Who are you?
Dr. Guofang Li: I am a Professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Transnational/Global Perspectives of Language and Literacy Education of Children and Youth in the Department of Language and Literacy Education, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Canada.
My theory for research is that to better educate immigrant children and help them succeed, we need better trained teachers. Teachers who can utilize students’ knowledge in first language and culture to support their second language and value parents’ cultural beliefs in education (even if they are different from their own). We need to use effective teaching strategies that are specifically useful to the immigrant children population.
What problem are you solving?
Many factors influence immigrants and their children’s ability to acquire a second language. My early research demonstrated that cultural beliefs, along with other factors such as parental educational backgrounds, occupational choices/chances, and their adaptation and integration into Canadian society contributed to their child’s ability to learn a second language.
An area of my later research focused on the interaction of culture and social class on the education of immigrant children. In one project, I focused on affluent Hong Kong immigrants and their children in Vancouver. In another project, I focused on multi-ethnic, low socio-economic immigrants, also known as the “Rainbow Underclass,” which included immigrants and refugees from Sudan, Vietnam, and Europe and poor whites living in one U.S. inner city.
How does your idea contribute to society?
There are four main audiences my research aims to affect—English as a second-language children and adults, parents, teachers, and policymakers. My main contribution is that I want to challenge the societal mindset that views English language learners as a deficit rather than an asset. By paying attention to their first language resources and the human capital one brings, we can equip teachers with more knowledge and better skills to teach these students. We can help parents better understand and engage in supporting their children’s education in their host country, while providing better achievement evidence to inform policy.
What do you need now?
Time, funding and the ability to reach policy makers. More funding would enable to me to take on more graduate students and pursue a number of ideas on how to improve language and literacy education for this marginalized population.