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Bilingual Research Journal

The Journal of the National Association for Bilingual Education

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Intercultural bilingual educational policies for

transnational Indigenous communities: School
experiences of the Wich-Weenhayek people on
the Argentinean-Bolivian border

Zaynab Gates, Diego X. Romn & Karla del Rosal

To cite this article: Zaynab Gates, Diego X. Romn & Karla del Rosal (2016) Intercultural
bilingual educational policies for transnational Indigenous communities: School experiences of
the Wich-Weenhayek people on the Argentinean-Bolivian border, Bilingual Research Journal,
39:3-4, 213-230

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Published online: 21 Nov 2016.

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Download by: [Zaynab Gates] Date: 21 November 2016, At: 09:29

2016, VOL. 39, NOS. 34, 213230


Intercultural bilingual educational policies for transnational

Indigenous communities: School experiences of the
Wich-Weenhayek people on the Argentinean-Bolivian border
Zaynab Gatesa, Diego X. Romnb, and Karla del Rosalb
Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Ecuador; bSouthern Methodist University

Utilizing Ruizs (1984, 1995) language orientation and language policy work, this
ethnographic study compared two intercultural bilingual education (IBE) schools
located in two Wich-Weenhayek communities on both sides of the
Argentinean-Bolivian border. We examined Wich-Weenhayek and non-
Indigenous teachers profiles, teacher-student interactions, and school-commu-
nity relations. Findings showed that Wich-Weenhayek teachers in Argentina
played only teacher-aid roles and were unable to promote the Wich language as
resource. Although the Wich-Weenhayek teachers in Bolivia taught in both
languages and were in charge of instruction, these teachers did not have
enough pedagogical training or materials to meet the language-as-right and
language-as-resource goals of their IBE program. Regarding teacher-students
interactions, the non-Indigenous teachers in Argentina used a teacher-centered
model of instruction, while in Bolivia, teachers commonly interacted with their
students using Wich and employed more student-centered strategies. Finally,
the school-community relationship in Argentina only happened in school
because the non-Indigenous principal and teachers did not live in the same
town as their students. In Bolivia, on the other hand, children and families
commonly interacted with their Wich-Weenhayek teachers inside and outside
the school because all of them lived in the same town. Implications for the
development of IBE programs that serve transnational Indigenous communities
are discussed here.

Many Indigenous or mother tongues have been lost in South America due to the Spanish conquest,
colonialism, and the wide use of the Spanish language in the region (Escobar, 2013). Although most Latin
American countries became independent states in the first half of the 19th century, autonomy from Spain
only marginally improved the socioeconomic, linguistic, and educational conditions of Indigenous com-
munities in the area (Aman & Ireland, 2015). In fact, many language policies in Latin American schools still
reflect the history of linguistic domination and oppression under which Indigenous communities function
in the prevailing colonial organization of Latin American societies (Lpez, 2008, p. 141).
Over the last decades, however, counterhegemonic processes, such as the Indigenous bilingual education
movements in the Andean countries (i.e., Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Argentina), have challenged
what Phillipson (1998) described as the linguistic imperialism (p. 104) of European languages. One of
those processes, the intercultural bilingual education (IBE) programs, has not only defied linguistic

CONTACT Diego X. Romn Department of Teaching and Learning, Simmons School of Education and
Human Development, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275.
Zaynab Gates is an Educational Consultant graduated from Facultad Latinoamerica de Ciencias Sociales in Quito, Ecuador.
Diego X. Romn and Karla del Rosal are Assistant Professors in Bilingual Education at the Department of Teaching and Learning at
the Simmons School of Education at Southern Methodist University.
Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at
2016 the National Association for Bilingual Education

homogenization policies but has also attempted to disrupt the unequal division of power and resources
between groups defined on the basis of language (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1988). Yet, IBE programs pose
interesting sociolinguistic questions because their implementation contests the links between languages
and nations that resulted from the emergence of nation-states worldwide (Hornberger, 2014; Unamuno,
With a few notable exceptions (e.g., see Escobar, 2013; Lpez, 2009), most research that has examined
various social, linguistic, and economic topics related to IBE programs has done so within one country (e.g.,
see King, 2001; Unamuno, 2014). Therefore, there is scarce information regarding the impact that IBE
programs have had on transnational Indigenous communitiespeople belonging to the same Indigenous
group but divided by the international borders imposed by nation-states (Koivurova, 2012). Transnational
Indigenous communities, however, account for 20% of the 522 Indigenous peoples living in Latin America,
and one-fourth of the 420 languages they speak are used across borders (Sichra, 2010).
To expand the literature regarding the education of transnational Indigenous groups, in this article we
present a focused ethnographic study (Lecompte & Schensul, 2010) in which we employed Richard
Ruizs language orientations (1984) and language policy work (1995) to examine challenges and
opportunities offered by the implementation of two IBE programs for the Wich-Weenhayek transna-
tional Indigenous community. Specifically, we analyzed teachers profiles, teacher-student interactions,
and school-community relations to answer the following research questions: What are the similarities
and differences in the implementation of the IBE programs for the Wich-Weenhayek transnational
Indigenous community in Argentina and Bolivia? And what types of language-orientation approaches
are reflected in the implementation of these IBE programs?

Theoretical framework
More than 30 years ago, Richard Ruiz (1984) argued that conceptualizing language-as-resource can be of
fundamental importance in achieving bilingual education and language planning goals as long as these
programs recreate, sustain, and promote instrumental and emotional attachments to the communitys
mother tongue. Ten years later, Ruiz (1995) elaborated on this work by considering the effects that
exoglossic (e.g., promoting a dominant language), endoglossic (e.g., promoting a nondominant language),
and mixed-language policies (e.g., bilingual policies promoting both dominant and nondominant lan-
guage) can have on bilingual education and on language revitalization efforts in Indigenous communities.
In what follows, we describe how we used Ruizs language orientation and language policy work in the
context of IBE programs in Argentina and Bolivia to establish the theoretical framework of our study.

Language-as-problem and exoglossic language policies

In the 1960s, most bilingual programs for nondominant languages and Indigenous children in the United
States were conceived as remedial education for the poor and had the sole purpose of teaching English (Ruiz,
1984). Furthermore, Ruiz pointed out that bilingual programs that followed this perspective (e.g., transi-
tional bilingual education models) conceptualized nondominant languages as problems to be resolved
(1984, p. 19), thus requiring children to learn English at the expense of the childs mother tongue.
In a later work that focused on Indigenous communities in the United States, Ruiz (1995) classified
programs that promoted a language-as-problem approach under exoglossic language policies because of
the primacy they give to languages external to the Indigenous communitiesin most cases European
languages that were imposed during colonial times. Ruiz (1995) argued that exoglossic language policies
and language-as-problem approaches have been detrimental to Indigenous languages worldwide because
they have promoted a pre-rational association between LWC [language of wider communication] and
modernization (and, by implication, the Indigenous language with primitivity) (p. 76). One of the
attitudes that frame this approach is deficit thinking, i.e., the assumption that students from nondomi-
nant groups are deficient in their ability to learn and think (McNelly, 2015, p. 5). This deficit-thinking

perspective translates into monolingual dominant language policies that seek to assimilate nondominant
populations into the dominant group (McNelly, 2015, p. 7).
In the particular cases of Argentina and Bolivia, the 1940s and 1950s marked a period in which
the governments of these countries were trying to extend and integrate their citizens to their national
projects. Reflecting the European state-creation models (Unamuno, 2014), the Argentinean and
Bolivian governments employed linguistic homogenization as a tool for the creation of their states.
In other words, these state-construction processes occurred, especially in Argentina, without any
consideration of the ethnic and linguistic identity of Indigenous populations (Hirsch & Serrudo,
Although the immigration patterns and demographic composition in Argentina and Bolivia
differed and still differs greatly (Lpez, 2009), the massive immigration of people from Italy,
Spain, and France to Argentina, as well as the great number of Indigenous languages in both
countries, particularly in Bolivia, moved the Spanish-speaking dominant classes to impose, through
schooling, Spanish as the only legitimate language in these countries (Unamuno, 2014). In the end,
the national education models imposed exoglossic and culturally homogenizing policies in both
states (Lpez & Murillo, 2006).
It is not surprising that the bilingual education models employed in Argentina and Bolivia were
transitional in naturethat is, mother tongues or L1 were only used as vehicles to learn Spanish and
to secure the transmission of subject matter and were soon discarded once children were able to
function in the dominant national language (Abram, 2004). In addition, the language models in both
countries reflected a problem-solving (Ruiz, 1984, p. 21) approach that over the years has had
several negative effects on the cultural and social diversity of these nation-states (Hirsch & Serrudo,
2010; Unamuno, 2014).

Language-as-right and endoglossic language policies

Ruiz (1984) posits that the emergence of the language-as-right movement in the United States was
closely linked to the Hispanic communitys demand for bilingual education as a civil rights issue.
According to Ruiz, bilingual education and language-as-right processes emphasize that mother
tongue instruction is an inalienable human right and that students have the right to use their own
language during instruction. Although bilingual schools that employed Indigenous communities L1
in instruction existed at the beginning of the 20th century in Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador (Lpez &
Sichra, 2008), the international discourses in the 1970s and 1980s that promoted the protection of
the human rights of minority groups influenced the language-as-right initiatives in the United States
as well as in other areas of the world (Ruiz, 1984). According to Unamuno (2014), language-as-right
policies came as a reaction to the silence when it comes to language issues (p. 411) that
characterized governmental programs toward Indigenous groups since colonial times.
In Latin America, language-as-right demands came as part of movements that asked governments
to address the rights of Indigenous peoples to land, culturally appropriate justice, health, education,
and ultimately, to self-government (Lpez & Murillo, 2006). Among the great achievements of these
social movements was the development of intercultural bilingual education (IBE) programs for
Indigenous communities (Lpez, 2009). IBE programs in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America
started to transform bilingual education from transitional to conservation and development
programs that allowed Indigenous children to become bilingual in their mother tongues and created
processes for the revitalization of mother tongues within Indigenous communities (Abram, 2004).
In addition, the intercultural component of IBE programs challenges the assumption of the
superiority of European cultures and languages over others (Abram, 2004). Yet, Ruiz points out
that language-as-right approach generates resistance because it was born out of confrontational
processes. McNelly (2015) also points out that this approach can produce weak forms of bilingual
education that include transitional, mainstream, and separatist programs serving language minority
students (p. 12).

Language-as-resource and mixed language policies

Ruizs (1984) conceptualization of the benefits of using a language-as-resource approach in language
planning policies has gained more recognition since the 1980s (Baker, 2011). The principles that
frame this approach are the construction of a pluralistic society, preservation of cultural identity,
promotion of tolerance, and cooperation between diverse cultural groups (McNelly, 2015). Programs
that use a language-as-resource approach translate into strong bilingual programs (dual programs or
two-way bilingual programs) in which the mother tongue and the dominant language are introduced
at the same time or in quick succession (McNelly, 2015).
According to Ruiz, the benefits of a language-as-resource approach not only alleviates some of the
conflicts emerging out of the other two orientations [i.e., language-as-problem and language-as-right]
(p. 25) but can also enhance the status of nondominant languages, ease tensions between communities,
present opportunities to value the roles of other languages in society, and emphasize the need for
collaboration in language planning. In fact, Ruiz (1995) states that most mixed policies are bilingual
policies that accommodate and promote both mother languages and external languages (p. 76). Ruiz
identified a few examples of successful mixed states such as Australia with the promotion of English
and aboriginal languages.
In the case of IBE programs in Latin America, Lpez (2009) describes that although IBE models
emerged using the transitional de facto model of bilingual education, during the 1980s and 1990s IBE
programs started to transition to a language-as-right model as a result of social movements that occurred
in that period. During that period, IBE programs also began to emphasize the right of Indigenous groups
across the continent to have access to high-quality education in their own mother tongues (King, 2001).
Unamuno (2014) points out that the evolution of IBE models has continued in the last decades and that
currently, most IBE programs in Latin America have adopted a language-as-resource approach to reflect
the wider agreement on the benefits of bilingual education (p. 410).
The transition that has occurred in IBE models to a language-as-resource approach echoes Bakers
(2011) position that using a language-as-resource approach in academic settings can lead to more
balanced bilingual education programs that promote bilingualism and biculturalism. In fact, early
studies of IBE programs have shown academic gains and increased L1 and L2 skills among
Indigenous students in Mexico and Peru (Lpez & Sichra, 2008). Ruiz (1995), however, indicates
that there are tremendous challenges (e.g., the availability of qualified bilingual teachers, adequate
funding, bilingual materials) in the implementation of such policies. Furthermore, Ruiz states that
even when there is a genuine effort to equally promote the language of wider communication (LWC)
and the mother tongue, more often than not, the LWC is reserved for public and powerful subjects
and functions, the indigenous language for private, community-based functions (p. 77). Finally, the
overall academic quality of IBE schools has been questioned due to lack of financial support and
adequate policies in various countries (Lpez & Sichra, 2008; Cueto & Secada, 2005).

Summary: From language-as-problem to language-as-resource

In this section we have provided an overview of Ruizs language orientation and language policy work in
the context of IBE programs. Figure 1 shows the context in which IBE programs act in relation to Ruizs
work. In our conceptualization, IBE programs should ideally reflect aspects of language-as-resource and
language-as-right approaches in the contexts of endoglossic and mixed-language policies.
Yet, little is known in regards to how these perspectives are reflected in everyday instructional
practices, especially for transnational Indigenous communities. Therefore, in our study we analyzed
how Ruizs language orientation and language policy principles have been implemented in two
schools that follow IBE programs for the Wich-Weenhayek transnational people in the
Argentinean-Bolivian border.

Figure 1. Intercultural bilingual education programs in relation to Ruiz's language perspectives and language-policy work.

Our study followed what Lecompte and Schensul (2010) define as a focused ethnography. Focused
ethnographies concentrate on an issue of interest in a given community and can last for a few weeks,
depending on the situation. This type of ethnography uses multiple data sources to obtain information
about the issue of interest from different key actors in the community. This focused ethnographic
approach allowed us to embed our research in the social reality of the Wich-Weenhayek people within a
limited time frame (i.e., eight weeks) and a defined geographical location (the provinces of Tarija in
Bolivia and Salta in Argentina).
The focused ethnographic work we report in this article examined the daily school experiences of
teachers and students in schools located in two Wich-Weenhayek towns. According to Rockwell (1995),
daily school experience is defined as a formative context for teachers and students that is built through daily
practices and contains the dimensions of school experience and teachers preparation and attitudes with an
emphasis on linguistic and cultural factors. Using Rockwells definition, we examined teachers profiles,
teacher-student interactions, and the school-community relationships in relation to their IBE programs.
One of the members of our team, Zaynab Gates, conducted the focused ethnography fieldwork.
Ms. Gates was driven by her Wich-Weenhayek heritage and interest in the issues of intercultural
bilingual education and language policies for her people. In the following section, Zaynab discusses
her role as a researcher in this ethnography and the biases and advantages that her particular
relationship with the communities may have brought.

Researchers role
My name is Zaynab Gates. My relationship with the Wich-Weenhayek community is one of contrasts.
Although my mother is a Wich-Weenhayek, my family moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina when I was
three. I attended primary and secondary school there and later went to college in Chile and Ecuador.
However, over the years, my family ties kept nurturing a deep emotional connection with the Wich-
Weenhayek people. Through our conversations and our visits to my mothers side of the family, I had
multiple opportunities to learn about the rich history and traditions of the Wich-Weenhayek people and
experience their way of life firsthand, although I only learned a few words in Wich. My family connections
and the invaluable support of my mothers brother gave me the opportunity to go back many years later to
the Wich-Weenhayek territory to conduct this study. Although many qualitative studies of IBE schools in
Argentina and Bolivia exist (see Hetch & Schmidt, 2016; Hirsch & Serrudo, 2010; Lpez, 2009), the value of
the research presented in this study lies in my position as a field researcher in the Wich-Weenhayek
Given my heritage, I am not an external researcher, nor am I a totally native one. Being a
Wich-Weenhayek myself, I had no trouble establishing my residence in the communities that were

part of this study. However, I recognize the advantages and disadvantages that my background
brought to my role as a researcher. On the one hand, my family ties allowed me to establish
relationships of trust with members of the Wich-Weenhayek communities with ease. However,
these ties also put me in a web of old alliances and enmities that could have influenced my access to
information and may have caused some biases in the way I interpreted it. Over the course of the
ethnography, I recognize and address the moments in which my closeness to some groups in the
Wich-Weenhayek communities may have influenced my work.

Time spent in the setting

Between November 2011 and May 2012, Zaynab Gates spent eight weeks in two Wich-Weenhayek
communities in Argentina and Bolivia. The names of the communities and of the schools observed
are not disclosed to preserve their confidentiality. These particular Wich-Weenhayek communities
were a convenience sample and were selected due to Zaynabs family connections and the availability
of information about the areas. At the time of the study, the two Wich-Weenhayek communities
selected were similar in size and were located in strategic areas of the Wich-Weenhayek territory.
The schools described in this study did not have any type of communication with each other in
terms of sharing resources, materials, or programs.

The Wich-Weenhayek people

In terms of self-identification, the Wich-Weenhayek people in Argentina call themselves Wich (meaning
people or humans), while in Bolivia in recent decades they have used the term Weenhayek (sometimes
written Weenhayej, meaning different). In this article we have chosen the terms Indigenous people and the
Wich-Weenhayek people to recognize both the term most widely used in international legislation regarding
Indigenous peoples rights and the term used by this Indigenous people.
In relation to the number of individuals who consider themselves Wich-Weenhayek, in 2001
Argentina included for the first time in its census a survey on ethnic self-identification. The results of
this census showed that 1.3% of the 40 million Argentineans (i.e., approximately 600,000 people)
identified themselves as belonging to Indigenous groups (INDEC, 2006). Among them, 40,000 declared
to be Wich-Weenhayek, which made them the fourth-largest Indigenous group in Argentina after the
Mapuches, Kollas, and Qom. In Bolivia, according to the census of 2001, the total population was
approximately 8 million people. Of this total, 3.2 million people (i.e., 65.8% of the Bolivian population)
identified themselves as belonging to Indigenous groups90% of whom are Quechua, Aymara, or
Guaran. The Wich-Weenhayek people in Bolivia have 3,0005,000 members (Sichra, 2010).
Regarding their location, Figure 2 shows that the territory the Wich-Weenhayek transnational
people have traditionally occupied is located on the banks of the great Pilcomayo river, within an
imaginary triangle linking the vertices represented by three cities: (A) Puerto Cornejo (Formosa,
Argentina), (B) La Unin (Salta, Argentina), and (C) Villamontes (Tarija, Bolivia). As in countless
other cases in Latin America, the ancestral territory inhabited by the Wich-Weenhayek was
artificially divided by the borders of nation-states.
The Wich-Weenhayek people have been historically marginalized, have a high poverty index, and
have faced a systematic exclusion of basic governmental services (UNICEF, 2009). According to a
recent study conducted by UNICEF (2009) in the Argentinean province of Formosa, 48.3% of the
Wich-Weenhayek Argentinean population have not completed elementary education and 19.9% do
not have any formal instruction. The socioeconomic struggles of the Wich-Weenhayek have
worsened in the last decades due to the invasion of their territory by companies associated with
the Argentinean soy production boom (UNICEF, 2009).

Figure 2. Territory of the Wich-Weenhayek.

IBE programs and the Wich-Weenhayek Indigenous people in Argentina and Bolivia
Argentina has historically considered the education of Indigenous communities as a dilemma
between civilization and barbarism (Briones & Guber, 2008). Even populist President Juan Pern,
who took power in 1945 and promoted the inclusion of an enormous popular base and expanded the
limits of citizenship, ignored issues related to the education of Indigenous communities in his
political project (Hirsch & Serrudo, 2010). The exclusion and discrimination toward Indigenous
communities in educational settings remained unchanged in Argentina until the return of demo-
cratic regimes in the 1980s (Hirsch & Serrudo, 2010). It was then that a wave of liberal movements
and the strengthening of Indigenous organizations prompted the start of educational reforms for
Indigenous peoples that were subsequently transformed into state policy (Hirsch & Serrudo, 2010).
Yet, only in 2004, late in comparison to all the other countries in South America, the Argentinean
government created the National Program for IEB (Programa Nacional de Educacin Intercultural
Bilinge [PNEIB]) (Hirsch & Serrudo, 2010). At the end of that year, the Argentinean Ministry of
Education presented a report of IBE initiatives in which programs adopted for the Wich-
Weenhayek community were described as successful (Ministerio de Educacin de Argentina,
2004). In addition, the report indicated that IBE programs that included Wich were the most
widely adopted among Indigenous communities in the country. In 2009, another report by the
Ministry continued to highlight the success of IBE programs for the Wich-Weenhayek people but
also recommended areas in need of improvement, especially in relation to curriculum development
Ministerio de Educacin de Argentina, 2009).

The Indigenous population in Bolivia represents the majority of its inhabitants, but Indigenous
communities are at the bottom of the social pyramid (Regalsky, 2003). Indigenous culture that even
today is still seen by the [Bolivian] State as backward manners has imposed itself over bureaucratic
classifications and even over genocidal practices (Regalsky, 2003, p. 70). In the area of education, for
example, Indigenous communities in Bolivia were able to gain access to bilingual education
programs earlier than other countries in South America (Regalsky, 2003).
One of the achievements of Indigenous communities in Bolivia was the official recognition in 1992 of the
Project for Intercultural Bilingual Education (PEIB-MEC) by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Then,
in 1994, the Ministry officially turned the IBE project into a nationwide policy and allocated financial
resources for the training of Indigenous teachers and for developing educational materials in Quechua,
Aymara, and Guaranialthough in the case of the Wich-Weenhayek and other communities with fewer
speakers, the government allocated fewer funds to create some basic materials. As part of this process, in
2008 the Ministry of Education created the curriculum called Saberes y conocimientos del pueblo Weenhayek
[Ancestral Knowledge of the Weenhayek People] (Ministerio de Educacin y Culturas de Bolivia, 2008). In
addition, the Ministry of Education developed a decentralized approach for the management and imple-
mentation of IBE programs that gave more power to the various Indigenous groups (Lpez, 2009) . In both
countries, cross-border collaboration has not been promoted as an official public policy approach.

Data sources
The data sources for this study consisted of interviews and observations. Zaynab Gates conducted the
fieldwork and interviewed key members in each community, inside the schools and in other important
sectors. These members were recommended both by school personnel and community leaders.
Interviews were semistructured, covering the perceptions of teachers roles, the contribution of the
IBE schools to the language revitalization goals, and school-community relations. These three common
topics were asked about of all the people interviewed, and then the conversation followed the inter-
viewees concerns. In total, 22 interviews were conducted. Also, Zaynab conducted 10 classroom and
workshop observations, with a focus on the first grade in which teaching of the mother tongue was
mandated by IBE policy. Table 1 shows the data sources collected in each community.
Data analysis was influenced by the methodological and conceptual contributions of ethnography
scholars conducting work in Latin American schools. School ethnographies in Latin America intend to
consider and to understand the historical, political, and economic issues that, beyond the school setting,
shape the social and educational experiences of participants in a given instructional context (Levinson,
Sandoval-Flores, & Bertely-Busquets, 2007). In this study, a deductive coding system was developed
considering concepts that addressed school experiences at a broader and at a more localized level and
that emerged from the work of Rockwell (1995, 2006) and Ezpeleta and Rockwell (1987) in Mexico and of
Neufeld and Thisted (1999) and Achilli (2001) in Argentina.

Table 1. Data sources in each community.

Argentina (Nuevo Pilcomayo) Bolivia (Nueva Esperanza)
Number of Interviews At Schools Number of Interviews At Schools
Wich-Weenhayek ABs 3 Wich-Weenhayek teachers 3
Criollos (Non-Indigenous) Teachers 3 Criollos (Non-Indigenous) Teachers 0
Criollos (Non-Indigenous) Principals 1 Indigenous Principals 2
In the Community In the Community
Community Leaders 2 Community Leaders 3
Community Members 3 Community Members 2
Number of Classrooms Observed: 1st, 2nd, 3rd grades (two 5 Number of Classrooms Observed: 1st, 2nd, 3rd grades 5
times); 4th grade one time, youth workshops two times. (two times); 4th grade one time, youth workshops
two times.

Considering the work of Ezpeleta and Rockwell (1987), the coding system included codes that
addressed the sociopolitical and historical contexts in which these schools were situated and what
these scholars defined as everyday school occurrences at the local level. Also, considering the work
of Neufeld and Thisted (1999) and Achilli (2001), the coding system included codes identifying what
they defined as teacher practices to describe what happened in the classroomto teachers and
studentsdue to teachers instructional decisions. These deductive codes with different levels of
focus, allowed the analysis to capture: (a) the design of the IBE program, (b) the implementation of
the policy in the classroom, and (c) the way in which different local actors and institutions related
with the program and its implementation. After codifying both the observations and interviews
using the inductive coding system, themes around the research topics of teachers, students, and
community emerged. These themes were organized with the purpose of identifying patterns and
convergences between data sources, schools, teachers, and communities.

School description
Due to its size, construction materials, and central location, the school in which this study took place
is clearly the most important building in the small town of Nuevo Pilcomayo (pseudonym). Nuevo
Pilcomayo has approximately 1,500 inhabitants and is located an hour by bus from the nearest
Criollo (non-Indigenous) townnear the limits of the ever-expanding agro-industrial complex in the
province of Salta. The original school was built by missionaries of the Anglican Church in 1920 and
was later transferred to the public system.
At the time of the study, the school served 340 students from Kindergarten to ninth gradeall the
students were Wich-Weenhayek. The school had a total of 12 teachers, all of them Criollo, one principal
(also Criollo), and six Wich-Weenhayek bilingual teacher-assistants (ABs, for the Spanish acronym
Auxiliar Bilinge). The function of the ABs was to move from classroom to classroom providing bilingual
Wich support to monolingual teachers at all grade levelsthere were no courses taught only in Wich, nor
was there a system that established how both languages were supposed to be used or taught by students or

Teacher profiles
For teachers to obtain their certifications, the Argentinean Ministry of Education requires that they study
for three years beyond high school at the instituto normala tertiary teacher-training institution common
in Latin America. Yet, in Nuevo Pilcomayo, only the Criollo (i.e., non-Indigenous) teachers had fulfilled this
requirement. In contrast, the Wich-Weenhayek teachers only worked as ABsa position that only
requires a high school degree. During the interviews, the Indigenous teachers reported that to receive the
AB positions they had to demonstrate their knowledge of the Wich language and bring a letter from the
community stating that they had the communitys support. Wich-Weenhayek ABs lamented that without
a teacher certification they were not eligible for teacher or principal positions.
It was not due to lack of interest that the Indigenous teachers at the school at Nuevo Pilcomayo
had not become certified teachers. According to one AB, access to the additional training at the
instituto normal required them to move out of their community. Furthermore, another AB indicated
that her family told her that they would not support her moving away to the city to attend the
instituto for safety reasons. Furthermore, the three Wich-Weenhayek ABs interviewed pointed out
that living in the city implied additional costs, attending classes at night, and potentially exposing
their children to discriminatory attitudes by the Criollos.
Almost all the Criollo teachers who worked at the school at Nuevo Pilcomayo lived approximately
45 kilometers away from the schoolwith the exception of one teacher who lived at the school and
another one who rented a room within the community. Even though most Criollo teachers had been

working at the school for an average of 10 years, they had decided not to move to Nuevo Pilcomayo.
On the contrary, Indigenous teachers live in the same community and were seen actively participat-
ing in various activities during the week and on weekends.
In the school at Nuevo Pilcomayo, classroom observations showed that the Criollo teachers
mostly used ABs as translators. That is, the non-Indigenous teachers were in charge of instruction,
and ABs were asked to translate some of the instructional practices for the Wich-Weenhayek
children at various points during the lessons. During the interviews, the Indigenous ABs pointed
out that they perceived their role as subordinate to the Criollo teachers. One Wich-Weenhayek AB
mentioned that ABs were consistently excluded from meetings with the principal.
During the interview with the principal, she indicated that the school has acknowledged the
educational and cultural advantages of having bilingual Wich-Spanish teachers since 1987. Yet, a
member of the community said that the school authorities were forced by the community to start
teaching in Wich and thus hired Wich-Weenhayek ABs that year. This community member also
indicated that the school only complied with these practices to access additional funds without any
interest in the cultural and educational benefits of the IBE program. It is interesting to note that the
field researcher was advised by a family member to not disclose at the initial interview with the
principal her Wich heritage due to negative attitudes this principal has had toward the Wich-
Weenhayek in the past.

Teacher-student interactions
Criollo teachers presented lessons standing in front of the class, using the blackboard or big
illustrations. They sometimes asked for students participation, but most of the time, the class
followed the traditional lecture approach: The teacher presented the content, and students were
silent. During the classroom observations, the Criollo teachers were seen at various times showing
aggressive attitudes toward the Wich-Weenhayek children (e.g., shouting and harsh scolding). On
the other hand, ABs were, without exception, gentle and soft-spoken when dealing with the children.
During recesses, ABs were seen talking with Wich-Weenhayek children in the schoolyard. When
asked about how close they feel to their students, ABs reported that they are very close because they
belong to the same community, and the students are their children or children of their neighbors
and friends.
During the interviews, ABs reported that they were trying their best to help Wich-Weenhayek
children learn Wich. Yet, ABs reported facing three challenges: Diminishing use of the Wich
language within the family space, the absence of a specific textbook that addresses the different
dialects of Wich, and the lack of spaces to engage students in writing in Wich. The ABs reported
that a Wich alphabet is available, but that Wich has not yet gone through a normalization process
(e.g., standardizing the spelling of words). As one teacher indicated, We need a Wich principal who
knows our language. Then we can ask him when we have doubts about how to write some words.
Finally, Wich-Weenhayek ABs indicated that elders in the community are wary of sharing their
stories, knowledge of Wich, and their peoples traditions because they have seen how researchers
come and conduct observations and studies, but they have not seen any benefits from these studies
to the local community. In addition, one AB indicated that the Criollo teachers constantly ask them
to write down the myths, traditions, and games of the Wich-Weenhayek but that what they write is
presented in portfolios to the regional authorities only for the benefit of the Criollo teachers, with no
recognition of the work done by the ABs.

School-community relationships
The relationship witnessed between the school at Nuevo Pilcomayo and the community reflected the
racial hierarchies in the Argentinean society. The schools principal was a Criolla appointed to the
school by local authorities in accordance with the educational system regulations (e.g., degree and
years of experience). In the school observed, the principal received from the central government
resources to provide children with free breakfast, school lunch, and other school materials (e.g.,

uniforms, notebooks, and pens). Yet, a mother of one of the students commented during an
interview that, on occasion, the materials received by the school were sold to the children instead
of being delivered at no cost.
During the interviews, two Criollo teachers discussed the free resources the school provides using
a deficit perspective. These teachers indicated that families only sent their children to school so they
can access those free resources but are not motivated to come to school to study. These teachers
mentioned that the school has had to give some school materials as prizes to ensure the continued
assistance of children to school (i.e., notebooks or pencils were given to children at the end of the
week to reward attendance). In another interview, one Wich mother acknowledged that attendance
is a problem but pointed out that she does not force her children to attend because they dont teach
well and that the quality of the school is low.

Bolivia school
The school in the town of Nueva Esperanza (pseudonym) in Bolivia is a U-shaped building with a big gate
that is usually open. The building contains five classrooms that surround a central patio. The school also has
a soccer field with covered seating for the public. The school was built by the Swedish Mission [Misin
Libre Sueca], a Swedish protestant church, that later transferred the school to the Ministry of Education.
At the time of the study, the school served a total of 100 students attending first through seventh
grade. The faculty consisted of 14 teachers, of whom five were Wich-Weenhayek, and a principal
who was also Wich-Weenhayek. The school had two programs: The IBE program from first to third
grade and the Spanish-only program from fourth to seventh grade. All the Wich-Weenhayek
teachers worked in the IBE program.
The school enacted an open-door policy for the students. During the days the observations were
made, the number of students decreased after the mid-morning recess. When a Wich-Weenhayek
teacher was asked about this situation, she said that several students go to their homes during break
and then come back to school a couple of hours later for lunch. This teacher did not seem worried or
alarmed by this phenomenon. In fact, she indicated that the school is part of the community and that
children leave and come back during school hours. In this teachers words:
The child has to like school, has to agree to come to school. If a student does not come to school, I go to his
home, and the parents ask the child Do you want to go? rather than telling the child to go back to school. This
is the way parents behave here.

Teacher profiles
Teacher preparation has always been a challenge for the national Bolivian system. According to a report by
the Bolivian Ministry of Education (Ministerio de Educacin y Culturas de Bolivia, 2004), the national
system has not been able to meet the demand for content-area teachers, especially in the rural areas of the
country. One in every five teachers in the classroom in 2002 did not have a formal training in education,
and most teachers in rural schools only had a high school degree.
The problem of finding qualified teachers for rural schools in Bolivia was also noticeable at the
school in Nueva Esperanza. The Wich-Weenhayek teachers interviewed there reported that their
teaching training consisted of a mentorship provided by the missionaries who originally estab-
lished the school. These teachers mentioned that the Swedish Mission also provided them with
professional development opportunities and teaching resources. Yet, teachers and other members of
the community lamented that when the school was transferred to the government in 2009, they
stopped receiving training sessions and resources.
Wich-Weenhayek teachers, however, did express positive aspects about their job situation. They
mentioned, for example, that they were autonomous in planning and implementing their classes and
had a cordial relationship with their principal. One of these teachers even indicated that they were
entrusted with the administration resources for the school. One teacher summarized the positive
impact the IBE program has had in this way:

The IBE program has worked in our favor because now we [the Wich-Weenhayek] are closer to politicians and
authorities. We now have an open door, an opportunity, for our youth to continue their studies at the
university level, for some people to become professionals.

Teacher-student interactions
Children commonly interacted with their teachers inside and outside the school because all of them
lived in the same town. Not once was a child reprimanded or yelled at during the classroom
observations, and students were called using their first names. The classroom observations also
showed that teachers usually stayed at one side of the room, not at the front, and children stood up
to ask them questions. Teachers tended to use small-group strategies in their instruction and rotated
from group to group helping students. Teachers did employ lecture-style instruction but also sat next
to the students often to guide them while they performed academic activities. During classroom
instruction, children often called their teachers using their first names.
Regarding the language of instruction, classroom observations did not show a clear system or
schedule for instruction in Spanish or in Wichin no discernible order, some lessons were
explained in one language or the other, while the interaction with children occurred in both
languages. When teachers were asked about their language choices, they reported that they always
teach in both languages. Teachers used a workbook developed by the Swedish Mission to teach early
literacy in Wich but gave conflicting accounts of the quality of the workbooks. Regardless, the Wich
language had a significant presence in the exchanges at school.

Schools-community relationships
All Wich-Weenhayek teachers lived in the community. They were seen participating in various events and
activities. Yet, it is important to indicate that at the time of this study, most meetings and events at Nueva
Esperanza were organized by ORCAWETA, an Indigenous organization. One of the key functions of
ORCAWETA is the management and distribution among the different communities of income generated
by a tax for the exploitation of natural resources on the territory of these communities. As part of
ORCAWETA, each community elects a local leader (a capitn) who receives the income allocation.
Teachers, however, reported concerns about the income distribution system employed by
ORCAWETA. All teachers indicated that the system had created a chain reaction in which local families
move to form new communities, name their own capitn, and start receiving a share of the communal tax
directlyrather than through the capitn of their previous community. As the income for the Indigenous
communities had not increased, each new community created reduces the amount of resources that each
community receives, and schools have fewer and fewer resources. None of the events organized by
ORCAWETA had the participation of teachers.

In order to promote the revitalization and maintenance of the Wich language, Argentina and Bolivia
implemented IBE programs for the Wich-Weenhayek children. Both IBE models looked similar at the
theoretical level in terms of the linguistic, cultural, and education goals they pursued. Our study showed,
however, that these programs differed in how they were implemented in the two schools selected. Here we
discuss their similarities and differences at the language policy as well as the implementation levels
according to the factors we examined in our study (Table 2).
The IBE programs in Argentina and Bolivia expect children to become fully bilingual by receiving
instruction in Wich and Spanish (Lpez, 2009). Yet, the Argentinean IBE model is not precise in the
number of hours or specific strategies for bilingualism, therefore the implementation of the model
depends on the schools principal and teachers understanding of the modelan understanding that
is mediated by the systematic discrimination and racism toward Indigenous populations (Hetch,
2015). In contrast, the IBE model in Bolivia is more explicit in how the program should be
Table 2. Comparison of findings between schools in Argentina and Bolivia.
Argentina Differences Argentina and Bolivia Similarities Bolivia Differences
School School far away from Criollo town. Served 340 students. Schools were well maintained and were located in School served 100 students.
School staff had different perspectives about bilingual central locations.
Teacher Profiles Criollo teachers:Obtained a three-year teaching degree. Wich-Weenhayek teachers and ABs*: Did not receive Wich-Weenhayek teachers: Received teacher training from
Were in charge of classroom instruction. Lived far away rigorous preparation. Expressed lack of support from missionaries. Were in charge of instruction. Had
from the community. Wich-Weenhayek ABs: Had a authorities. Lived in the Wichi community. Did not have frequent oral interactions in Wich.
subordinate role as translators. Did not want to share a clear routine to teach Wich. Considered Wich
their Wich resources. resources limited. Wanted to preserve the Wich
Teacher Student Criollo teachers: Offered traditional lessons with a lecture, Wich-Weenhayek teachers and ABs: Were gentle with the Wich-Weenhayek teachers: Offered lessons in which
Interactions an individual task, and a group review. They constantly children. Interacted with the children everywhere. children could approach them and work with them.
disciplined children. Only interact with children inside Allowed students to leave school after lunch.
Schools- Resources were used to promote attendance. Parents Reflected the social and racial hierarchies prevalent in Wich-Weenhayek teachers and authorities managed
Communities discussed the school low quality. Believed that Wich each countryWich-Weenhayek people at the bottom resources. Open-door policy that allowed students to
Relationships was taught to have access to resources. Criollo teachers of social pyramid. leave the school and come back. Wich-Weenhayek
did not participate in community events. teachers participated in events in the community.
*Spanish acronym Auxiliar Bilinge (Bilingual Auxiliary Teacher).

implementedthat is, the model specifies that bilingual education in Wich and Spanish should be
offered until third grade.
Both IBE models recognize the right of Indigenous communities to preserve their cultural and
linguistic heritage via instruction that addresses their ancestral knowledge, views of learning, interests,
and goals. Yet, the way the IBE model was implemented in Argentina was by having Wich-Weenhayek
teacher-aids rotating around all the classrooms, with almost no control over instruction. Although
Wich-Weenhayek ABs in Argentina mentioned that they were doing their best to teach Wich to their
students, they lamented the limited role they played in guiding lessonsa situation that echoes similar
concerns expressed by Indigenous teacher-aids in that country (Zidarich, 2010). Although the school in
Bolivia did have Wich-Weenhayek teachers in charge of instruction, they did not have clear guidance
on how the IBE model should be implementedthis was reflected in the lack of consistency on how
each language was used during instruction. In addition, Wich-Weenhayek teachers in both countries
regretted the lack of training and materials to teach Wich.
All the regular educators in Argentina (i.e., teachers and principal) were Criollo (non-Indigenous)
and did not live in the Wich-Weenhayek town in which they worked. In contrast, in Bolivia, all
teachers and the principal were Wich-Weenhayek and lived in the same town as their students.
Criollo teachers in Argentina seemed to have a distant relationship with the Wich-Weenhayek
students. In practice, this distant relationship was reflected in their teacher-centered instruction
delivery, in the limited tolerance that they had for students behavior, and in the limited contact that
they had with students out of the classroom. On the other hand, Wich-Weenhayek teachers and ABs
in both countries had a close relationship with students. This close relationship was reflected in their
frequent interactions with their students in and outside the classroom and in the caring way in which
they treated them.
Attitudes toward the Wich language were different in each school and community depending on
the background of the teachers who were in charge of the classroom. In Argentina, Criollo teachers
and the principal seemed to tolerate the teaching of Wich to follow the law. In many ways, this
perspective reflects the exoglossic and government-driven design of the language policy that guided
the implementation of the IBE program there. In Bolivia, Wich was always present in the school and
reflected the endoglossic and mixed language policies this IBE program enacted. Yet Wich-
Weenhayek teachers there did not have instructional guidance and written materials to prepare
students in their community to become Wich literate.
The ways the programs were implemented in Argentina and Bolivia deeply influenced the
opinions that members of the Wich-Weenhayek community at large had of the schools. In
Argentina, community members expressed that the program was of low quality and did not meet
the cultural and educational needs of Wich-Weenhayek children. The community in Bolivia felt
closer to the school, and Wich had a strong presence in the lives of the Wich-Weenhayek
community. However, Wich-Weenhayek educators in both communities expressed their concern
that their language was losing its presence in informal domains. Therefore, even in a country like
Bolivia, where the significant Indigenous population has been able to gain important political,
cultural, and social achievements (Hetch, 2015), implementing language-as-resource and language-
as-right approaches is not a simple task.
Our study reflects Ruizs (1984, 1995) descriptions of the challenges Indigenous communities face
when trying to implement language-as-resource and mixed-policies to preserve their languages. In
fact, the IBE programs we examined echo Escobars (2013) description that most language policies
are exoglossic in nature and have contributed to language shift in several Indigenous communities in
Latin America (Escobar, 2013). Furthermore, our work also mirrored Ruizs (1995) concern that
although the best language policies for Indigenous communities to follow are the ones that validate
the use of the mother tongue in official and unofficial domains to promote instrumental and
sentimental functions for their mother tongues, these policies have been successfully implemented
only in a few programs (Escobar, 2013). Therefore, there is still much work that needs to be done in
regards to documenting the factors that not only promote emotional and instrumental functions for

mother tongues in Indigenous communities but can also have positive academic effects for
Indigenous children.
Finally, it is important to point out that IBE programs have created new positions for Indigenous
educators in schools. These positions included teacher and principal roles in the case of Bolivia and
teacher-aid roles in Argentina. Although Wich-Weenhayek educators in the school in Argentina
could, in theory, continue studying to access regular teacher positions, financial and emotional (e.g.,
the need to leave their town) factors discouraged them to pursue the additional training they needed.
These factors have enforced that leadership positions have remained in the hands of Criollos. As
Unamuno (2014) posits, it is not enough to create positions in IBE programs; governments should
also provide opportunities for Indigenous educators to access the specialized training those positions
require. If not, the view that is promoted is that only Criollo personnel have the willingness to pursue
leadership roles.
In summary, at the normative level, both IBE models affirmed that interculturalism is a resource
and that Wich-Weenhayek children should be bilingual in their mother tongue (Lpez, 2009). Yet,
the lack of guidance, training, funding, bilingual materials, and the low social status of Wich
complicated the implementation of these programs. Arguably, the IBE model in Bolivia was some-
what better because it empowered Wich-Weenhayek teachers, was closely connected to the com-
munity, and was more systematic. However, both models were essentially transitional in nature. That
is, Wich was used as a vehicle to learn Spanish and to secure the transmission of subject matter and
was discarded once children were able to function in Spanish. In conclusion, both IBE models
showed aspects of a problem-solving (Ruiz, 1984, p. 21) approach intermixed with different
degrees of language-as-right and language-as-resource approaches (Figure 3).
As seen in Figure 3, the reality of the two selected schools shows that contrary to the conceptualiza-
tion of IBE programs in Figure 1, concrete implementation of the programs shows elements of the
three approaches described by Ruiz. This combination, however, does not seem to be achieving Wich
language maintenance nor high-quality bilingual education in both communities. The comparison
between the Argentinean and the Bolivian IBE schools suggests that the practical and symbolic roles
played by the Indigenous-speaking teacher influences the status given by the community to the mother
tongue. Moreover, the capacity of an Indigenous community to strengthen the quality of its educa-
tional institutions needs to address not only the training of the non-Indigenous and Indigenous

Figure 3. Actual state of observed IBE programs in relation to Ruiz's language-orientations and language-policy regarding
teachers' profiles, teachers-students interactions, and schools-communities relationships.

teachers but also prepare educational leaders and curriculum specialists, among other professionals, to
work in these programs. Prior research has shown, for instance, the potential of positive collaborations
between Indigenous teachers and researchers to inform curriculum design and the development of
pedagogical resources (Taverna, Waxman, Medin, Moscoloni, & Peralta, 2014a, 2014b).

The transnational situation of the Wich-Weenhayek people allowed us to compare two IBE
programs that have attempted to meet their cultural, educational, and linguistic needs. Yet our
study showed that the implementation of bilingual programs in societies where there is an unbalance
of power is quite complex. Regardless of the good intentions behind the development of IBE
programs, unresolved issues of equity impact the degree in which these programs can actually
impact the daily academic practices at schools. In particular, the sociopolitical contexts in which
bilingual programs function impact their ability to enact the language-as-resource and language-as-
right approaches reflected in the goals of these programs.
Based on our study, we recommend that IBE programs for transnational Indigenous peoples meet
four conditions related to equity in power, preparation, resources, and transnational collaboration.
First, IBE programs need to use an endoglossic language-planning perspective that involves members
of the Indigenous community in leadership roles. Second, IBE programs need to develop mechan-
isms that effectively prepare Indigenous teachers and educate non-Indigenous teachers about the
importance of IBE models. Third, IBE programs must produce high-quality bilingual materials and
resources. Finally, nation-states that have IBE programs for transnational Indigenous peoples should
coordinate efforts with each other to serve these groups in effective ways. This could mean creating
joint teacher-training institutes, sharing materials, and working with linguists in documenting
different aspects of the languages spoken by these communities. Although IBE programs such as
PROEIB Andes (Programa de Educacin Intercultural Bilinge Andes [Intercultural Bilingual
Education Program Andes]) has coordinated some efforts at the international level, in the case of
the Wich-Weenhayek people, this type of transnational collaboration on the educational field is still
missing. Establishing spaces in which Wich-Weenhayek professionals from both countries share
experiences could create better programs in both countries (e.g., both programs could benefit from
learning about the school autonomy on the Bolivian side and the possibilities for Indigenous-teacher
and non-Indigenous teacher partnerships on the Argentinean side). Only in this way will IBE
programs fulfill their mission of preserving the language, traditions, and way of life of the
Indigenous groups they are serving.

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