Higher sem. Biling. Scarlett Mannish: Towards a Culturally Responsive (Language) Pedagogy


Date: Tuesday 6 September 2022

Time: 15.00 – 16.30

Higher seminar in Bilingualism. Towards a Culturally Responsive (Language) Pedagogy: The role of mother tongue instruction in Sweden. Scarlett Mannish, PhD student in Bilingualism, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.

In this talk I will outline the scope of my doctoral thesis which examines ideological tensions inherent in mother tongue instruction (MTI) and multilingual study guidance (MSG) in Sweden.

Thus far, background reading for my thesis centres on two interrelated phenomena; first, the similarities in theory and praxis between (MTI) and (MSG) in Sweden, and culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP). CRP is rooted in North American research but has since been discussed internationally. Secondly, I follow the history of Sweden’s pluralistic language policy, which drew inspiration in part from post-war North American theories about minorities, culture and identity and applied aspects to the Swedish situation at the time. This reading represents the basis of my in-process first article which explores the meaning of identity, how it came to play a central role in language curricula in Sweden, and what it means in practice to “teach” identity.

It is argued by CRP researchers that minorities, and their languages, benefit from education that adapts to them and their individual experiences. Teachers are advocated to be open to exchanges of culture and help their students to work against a hegemony that would otherwise restrict progress. While presented as inclusive, progressive and necessary, underpinning MTI, MSG & CRP are ideological foundations consisting of shaky definitions. What are “care”, “culture” and “identity”? These mutable and dynamic concepts represent an unstable base that demands shoring up. I argue this in an upcoming position paper for a future special edition of Educare, to which members of the research school “Culturally Empowering Education through Literature and Language” were invited to contribute.


Bio Scarlett Mannish

My teaching experiences inspire my interest in research. After undergraduate studies in Classics, I trained as a teacher in my home city, London, both at King’s College. The provision of Classics in the UK is fraught with debate around class, student background and the subject’s instrumental value on the increasingly crowded curriculum. These themes continued for me in my 9 years as a mother tongue teacher in Stockholm. I taught English to students aged between 5–19 in dozens of secondary schools and gymnasiums in Stockholm, alongside colleagues with over 70 different languages.

My work underpinned my Master's research, focussing on identity and investment in learning English (a high-status language) in mother tongue classrooms (a low-status medium). In addition to this I co-authored an article with Prof. Christina Hedman about opportunities for student agency during distance learning. I have recently finished reading a Magister in Educational Management and hope to create an article about intercultural leadership from my work for this program.

As a doctoral student I am researching Mother Tongue resources in Sweden, I view the multilingual work of mother tongue teachers and their organisation in language centres as unparalleled and undervalued resources.

Scarlett Mannish

About the Higher seminar in Research on Bilingualism