Comparative research in multilingual urban primary schools indicates that the
pedagogical and political goals of schooling may operate at cross-purposes.
Classroom observations and teacher interview-discussions were conducted in
classes for immigrant children in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where the language
of instruction is French, and in classes in Pretoria, Gauteng Province, South
Africa, where children from many different language backgrounds are taught in
English. Two main themes emerged: (1) Pedagogically, effective teacher-learner
communication can break down when teachers are unaware of the roles that
language and culture play in second language classrooms. (2) Politically, efforts
to assimilate learners into new socio-cultural/political contexts sometimes take
precedence over sound pedagogical practice, such as drawing on the linguistic
and cultural repertoire that learners bring to the classroom. This on-going
qualitative research underlines the importance of preparing pre-service and inservice
teachers for the linguistic and cultural diversity they are bound to
encounter in their classrooms, and of deepening their understanding of the
influence of such diversity on the teaching-learning process.