Language Education Policy Studies
An International Network
New members welcome!

Impacts on Education: 

How Language Situations Affect Schools 

On a global scale historically, as education became institutionalized and compulsory by the end of the 19th century- whereas earlier colonial efforts often included missionaries who learned the language in order to convert and teach the students, the situation quickly became one where schools became the place where language-in-education policies had the most impact. With multilingualism the norm, slowly either the mother tongue or the standardization and dominant language seemed to have to win. Students bring a linguistic repertoire to the classroom that includes languages spoken at home, languages previously spoken at home, in the media or by friends. The repertoire also includes literacy practices. Yet this variety and repertoire is not usually reflected in multilingual or multimodal practices as schools are increasingly standardized, geared toward exams and scantron knowledge. Furthermore, this model is not only in Europe and North America but has steadily spread across the globe (See Mother Tongue, Heritage Languages, Literacy, 21st Century Forces.)


Language is tied to culture and identity. Yet we live with an education system that systematically devalues culture, language, identity (Skutnabb-Kangas 2009). Home practices are not included in education that often favors English and/or another dominant language. We need to create learning contexts where students’ identities are not threatened. (Garcia 2009). (See Linguistic Human Rights).


As domains, youth have speaking and technological practices that mix in the repertoires and vary from home or other domains. Classrooms then could be multilingual communities of practice rather than places where languages are left at the door.


See also Psycholinguistic and Cognitive, Teachers, Youth as Policymakers.


A few references:



Garcia, O. (2009). Education, Multilingualism, and Translanguaging in the 21st Century. In T. Skutnabb-Kangas, R. Phillipson, A. K. Mohanty, & M. Panda (Eds.), Social Justice through Multilingual Education (pp. 140-158). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.


Garcia, O., Skutnabb-Kangas, T. & Torres-Guzman, O. (2006). Imagining Multilingual Schools. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.


Phillipson, R. (2009). The Tension between Linguistic Diversity and Dominant English. In T. Skutnabb-Kangas, R. Phillipson, A. K. Mohanty, & M. Panda (Eds.), Social Justice through Multilingual Education (pp. 85-102). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.


Wei, L. (2011). Multilinguality, multimodality, and multicompetence: Code- and modeswitching by minority ethnic children in complementary schools. In the Special Issue “Toward a multilingual approach in the study of multilingualism in school contexts.  Modern Language Journal, 95(3), 370-384.


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). Impacts on Education: How Language Situations Affect Schools. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

Widget is loading comments...