Urban ecology of bilingual education: exploring inequalities in the distribution of linguistic capital

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Thu. 11.04.'24 14:45



Abstract :

The German education system is based on a monolingual language policy that leads to two types of multilingualism, differently perceived by society and institutions: cosmopolitan or elite multilingualism that corresponds to speakers of German and those international languages that promote the maximization of opportunities to participate in global processes (exemplary, English or French); and vernacular or migrant multilingualism, which is often perceived as problematic for the linguistic integration of migrant communities, such us Turkish.

The aim of the paper is to map the educational programs in languages other than German in order to analyze the factors that determine their spatial distribution in the German capital of Berlin. By mapping this urban ecology of bilingual education, the paper addresses two research questions:

  1. Does the spatial distribution of bilingual educational programs correlate with the spatial distribution of bilingual speakers?
  2. To what extent does the bilingual educational geography reflect the tension between elite and migrant multilingualism?

In order to answer these questions, the paper applies a quantitative spatial analysis of the urban ecology of bilingual education in Berlin. This methodological approach allows us to describe patterns of unequal distribution of linguistic capital by comparing different languages (from international to minority languages), migratory communities (families and their descendants) and types of bilingual programs (daycare, bilingual schools, etc.). The explanatory model combines spatial factors of neighborhoods (Lebensweltlich orientierte Räume), such as their centrality or proximity, with socio-economic factors including income levels, rental prices and quality of residential location, and cultural/linguistic factors such as the international importance of the languages considered. The analysis of these factors highlights the existence of different rationales for the distribution of bilingual education depending on the type of language considered, and allows us to discuss to what extent the spatial distribution corresponds to the dichotomy between elite and migratory multilingualism.

Addressing the ecology of bilingual education is highly relevant considering the increasing socioeconomic segregation in many European cities. Besides studying whether bilingual education in Berlin is related to patterns of segregation and educational inequality, the results of the analysis also serve as a basis for discussing how educational landscapes are the result of multilevel governance, as the existence of bilingual educational opportunities depends on public, private and migrant grassroots initiatives, including parents’ activism.