Designing for Complexity in Mother Tongue or First Language (L1)-Based Multilingual Education Programs


  • Corrie Blankenbeckler Creative Associates International


Mother-tongue, Multilingual education, Complexity, Non-linear design, Early literacy, Theory of change, Sociolinguistics, Psycholinguistics, Language policy and planning


Mother-tongue or first language (L1)-based multilingual education programs are necessarily complex and may require a more nonlinear approach to program design. These programs operate within and act upon a range of psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic, and sociopolitical issues that include language structure and literacy assessment, language policy and politics, and cultural and social behavior change linked to literacy expansion. The broad use of one-size-fits-all outcomes-based design approaches for L1-based multilingual education programs often result in designs that are retrofitted to new country settings and ill-suited to the context in which they are implemented. This paper looks at some of the many features that can be used to inform the development of L1-based multilingual education in the context of early literacy programming. Specifically, it examines the use of alternative approaches in the development of flexible theory of change design that integrate early literacy and L1-based multilingual education program design frameworks to more suitably address the sociolinguistic, sociopolitical, and psycholinguistic assumptions underpinning multilingual education approaches.

Author Biography

Corrie Blankenbeckler, Creative Associates International

Corrie Blankenbeckler is a senior technical advisor in the Education Division at Creative Associates International. She has over fifteen years' experience in developing and managing formal and non-formal education programs in diverse environments in the Middle East/North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. In her current role, she leads in program design and provides technical quality assurance and support for Creative projects around the world. Since 2016 she has provided project direction and technical support for the bilingual early grade reading project in Mozambique. She has an M.A. in international education development from Teachers College of Columbia University, and has deep expertise in mother-tongue based multilingual curriculum design.