Participatory, Small-scale Curriculum Development

Since 2015, the directors and teachers of a school where I have long researched and I have been co-developing a culturally relevant textbook to teach Kichwa to young people who understand Kichwa but struggle to communicate in the language. The book considers findings from my previous research in a couple of ways: First, intercultural bilingual education materials have been written for students who predominantly speak Kichwa, a situation that rarely exists since most students speak Spanish with one another and their parents. In other words, our textbook addresses the finding that students across Ecuador need materials written for learners who no longer speak Kichwa as a dominant language. Second, standardized Kichwa, called Unified Kichwa, is the official variety of the school system. Yet, most teachers and students are not proficient in that variety. We have co-authored the book to teach Kichwa in a variety more closely resembling how parents speak and to increase awareness for the challenges of standardizing Indigenous languages. In our book, we emphasize linguistic differences across ways of communicating in Kichwa, (and not just Kichwa per se).

In addition to making a heritage language textbook, we draw from several political commitments through its authorship. For example, the book aims to foster critical language awareness not just for the importance of using Kichwa in light of colonial histories, and it also attempts to value a plurality of ways of communicating in Kichwa, including different dialects, alphabets, and words that may be falling out of use. The book, thus, contests standardized language ideologies that hold that there is one correct way to write in Kichwa. The book is also an example of a minga, collective labor that enables work to get done that would be too difficult, expensive, or parochial for any one person to carry out alone. A school director and I co-authored the book for years; teachers at the school reviewed and offered suggestions for improvement; and it includes stories and art from the school’s students so that it better reflects their lives as family members who have migrated from the countryside to the city. We piloted the textbook during the 2022-2023 academic year, and we are making the final changes for use and publication.