Intercultural bilingual teacher education in support of epistemological justice

By on 26.11.2018 in PhD thesis

JustEd Coordinator Tuija Veintie defended her doctoral dissertation “Revival and regeneration of Indigenous knowledge in intercultural bilingual teacher education – A study in the Ecuadorian Amazonia” on Friday 23 November 2018 at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. Professor Regina Cortina from Teachers College, Columbia University served as opponent and Professor Gunilla Holm as custos.

Picture of Tuija Veintie

Photo: Olli Tourunen

Mainstream schools and universities around the worlds tend to assume that legitimate knowledge is produced by a Eurocentric academe, based on Western European thinking and theories. Any other knowledge, such as Indigenous knowledge, tends to be unacknowledged. Therefore, Indigenous peoples around the world have developed their own educational systems, and education for the indigenous peoples in Ecuador is one interesting example of this.

In the 1980s Ecuador established Intercultural bilingual education as a national education system for the indigenous peoples. As a national policy, IBE is innovative in the way how it supports indigenous identities, language and knowledge, as well as interculturality and social transformation towards more egalitarian intercultural society.

The focus of this study is in the implementation of the IBE policy in intercultural bilingual teacher education in Ecuador. How does indigenous knowledge guide an IBE teacher education programme? In which ways indigenous knowledge is perceived, presented, and produced in the teacher education classrooms?

The dissertation is based on a study in an intercultural bilingual teacher education (IBTE) institute in the Amazonian region of Ecuador. The findings of this study show that the young indigenous teacher education students as well as the teacher educators support indigenous identities and knowledge. The teacher educators use some instructional methods that are culturally relevant for the Amazonian indigenous students and bring indigenous knowledge into the classroom. However, more effort is needed to better support Indigenous knowledge and epistemologies within teacher education.

Professor Regina Cortina, Professor Gunilla Holm and MA Tuija Veintie Photo: Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen

In the IBTE institute where the field study was conducted, the majority of the teacher educators were non-indigenous. In Ecuador it is difficult to find indigenous teachers who speak indigenous language and Spanish, and have a qualification as a teacher educator. A similar situation, having teachers from dominant population teaching students with minority background is common in schools and teacher education programmes, not only in Ecuador, but also in other locations, including the Nordic countries.

In the multicultural classrooms teachers meet with cultural, linguistic and epistemological diversity among their students. Therefore, the initial and in-service teacher education should prepare teachers to perceive and respond to this diversity in their classrooms. To respond to the epistemological diversity the teachers should be prepared to hear the minority students and to perceive the minority students’ home languages, knowledge and ways of thinking as valuable resources – and not as obstacles. Teachers should be prepared to create spaces for diverse knowledge and alternative ways of thinking. This way education may support thinking from diverse epistemologies, and further epistemological justice.

The dissertation is also available electronically as an E-thesis publication: https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/253835

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About the Author: Coordinator of JustEd. .

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