Language Education Policy Studies
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National Frameworks as Policies

Policies create implementation spaces for multilingual or multicultural practices (Hornberger, 2003). Language-in-education planning is the ideology in practice, however it paradoxically shows up in the absence of policy. Foreign Language Teaching, education, and official language for literacy are often tied to multicultural competence- tolerance, understanding, confidence (social, political, cognitive) and internationalization- global citizenship goals. However their positioning in higher education when at the same time foreign languages are ostracized in the mouth of heritage learners indicates an implicit agenda: multilingualism for the elites is encouraged while the multilingualism of the poor is proscribed (Kubota, 2010). Overall, political, social, and economic aims lead to implicit or explicit language-in-education policies. As discursive contexts, these internationalization, inter- and multi-cultural questions fuel policy ideologies. At the same time, the ideology underlies the discourse (Bakhtin, 1981).


“The development of these more heteroglossic multiple multilingual education programs still has a long way to go officially, even in contexts that are highly multilingual and heterglossic. In other words, the state that controls educational systems rarely supports these practices” (Garcia, 2009). Market logic does not favor the preservation of languages, or rights related to culture and identity, and without policies they may not survive. English appears to have high economic value, despite educators and linguists who demonstrate that it is better to to invest in multilingualism.


The governments and institutions that make language-in-education policies do so according to national and regional concerns over ethnicity and language, tied to education and global citizenship. The dominant discourses around language and culture through education vary according to resources, politics, or conflicts. This is how the politic gets into education and creates language-in-education policies. Deliberately targeting ideology when planning language in education can be the key for success or failure because ideologies are not static but change with prestige. Policy and practice is contested through actors and stakeholders, in other words the government or institution often gives the framework but the speakers and other actors mediate the framework in practice. This is also a gap between the “bottom up” and “top down” approaches.


National frameworks may also be about achieving integration of various groups. The questions are: what is shaping the discourse by governments, what are the national agendas, are they centralizing or decentralizing, how are the societies changing, and what are the emerging needs. These questions are often tied to further removed forces such as global economics, non-governmental organizations, corporations, and even war agendas. In addition they vary according to how much linguistic diversity the nation has. Most pertinent is that while a country may or may not have an official language, the language-in-education policies may be explicit, especially when examinations in schools and in higher education are only in the official language: Arabic vs Berber, English vs Swahili, French vs Creole, Hebrew vs Arabic, Portuguese vs Nheengatu, Russian vs Kazakh, Spanish vs Nahuatl, or Turkish vs Zaza. (See Teachers as Policy makers, Social Justice or Social Practice, Policy Processes, Cultural Components.)



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Tochon, F. V. & Harrison, K. M. (2013). National Frameworks as Policies. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date).