Face à un système d’enseignement, qui se veut “rassembleur” autour d’une langue unique, mais dont les résultats laissent à désirer, notamment pour les enfants d’origine étrangère, Anna Stevanato Le Marchand propose des espaces pédagogiques pour promouvoir le multilinguisme et en faire une clé de succès pour faire de tous nos enfants les ambassadeurs d’une France ouverte et apaisée.
Dulala s’est lancé en 2009 avec de la recherche-action appuyée par le CNAM. L’association réalise une stratégie de terrain et de campagne auprès des familles concernées, en collaboration avec des écoles, des travailleurs sociaux et des associations de quartier. Plus de 30 langues sont représentées à travers différents ateliers. Dulala a un impact direct sur plus de 4000 enfants par an et est intervenue auprès de plus de 8000 adultes. L’association repose sur une équipe de 6 permanents, 30 intervenants et plus de 15 bénévoles. Des formations sont proposées aux professionnels au contact d’enfants d’origines diverses avec pour objectif de créer un réseau de franchises locales et d’agir en priorité dans les ZUS. Dulala permet de former 1000 personnes par an.
QUI EST-ELLE ?
Italienne et mariée à un français, Anna est mère de 3 enfants bilingues. Elle a notamment étudié en Espagne et en Russie. Diplômée de linguistique, elle découvre l’importance du bilinguisme. Anna donne des cours d’Italien dans une école de Zep. Elle est plurilingue : italien, français, espagnol, russe et dialecte vénitien.
By specifically targeting children in low-income communities and helping them grasp their identity and mother tongues, Anna is actually initiating a deep cultural shift among their families and in their neighborhoods. Through community-based campaigns and grassroots mobilization, she is raising awareness about the value of one’s own language and rendering pride to parents for their ability to share their language and culture with their children.
To reach as many families as possible, Anna is engaging early childhood professionals and extracurricular organizations to adopt her approach and tools as early as possible in children’s learning processes. In addition, she is training teachers to integrate bilingualism into their curriculum. By building a national network of educational professionals who promote and spread bilingualism, Anna is poised to radically transform the perception of cultural and linguistic diversity in French society; ensuring that every child has a true opportunity to build upon their roots and thrive.
Only 5 to 15 percent of the 165,000 children in an age group with immigrant or intermarried parents ever become bilingual. The gap is particularly strong in disadvantaged groups and low-income communities. Immigrants from developing countries, with lower education levels and more vulnerable socio-professional backgrounds, encourage their children to integrate as quickly as possible and to study hard in school, following the general message that the French language is the key to success. Paradoxically, because they are stigmatized and attend lower performing schools, these children would most benefit from the recognition of their cultural identity and from the learning skills they would acquire if they learned and mastered two languages simultaneously. PISA scores demonstrate that France fails to integrate these children effectively: They struggle twice as much as the average student (PISA, 2010).
While increasing the recognition of bilingualism and integrating it into educational practices appears as an imperative to foster equal opportunities in the school system, it requires an in-depth transformation of mentalities and cultures, which is very complex when decision makers do not see a need or opportunity to do so. It requires a deep transformation of teachers’ mindsets, while they tend to be highly attached to the traditional “Republican” school system and resist pedagogical innovation. It also requires increasing the general public’s awareness of the value of cultural and linguistic diversity, while empowering immigrant communities to take pride in their own identity and engage in their children’s education. However, promoting bilingualism effectively has the potential to transform the image of immigrant communities in France and shift the way we value knowledge and diversity, to empower every child to succeed.
Anna’s idea and methods resulted early on in a strong positive response among immigrant families of higher-income backgrounds, most often originating from Western countries. However, Anna struggled initially to reach her priority target group: Low-income families. Low-income families are often stigmatized because of their roots in developing countries and their lower levels of education. From the start, Anna saw the unique opportunity to engage parents in their children’s education and to be proud of their identity, while supporting children to leverage bilingualism and strengthen their cognitive skills. Despite lower fees for disadvantaged households, her first workshops in low-income communities remained empty as parents pushed their children to focus on French. She then shifted her strategy to focus on community-based outreach efforts. These include: Raising awareness among parents, teachers, and social workers regarding the unique opportunity of bilingualism and engaging them in building joint community-based efforts. As a result, Anna increased her workshop frequency from 21 workshops in 11 languages in 2010 to over 60 in 2011, reaching over 1,500 children, with an escalating demand since.
Anna combines her grassroots mobilization efforts with a sustainable economic model—in which she sells the workshops and trainings to direct or indirect beneficiaries—to constitute a strategy that has a strong systemic impact. She has identified 80 partner organizations across the country and is engaging them to use her tools, develop their own pedagogical approaches and promote bilingualism. Anna also offers trainings to a broad range of professionals who interact with migrant children on a daily basis. For example: Early childhood caregivers, teachers, educators, and educational institution administrators. Because she has decided to multiply her reach and capacity, she is now preparing the launch of local franchises that will mobilize low-income communities and identify and train local partner organizations. This process will ensure that every child with immigrant parents takes full advantage of their cultural and linguistic backgrounds to strive and succeed.
Anna naturally decided to teach Italian, and found a teaching post in an at-risk neighborhood’s underperforming school. During her first class, she asked the students who knew a second language (most of whom were of immigrant descent). She was shocked that none of them admitted to knowing a second language. Anna soon understood that French educational culture encouraged them to assimilate rather than cultivate their bilingualism. She was convinced that this contributed to their insecurity, asocial behaviors, and learning challenges. Anna quickly began experimenting and helping students leverage their mother tongues and bilingualism to build their identities and improve their skills.
When Anna’s firstborn child at first struggled with the mix of French and Italian, she looked for organizations that could help her and was startled to find there were none. She decided to create her own, and was quickly overwhelmed with demands from parents facing similar challenges. In order to scientifically demonstrate her intuition of the value of bilingualism for children’s integration, she started an action-research project with a highly recognized research institution (CNAM), while multiplying her experimentations, creating curricula and pedagogical tools and polling immigrant families to identify the type of tools they would need to help their children practice and value their second language.
But while she could have developed her organization to serve middle- and upper-class families, Anna kept her passion for social justice and grew her conviction that immigrants in low-income neighborhoods were those who would most benefit from her work. Without prior experience as an entrepreneur in the citizen sector, Anna has been learning from the best and found strategic support to reach the maximum social impact. With the support of her husband, now a consultant in philanthropy, and of the hub in Paris, she has progressively built her strategy, economic model, and taken opportunities and entry points to reach low-income communities.