HC Deb 22 November 1983 vol 49 c158
12. Mr. Michael Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards teaching ethnic minority pupils in their mother tongue.

Mr. Dunn

Most teaching must inevitably be through the medium of Engish, but it is a view that for some children the use and study of their mother tongue can form a valuable part of a school's approach.

Mr. Brown

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he not concerned that the Inner London education authority spends far too much time and energy concentrating on mother tongue teaching rather than on teaching English?

Mr. Dunn

The important principle that must be in every education authority's mind is that all children must leave school speaking and writing English fluently.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the Minister take this opportunity to express his support for the report published last week on community languages at 16-plus and make it clear that there is a role for a multilingual and multicultural approach in the British education system?

Mr. Dunn

I certainly undertake to read that report. I know the hon. Gentleman's interest in these matters.

Mr. Tracey

May I press my hon. Friend a little further? Does he agree that the style of positive discrimination often practised in ILEA schools is arguably racist in character and extremely harmful?

Mr. Dunn

I am willing to be pressed at any time on this matter. I do not believe that the state should wholly take over the role of minority communities in maintaining the mother tongue and culture. Many parents prefer their children to receive instruction in their religion, language and other aspects of culture within their own community, and that is their right.