Language Education Policy Studies
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   Policy Processes in Language Education

Policies in language and education involve learning, speaking, teaching, curriculum and materials, community, evaluation, and decision-making on many levels. The process is complex and challenging to understand and assess, lacking a simple causal correlation between policy and outcome.


Cultural, economic and political control may dictate national and even global language policies or ideologies as well as practical choices, and educational reform more often now includes language questions and English. Language policy in education is more than simply the language of instruction. Naturalized assumptions about language enter into language and language education policy. Global forces and ideology become initiatives and national or local policies that are enacted in every day classrooms by teachers. The assumptions in the policy are translated into institutional practice. The process is tied to most aspects of life beyond yet through the school.


To be just, policymakers must think carefully about the place of each language to not leave teachers in the middle of the process between policy and practice (students and speakers). Teachers must also understand their role in policy interpretation. See Teachers as Policymakers.


Many claim that there is no single global language policy, and situations must be contextualized and always have a local dimension. Language-in-education policy processes should get careful consideration in order to understand that if global educational standards that include language are expected to be implemented everywhere, the results—success or failure—will not be uniform. This is where the global meets the local through the process of policy interpretation and enactment. In the case of language, also tied to world view and culture, this process indeed is important.


Language policies in education are also used for sociopolitical conflict management or instigation. Critical linguists and educators can contribute to examining the process of language and education policies for the resolution of both inequalities and conflicts.


A few references:


  • Honig, M. I. (2006). Complexity in Policy Implementation: Challenges and Opportunities for the Field. In M. I Honig (Ed.), New Directions in Education Policy Implementation: Confronting Complexity. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Kennedy, M. M. (1984). How evidence alters understanding and decisions. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 6(3), 207-26.
  • Canagarajah, A. S. (Ed.). (2005). Reclaiming the local in language policy and practice. Routledge.
  • Coburn, C. E., Toure, J., & Yamashita, M. (2009a). Evidence, interpretation, and persuasion: Instructional decision making in the district central office. Teachers College Record, 111(4), 1115-1161.
  • Hallett, T. (2010). “The Myth Incarnate: Recoupling Processes, Turmoil, and Inhabited Institutions in an Urban Elementary School.” American Sociological Review, 75(1): 52-74.
  • Hill, M. & Hupe, P. (2006) Analyzing policy processes as multiple governance: accountability in social policy. Policy & Politics 34(3), 557-573.
  • Hornberger, N. H. (2002). Multilingual language policies and the continua of biliteracy: An ecological approach. Language Policy, 1(1), 27-51.
  • McGroarty, M. (2002). 2. Evolving influences on educational language policies. In J. W. Tollefson (Ed.), Language policies in education (pp. 17-36). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 
  • Odugu, D. I. (2011). Education Language Policy Process in Multilingual Societies: Global Visions and Local Agendas in india, Nigeria and Unesco. Dissertations. Paper 166.
  • O Sullivan, I. (2007). Enhancing a process-oriented approach to literacy and language learning: The role of corpus consultation literacy. RECALL-HULL THEN CAMBRIDGE, 19(3), 269.
  • Schiffman, H. (2002). Linguistic culture and language policy. Routledge.
  • Shohamy, E. (2012). Language policy: Hidden agendas and new approaches. Routledge.
  • Stone, Deborah (2002). Policy as Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making. Revised edition.
  • Weaver-Hightower, M. B. (2008). An Ecology Metaphor for Educational Policy Analysis: A Call to Complexity. Educational Researcher, 37(3), 153-167.
  • Wright, S. (2003). Language policy and language planning: From nationalism to globalisation. Palgrave Macmillan.


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

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

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