Language Education Policy Studies
An International Network
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This page is an umbrella for the two pages on Cultural components of language learning, and Multicultural and Intercultural competence.


Language-in-education policies implicate cultural components of individual and social lives for people and groups. The political sphere clearly affects education, but as shown in other pages— the curriculum and even more so the teacher practices in multicultural classrooms clearly transmit attitudes and affect ideology and identity. Multicultural classrooms can exist most anywhere, as homogenous societies are rare.


Language-in-education policies clearly are affected by culture and have embedded in them questions of culture, related to cultural capital and language status. Some question the link between culture, language and social practices, and many see culture and language as detached from education. The embedded assumption then is that culture and language are relative and that concepts, worldview, and knowledge are universal and translatable. Our assumption in this website is not this. Thus, first it is necessary to conceptualize ‘cultural’, then ‘bicultural’, ‘intercultural’, and ‘multicultural’. Then we can consider language, bilingualism, and multilingualism.


Conceptually questions are raised and much critical thinking has been done on the difference between bicultural or bilingual and intercultural and thus ‘intercultural’ would be between two such entities (Tochon & Karaman, 2009). A society in which the attested lack of equity is not seriously addressed forms a divided society with self-destructive tendencies. The fear of otherness is often what keeps such a society polarized. The building up of differences dissolves when the sense of fear and separateness fades away. This is a matter of education and works on humans’ understandings of others. Few people realize that their image of others and their sense of belonging have been fabricated and manipulated for profit. The mass media play a key role in the world’s polarization. Wars have been highly profitable to parties that situated themselves above conflicts, such as some international corporations and the pharmaco-military complex (Beck 2006). It is not rare to find that the same industry or the same foreign government would sell resources to opposed and struggling parties. Such entities find advantages in creating images of selves that are profitably oppositional. One new and key role of intercultural, moral education is to highlight the abusive role played by actors who direct environmental, societal, and cultural destruction (North, 2006).

Are cultures reified- bound systems or interdynamic? As with language contact, cultures also have contact and dialogically evolve. Of course, power dynamics enter in play, especially with English language, communication and media, the predominance and omnipresence of especially English films and internet-based questions. Multicultural researchers look for a way to allow for diversity within a unity (so-called Globalization). Yet, solutions have not been found; indeed things have only worsened with more and more communication, marginalization, inequalities, migrations, etc. The same process was applied to language, and language-in-education is the perfect place to look for solutions to the paradox of unity in diversity.


Banks, J. A., & Banks, C. A. M. (Eds.). (2009). Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives. John Wiley & Sons.


Banks, J. A. (1994). An introduction to multicultural education. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Beck, Ulrich. 2006. The cosmopolitan vision. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Byram, Michael. 2006. Developing a concept of intercultural citizenship. In Education for intercultural citizenship: Concepts and comparisons, ed. Geof Alred, Michael Byram and Mike Fleming, 109–29. London: Multilingual Matters.


Coulby, D. (2006). Intercultural education: theory and practice. Intercultural Education, 17(3), 245-257.

Grant, C. A., & Chapman, T. K. (2008). History of multicultural education. New York: Routledge.


Hollinger, D. A. (2006). Postethnic America: beyond multiculturalism. Basic Books.

North, C. (2006). More than words? Delving into the substantive meaning(s) of ‘social justice’ in education. Review of Educational Research, 76(4), 507–35.


Parekh, B. (2002). Rethinking multiculturalism: Cultural diversity and political theory. Harvard University Press.


Sleeter, C. E., & Grant, C. A. (1988). Making choices for multicultural education: Five approaches to race, class, and gender. Columbus, OH: Merrill Publishing Company.


Tochon, F.V. & Karaman, A. C. (2009). Critical reasoning for social justice: moral encounters with the paradoxes of intercultural education. Intercultural Education, 20(2), 135-149.



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., & Tochon, F. V. (2013). Multiculturalism. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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