book’s position that the non English-speaking privileged students of higher socio-economic backgrounds who normally attend international schools should be considered as a group “dominated by practices and beliefs that keep both these parents and their children in positions of powerlessness within the International School context” (p. 82). Gallagher does address this proverbial elephant-in-the-room and provides valid support for her position. In anticipation of readers’ potential views of the “dominant/dominated” position as an exaggeration, this particular discussion, however, might have been bettered positioned earlier in the book

Teaching English to speakers of other languages is big business in today’s world. Indeed, second language speakers of English now outnumber those who count it as their first language, 431 million to 329 million (Crystal, 2003). English is the lingua franca of our globalized societies and educators and parents alike need to be mindful of the potential for neo-imperialistic curriculum, pedagogy and oppressive school practices. In light of this reality, Gallagher’s practical and readable book can be seen as a tool for parents and educators who are directly affected, as we all are, by the hegemony of the English language. Gallagher does a thorough and admirable job of exploring the relationship between language and power in international schools and providing clear solutions and explanations for parents and educators who understand the value and ethical responsibility of creating schools where multilingualism and multiculturalism are not simply respected but promoted.


Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2000). Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the use of design of social futures. New York: Routledge.

Crystal, D. (2003). English as a global language (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cummins, J. (1981). Age on arrival and immigrant second language learning in Canada: A reassessment. Applied Linguistics, 2, 132-149.

Cummins, J. (2000). Immersion education for the millennium: What we have learned from 30 years of research on second language immersion. Retrieved November [], 2008 from  http://www.iteachilearn.com/cummins/immersion2000.html

Cummins, J. (2001a). In C. Baker and N.H. Hornberger (Eds.), An Introductory reader to the writings of Jim Cummins. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J (2001b). Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse society. Los Angeles: California Association for Bilingual Education.

Cummins, J (2004). Language, power, and pedagogy. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Multilingual Matters (2008). Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides. Retrieved Nov. 21, 2008, from http://www.multilingual-matters.com/series/series_ptg.asp?TAG=&CID=

Phillipson, R., & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (1995). Linguistic rights and wrongs. Applied Linguistics, 16(4), 483-504.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: November 24, 2008
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15449, Date Accessed: 10/20/2021 3:20:44 AM

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About the Author
  • Andrea Sterzuk
    University of Regina
    E-mail Author
    ANDREA STERZUK is an assistant professor of language and literacies education at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. She is currently writing her first book, The Struggle for Legitimacy: Indigenous Students in Settler Schools, under contract to be published with Multilingual Matters.
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