Language Education Policy Studies
An International Network
New members welcome!

Formal Institutionalized School/Knowledge Construction 

Language-in-education policies play a large role in knowledge construction, especially when language is perceived as connected to culture, world view, and identity; with implications for critical real-world issues from cultural and economic rights to identity (see Language and World View). The ideology that allows education to reshape the definitions or boundaries of knowledge itself implicates languages’ potential role in knowledge construction. This differs from anthropological views of culture and identity because we live now in the so-called Knowledge Societies or Information Age where knowledge is commodified and tied to science (assumed as ‘universal’ knowledge), with Education as a salvation narrative that often ends up playing a part in the subjugating of peoples and perpetuation of the status quo. (See Language Education Markets, High Stakes Exams.) Global models of education affect the nature of “knowledge” and perpetuate an ever-increasingly elite status quo. Schooling, (higher) education, academia, sciences, academic disciplines, even perhaps the media and communication have become nearly synonymous with knowledge. Unlike centuries ago, this conception of knowledge is not a whole but more and more fragmented and reduced into specialized fields and technical applications.


Since schooling is increasingly institutionalized and compulsory (more and more worldwide), it is easy to understand how language in education policies that favor non-mother tongue and dominant (often English) standardized curriculum construct a knowledge system that is foreign to most students, especially in the case of the ever-increasing language shifts and knowledge and language disappearance. Literacies, and conceptions of what is ‘education’ or knowledge are culturally specific and tied to history and cultural practices. Or for another example, in Indigenous world views, education is not separate from language, so the many forces that have attempted to or succeed at breaking the transmission of language was catastrophic. Even in places where culturally-specific or Indigenous knowledge systems are propagated and incorporated into the curriculum, a dichotomy sometimes arises between what is considered “ethno” knowledge (ethnobotany, ethnomathematics, etc.) and “academic” (ie real?) knowledge.


For more on alternatives or methods to mediate policies, see Community Models, Deep Education, Ways out of the Paradoxes. 




Canagarajah, S. (2005). Reconstructing local knowledge, reconfiguring language studies. In A. S. Canagarajah (Ed.), Reclaiming the local in language policy and practice (pp.3-24). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.


Cha, Y. & Ham, S. (2011). Educating Supranational Citizens: The Incorporation of English Language Education into Curriculum Policies. American Journal of Education, (117), 183-209.


Hargreaves, A. (2003). Teaching in the knowledge society: Education in the age of insecurity. New York: Teachers College Press.


Kanuka, H., & Anderson, T. (2007). Online social interchange, discord, and knowledge construction. The Journal of Distance Education/Revue de l'Éducation à Distance, 13(1), 57-74.


King, A. (1994). Guiding knowledge construction in the classroom: Effects of teaching children how to question and how to explain. American educational research journal, 31(2), 338-368.



This web page has a copyright. It may be referred to and quoted, or reproduced and distributed for educational purposes according to fair use legislation only if the following citation is included in the document:


This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as


Harrison, K. M. (2013). Formal Institutionalized School/Knowledge Construction. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

Widget is loading comments...