University News

Bolivian Journey Awaits WIU Faculty Member

November 8, 2004


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MACOMB, IL – When Western Illinois University Associate Professor Gloria Delany-Barmann applied for a Fulbright Scholar grant last year little did she know life for her – and her family – would undertake a phenomenal transformation this December.

Delany-Barmann, a member of Western’s educational and interdisciplinary studies department faculty, was recently awarded the Fulbright Scholar grant to conduct research in Bolivia from December 2004 until June 2005. She, along with her husband, Chris, and their 17-month-old son, Leif, will journey to the developing nation where Delany-Barmann will research bilingual intercultural teacher training.

According to Delany-Barmann, Bolivia passed an education reform act 10 years ago which included more emphasis on bilingual intercultural education for teachers in training. Because Bolivia has 36 different languages, the inclusion of indigenous (native) language and knowledge is center to the educational systems reform, she explained. As part of her research, she will travel to the teacher training institutions across Bolivia and evaluate their programs.

“Bilingual intercultural education is cutting edge in Bolivia. They have made the commitment to training future teachers in the ways of the major population, which is 62 percent indigenous. I’m really excited about this project because the Ministry of Education there has a policy that states bilingual intercultural education is important for everyone to learn,” Delany-Barmann said. “The country is embracing and placing value on its rich, cultural diversity.”

Delany-Barmann, who has been at Western since 1997, usually sees the other end of the spectrum in regard to her research: native language speakers in transitional bilingual education programs. For instance, she has worked with teachers in Beardstown’s school district to work with the influx of Spanish-speaking students into the district.

Delany-Barmann is preparing for her trip abroad by examining the research on the country’s educational system, and communicating with the Ministry of Education and PROEIB Andes, a consortium of Andean countries engaged in bilingual intercultural teacher training. She is also working on learning a few key phrases in two of the most widely used languages in Bolivia, Quechua and Aimara.

Delany-Barrmann will share her results with the Ministry of Education and PROEIB. In addition, she hopes to bring back to her classroom what she learns overseas.

“Because I train bilingual education teachers here, my work in Bolivia and what I learn there will be so applicable to my courses,” she said. “Bolivians cutting-edge teacher education strategies and policies may also prove to be useful in the U.S.”

Delany-Barmann is no stranger to taking her act on the road to learn more about educational systems. She was a Peace Corps volunteers in Guatemala and in 2001 she returned to Guatemala after receiving a Fulbright-Hayes Projects Abroad grant to work with teachers and students there. The main purpose of that trip was to enhance the quality and quantity of intercultural education in the K-12 schools, using Guatemala as a case study.

“Gaining further knowledge about successful bilingual intercultural teacher training – be it in Bolivia, Guatemala or even here in the states – is of the utmost importance if we are to better serve linguistic minority students,” she said. “Preserving native language is so important anywhere. Of the 175 native languages left in the U.S., only 20 are still being acquired naturally by children. If this trend continues, we can expect no native languages left in the United States within 40 to 50 years. That would be a tremendous loss on many different levels.”

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (DR-Shinberger@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations