Is bilingual school education a lever of social inclusion for minorities? rationalizing the pros and cons of the eib program in peru.

Leyens, Stephane (2018). 'Is Bilingual School Education a Lever of Social Inclusion for Minorities? Rationalizing the pros and cons of the EIB program in Peru.' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


Key words:

social inclusion, Quechua identity, redistribution, recognition, rationalizing values



This paper aims at reflecting on how to rationalize the “valued functionings” expressed by the stakeholders of a social issue. At the same time, it highlights some issues of a “politics of recognition” in favour of the social inclusion of cultural minorities. Finally, it shows that the “redistribution-recognition” debate, largely absent as such in the Capability Approach literature, can be translated in terms of the capabilities.

During participatory workshops conducted with colleagues and students of the Universidad San Antonio Abad del Cusco (Cusco, Peru) in villages of the Peruvian High Andes, it appeared that school education was a major concern for those rural communities. More specifically the Educational Bilingual Program (EIB – Educación Intercultural Bilingüe) set up by the Peruvian government to enhance Quechua identity (by imposing that part of schools curricula be given in Quechua language in Quechua-speaking aeras) was largely questioned and criticized by the parents attending the workshops. Further qualitative survey, carried on among parents, teachers and local representatives of the EIB program, allowed us to understand the reasons one has to support the educational bilingual program or, on the contrary, to criticize it (Fernandez, Rozas, Leyens, 2017). In this paper, I present and discuss the results of this investigation using the theoretical framework of the capability approach. Here are some major elements of the analysis.

First, what is at stake in the different positions towards the EIB is not an assessment of the linguistic efficiency of the program or its ability to enhance Quechua language and culture, but rather the role it is supposed to play in the social inclusion of the Quechua-speaking communities: does EIB enhance their social inclusion or, on the contrary, does it impede it?

Second, this controversy about the potential of EIB to foster social inclusion brings together two different logics, which correspond precisely enough to those one finds in the “redistribution-recognition” debate in political philosophy (Taylor, 1992; Kymlicka, 1995; Fraser, 1997; Fraser & Honneth, 2003). On the one hand, advocates of the bilingual educational program defend the idea that the cultural recognition brought about by school teaching in Quechua language is of prior importance for social inclusion of Quechua-speaking minorities. On the other hand, critics of the EIB program – the majority of the Quechua-speaking parents – prioritize socio-economical emancipation over cultural recognition: because Spanish is the language of higher education, of migration, of the cities, and therefore, of a better economical life, they favour a school education reinforcing Spanish proficiency, which, according to them, is impeded by the EIB program.

Third, the Capability Approach provides interesting conceptual tools to bring out the web of reasons and their logics. For instance, in the parents “position”, proficiency in Spanish is “objectively” recognized as a “valued functioning” for the reason that it is a necessary “resource” to have the “real opportunity” to fulfil a “valued functioning” of a higher level, that is, to have a well-paid job, which in turn allows other “valued functionings” (having a family, providing good education to one’s children, being healthy, etc.). From the parents’ position, the EIB is “objectively” understood as a negative “conversion factor” hindering the acquisition of Spanish proficiency. This brings about an interesting occasion to reflect, with the parents, upon the importance to be given to their cultural Quechua identity: how do they “prioritize” and “balance” apparently contradicting “functionings”, that is, proficiency in Spanish and Quechua recognition?

The aim of such “rationalizing” exercise is to overcome the apparent contradiction and to accommodate socio-economical emancipation with cultural recognition.

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