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Professional development led by SIL consultants helps prepare Mayan educators for bilingual program in Guatemala

(July 2007) Five participants from Guatemala attended a week-long professional development event in Dallas, Texas, as on-going training for their bilingual education program in the Ixil language area. Sponsored by Helps International and SIL, these Mayan educators, whose mother tongue is Ixil, are building skills that will enable them to conduct culturally and linguistically appropriate education in their home language.

One of the participating Ixil teachers said, "I've learned many more ideas that I can share with Ixil teachers in other bilingual programs."

When ethnic minority students grasp the concepts of reading and numeracy in their own mother tongue first, that provides a foundation for successful transition to life-long learning in national and international languages. Multilingual education (MLE) makes quality education possible by using indigenous methods plus adapting conventional instructional methods and materials to fit a local culture. This approach creates a pathway across the cultural and linguistic barriers that would otherwise block minority language speakers from learning and living within the wider language and culture. Since MLE programs require careful development and training, SIL provides consultant help to community educators and national program designers as they develop their capacity to create effective MLE programs.

Dr. Patricia Davis, course director and an international literacy consultant for SIL, stated "These dedicated Ixil men and women are pioneering a new educational path fraught with great difficulties, but they are constructing a future of great opportunity for their people."

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