[lg policy] abstract: Education Opportunity of Ethnic People: A Case Study of Naga of Northwestern Burma

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 2 15:28:12 UTC 2011

The Impact of Monolingual Policy on Education Opportunity of Ethnic
People: A Case Study of Naga of Northwestern Burma
Shu Maung
Chulalongkorn University

Language policy has been one of the most influential factors in creating
opportunities and challenges for the development of the people of
Burma. Ethnic tension and the ongoing political crisis have long been
the most serious issue undermining national reconciliation, peace and
development of the country as a whole. The denial of ethnic rights and
the rejection of equal status are the underlying factors that impact the
pace of development in modern Burma.

This research mainly focuses on the impact of language policy in
education for the development opportunity of ethnic groups. At the
same time, the researcher also looks at the language policy of other
countries that have similar situations, such as Canada, India, Indonesia,
etc. Although different in historical and political backgrounds, language
policies in these countries provide models that might be helpful for the
rethinking and transformation of the language policy in Burma.
Recognizing the importance of ethnic languages in a linguistically
diverse society like Burma, the researcher would like to identify whether
or not a bilingual or multilingual policy provides a workable solution for
the social and political development of Burma.

However, in order to better understand the actual language situation in
the ethnic areas and to evaluate the impacts of the monolingual policy,
the researcher looks at how the monolingual policy contributes to the
integration or fragmentation of the people, how it discriminates the
people living in the ethnic areas (specifically the autonomous Naga
region), and how it leads to the lack of equal opportunity for the Naga
people, depriving them of a form of empowerment that is necessary for
their development.

This research is based on several interviews and observations made
during a fieldwork in northern Burma in July 2011 where the level of
ethnic conflict is relatively high. The researcher discovered that many
young Naga people are increasingly bilingual in Burmese and their own
language. Some of them even started to gravitate towards Burmese. This
contributes to a loss of their identity within their community.

Furthermore, community leaders and parents are worried that their
language and identity will be lost in the future if the influence of the
Burmese language in education continues unabatedly in their

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