Shlomo Alon and Greg Brooks: The Island of Malta - A model of Literacy Changes: Arabic as a European Legitimate Language

Malta, a nice charming island, with a population of about 550 thousand inhabitants, with two co-official languages: English and Maltese (Malti), the only official Semitic Language in Europe and the only one written in a Roman alphabet. Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic, the extinct variety of Arabic that developed in Sicily. Europe is confronting nowadays the explosion of vast immigration of millions with Arabic as a mother tongue. Time, only, will teach us what kind of realization of the European Literacy Declaration will meet the huge challenge of the new Arabic-speaking communities in Europe.

William G. Brozo: Actionable Literacy: A 21st Century Competency for Today’s Youth

In this session, Dr. Brozo provides practical ideas for teachers and teacher leaders to help their students move from literacy knowledge and skill to action.  Guided by the knowledge-performance continuum model, Dr. Brozo demonstrates with examples how teachers have created learning opportunities for their students resulting in demonstrations of adaptive literacy expertise in school and work environments. 

Gunilla Holm: Visual language as a common language?

Billions of photographs and videos are uploaded to social media every day by both teenagers and adults. Likewise, millions of selfies are constructed every day. Some platforms, like Instagram and YouTube, are based mainly on visual images. Visual language is today an important part of multiliteracy. Photos and other visual images are often used to communicate about who we are and what we do. We perceive visual language as a language accessible to all. We believe others will understand what we are intending to say with the images, but how well do the visual images work in our daily communication? Research indicates that photographs without any text are difficult to interpret, but that especially symbolic photographs can be useful in expressing things that are difficult to talk about only verbally. In interview studies and ethnographic research, participatory photography has been shown to provide different kinds of information and understandings than only interviews and participant observations. This presentation will focus especially on how we express our own identifications with the help of photographs. I explore how verbal and visual languages complement each other and what kinds of things are more easily expressed verbally and visually.

Maria Jürimäe: Different languages and cultures in Estonian Kindergartens

In Estonian Kindergarten (early learning and care institutions for children from (1,5)3 to 7) the attitudes toward instructional language, language learning, and multilingualism have been changed a lot during last 30 years.
During the Soviet occupation Estonia had a double-system – so called “Russian” kindergartens and schools, working based on typical Soviet programs that was common for all USSR, and “Estonian” kindergartens and schools, working on programs developed by local educational specialist, carried strong hidden message of preserving Estonian language and culture.
When Estonia got independent again in 1991, different approaches were re-discovered from our past (like pedagogy by Johanne Käis) and borrowed from other countries – child centred pedagogy, Waldorf, and Montessori pedagogy, International Step by Step program. At the same time many kindergarten continued the old way.
The first two national curricula for kindergarten education (1999 and 2008) stepped toward integrated, play based, and child centred early education, but let the two separate systems – “Estonian” and “Russian” kindergartens to go on. Many kindergartens with Russian instructional language joined language immersion program on voluntary bases.
In 2019 the Ministry of Education plans to renew the national curriculum framework for kindergarten. Two separate groups were working on that task, one was planning to end the separation of “Estonian” and “Russian” kindergartens, and introduce Estonian language in curriculum on common bases (as the first or the second language), and also emphasize on multicultural development. Another group is focused on Estonian language and culture only, it sees multilingual families as problems for language development.
In my presentation I will discuss both curricula, their possible advantages and threats.

Kestutis Kaminskas: Challenge for the state‘s educational system: literacy as an important integration precondition of children coming back home from the emigration. 

Emigrants’ families, that left the country and moved to economically strong and wealthy countries after 1990, start coming back home. It is the result of consistent work of state‘s institutions ‘and public organizations ‘work. Coming back children ‘mother tongue competences vary from not being able to talk (and it means not able to learn in the Lithuanian schools) to fluent Lithuanian. Such diversity brings serious challenge for the Lithuanian schools. The state started taking relevant measures to deal with integration problem. The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport initiated research in 2018. It aimed at identifying obstacles of the integration and evaluating good practise of the schools working with emigrants’ families and their children.   The results of this research will be shared with the participants of the conference.   

Maie Kitsing:Summary of PISA 2018 results and main messages

Estonia participated in the PISA Test for the fifth time and the skills of our students are among the best in the world, and in the absolute top of Europe. That in all three fields – mathematics, reading and science knowledge. In the light of these top results it is equally important that the results of our students are barely dependent on the children’s background. Estonia is among the few countries where both high results and students’ satisfaction has been achieved. We can say that our educational policy has justified itself. The country has implemented both principles of justice and equality when dealing with education. While ensuring equality, a lot of attention has been given also to ensuring the quality of education. The development of curriculum and study materials has taken place simultaneously with teacher training. High demands on the qualification of teachers and leaders has enabled to increase the autonomy of schools, due to which the best solutions to every challenge can be found in educational institutions and it has been possible to be creative in development of education. Education is highly valued in Estonia and this shows also in the priorities of the government. 

Irene Käosaar: ‘The mysterious Russian school’, or The story of how Estonian education grew up

When Estonia regained its independence in 1991 it inherited, to all intents and purposes, two completely different school systems. The first joint curriculum was adopted in 1996, but linguistically the systems remained divided.
One year later, the Basic School and Upper Secondary School Act was amended to state that the transition to Estonian-language studies would begin in Russian-speaking schools in 2007.
A conference was held in Narva-Jõesuu in 1998 at which discussions between experts led to a decision to implement full language immersion on a voluntary basis.
By 2014 it was clear that Estonia’s education system had entered a new phase – one of students from different linguistic backgrounds studying together. A programme was
launched with the aim of describing a model, based on the example of Estonian schools, in which representatives of various languages and cultures learn as one.
The changes which have taken place in the last 20 years have been enormous, and people’s attitudes have evolved beyond all recognition. We are no longer talking about whether we should teach Estonian, but how to do so more effectively – and that is some turnaround. We no longer speak of Russian schools somewhere or other that need to do something and thank goodness it doesn’t affect us.
In my presentation I will describe the potential models for multilingual education in Estonia that are generating debate in society.

David Mallows: Literacy as supply and demand

In this talk I will draw on three sources of data to argue for a greater focus by policymakers and researchers on the literacy demands experienced by adults. Large-scale national and international surveys demonstrate the heterogeneity of the population of adults deemed functionally illiterate, leading us to question how such a large and varied group of adults are indeed able to function, and indeed thrive, in society. I will draw on concepts of literacy practices and the literate environment to try to understand the demands on adults’ literacy and suggest that adults with poor literacy skills may be reluctant to engage in learning because they experience very low demand. Engagement in literate practices is an important mechanism through which literacy is improved and developed. If the demands on many adults’ literacy are so low, their skills may decline/fail to develop, leaving a large sub-class excluded from the literate environment and relying on others for interpretation and access to information. This vicious circle of underuse and consequent loss of skills should be a major concern for policy makers.

Ieva Margevica-Grinberga: Reading as  Key to Unlock New Worlds

Reading serves as the foundation for learning the surrounding world already in early childhood. Fairy-tales and stories become our compass to orient ourselves more successfully in complicated life situations, to understand unfamiliar ideas and different points of view. Literature which represents the diversity of people and cultures helps looking at the world through different lenses strengthening the awareness of values. 
Literature possesses also a healing power; not in vain bibliotherapy through the use of stories and poetry allows to gain insight into the personal challenges people are dealing with and to develop strategies to address the most concerning issues. 
The aim of the study is to summarise and analyze the recollections of the first-year university students about reading literature and its impact on their future life. The research data were collected from September 2018 till October 2019, analysing the presentations of 173 first year students which mirrored their reflections about literary works that had significantly affected their further life. 
The data of the study prove that literature read in the childhood and adolescence has helped them gain a better understanding of the diversity of the world, the awareness of how to solve problems as well as provided insight into how other people address and deal with challenges.

Hanna Ragnarsdóttir and Kriselle Lou Suson Jónsdóttir: Building Empowering Multilingual Learning Communities in Icelandic Preschools

Findings of research in Iceland have revealed the marginalization of immigrant children and their parents in schools (Ragnarsdóttir, 2012). However, there are positive indications that some preschools in Iceland are developing successful practices to sustain active participation of immigrant children and collaboration with their parents (Ragnarsdóttir & Kulbrandstad, 2018). The main aim of the paper is to explore how the staff and parents in preschools in Iceland experience inclusion, multilingualism and social justice in their preschools and what educational practices seem to be instrumental for the children’s participation. The paper introduces findings from case studies in preschools in Iceland. Theoretical and conceptual framework includes writings on culturally responsive pedagogy (Gay, 2000) and critical multicultural education (May & Sleeter, 2010) as well as multilingualism and communication (Chumak-Horbatsch, 2012; Cummins, 2004). Findings indicate that the preschools have succeeded in forming collaborative, multilingual and inclusive learning spaces with parents and children, focusing on active bilingualism. However, some challenges and issues need to be resolved.

Jesper Sehested: Children spend less time on reading. But what about those, who never get started?

Danish research shows that young people spend less time on reading in their daily life. I was one of those, who pulled down the average reading time when I was young. I’m dyslexic and in elementary school books were something I stayed as far away from as possible. 
The books I was able to read were childish and not stimulating for my age. Additionally it didn’t improve the fact that I felt different when the books were really booklets while my friends were reading exciting and thick hardcover books. 
So it wasn’t a straight road into the world of books for me. Instead I found entertainment elsewhere. The screens became my source of entertainment and enlightenment. 
Fortunately, something happened that made me able to see my difficulties from a new point of view and gave me the courage to open the world of books and the written language. 
Today I’ve taken it a step further and become an author. My goal is to get young dyslexics to feel comfortable in a world of letters, even if they are teasing. 
So how can we do that?