Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2005 22:38:06 -0400 From: Nkonko Kamwangamalu Subject: Decolonization, Globalization: Language-in-Education Policy and Practice
EDITORS: Lin, Angel M. Y.; Martin, Peter W. TITLE: Decolonization, Globalization SUBTITLE: Language-in-Education Policy and Practice SERIES: New Perspectives on Language & Education PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2005
Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu, Department of English, Howard University, Washington, DC
Decolonization, Globalization: Language-in-Education Policy and Practice is an edited collection of papers aimed not only at presenting regional reports on language policy and practice in postcolonial contexts, but also at "theorizing and problematizing issues in these contexts.." (p.1) The volume seeks to explain how postcolonial formations, both social, cultural, economic and educational, collude with new forces of globalization and global capitalism to perpetuate educational, social and material inequalities in postcolonial contexts. As the editors put it, what distinguishes this volume from similar anthologies on language policies and practices in postcolonial societies is that it attempts to "link old colonization processes with new globalization processes, seeing the latter as in many ways a continuation of the former and yet not in a simple binary imperialism- resistance logic, but in new, complex ways that also offer new opportunities of collusion and interpenetration, hybridization and postcolonial reinvention, ways that go beyond the essentialist, nationalist, national identity and 'two cultures' politics that defined earlier phases of decolonization, nationalism... in many postcolonial societies" (p. 2). Noting that the project of decolonization that has been going on in the post-colonies is now being replaced by another project, that of globalization, the editors call for "institutional changes that ... will allow people who, due to family habitus, excel more in local than global languages [such as English] to have a chance for socio- economic mobility" (p.12). The debate around the consequences of globalization, the papers in this volume argue, must move from mere critical deconstruction paradigm, one that focuses on a criticism of existing language policies and practices, to a critical construction paradigm and look into the nitty-gritty of the everyday realities of students and teachers to come up with constructive suggestions for policy and practice alternatives. (p. 13)
The collection, edited by Angel M.Y. Lin and Peter W. Martin, consists of 12 chapters including a foreword by Luke Alan and an afterword by Suresh Canagarajah. The introductory chapter, titled "From a critical deconstruction paradigm to a critical construction paradigm: An introduction to decolonization, globalization and language-in- education policy and practice" (pp. 1-20), is written by the editors themselves and seems to be designed to provide a critical overview of all the chapters that make up the collection. Highlighted in this chapter is the role that English plays in encounters between the West and postcolonial societies. English is seen as an indispensable resource and linguistic capital which many postcolonial peoples and governments seek for themselves and their younger generations, ... [it is] the most important language for socioeconomic advancement and for access to higher professional education and to ..knowledge- intensive job market (p. 3), [it is] the medium that drives the shift from the project of decolonization to that of globalization in postcolonial societies, and is one that ruling multilingual elite use to exert internal colonialism and produce subaltern identities in these societies.
In the chapter "Nation-building in a globalized world: language choice and education in India", E. Annamalai addresses the very theme of the shift in language policy and practice from decolonization to globalization in postcolonial societies, with a focus on the role of English in education in the Indian subcontinent. He describes how India has addressed the tension between the need for nation-building, which requires replacing English with local languages, and that for developing skills and knowledge for an industrial economy, which requires the retention of English. In response to this conflict India has given a statutory recognition and elevation of Indian languages as the medium in the domains of power such as public administration, law and education, but in practice it has delayed their actual use until they become ready through internal development to perform the assigned roles. As is often the case, delayed implementation has been a recipe for policy failure. Since English is not equally accessible to all, it does not equalize opportunities but rather reproduces inequality. Annamalai argues that for language-in-education policies to succeed in India education must be decolonized. This entails questioning the colonial dichotomy between tradition and modernism, which says that local languages are good for keeping cultural traditions and practices and English for embracing modernity and material progress. He concludes that as long as education perpetuates this dichotomy, then in India nation-building will remain notional. (p.36)
Angel Lin offers -- in a very condensed and at times hard-to-process style (see, for instance, the 12-line sentences on pp. 48 & 51) -- trans- disciplinary perspectives on language-in-education policy and practice in Hong Kong. In particular, Lin examines existing critical analyses of colonial and capitalist discourses (pp.41-45), of social stratification mechanisms, and of critical ethnographies (pp. 45-51) in the former British colony. Her discussion also considers two critical projects including one aimed at destabilizing the centre-periphery dichotomy in the process of academic knowledge production; and second, that of reflexively problematizing and revisioning the role of the academic researcher researching on language-in-education policies and practices in neo-colonies. She advocates the need to do away with the dichotomy of centre-periphery in academic disciplines, where the periphery applies the theories produced by the center. Instead, Lin argues for the concept of 'multiplying the centers' (p.39) and for multidirectional and multifarious ways in which theories, applications and knowledge are generated, appropriated, reappropriated, circulated and recirculated. Against this background, Lin believes that the 'centre-theory-periphery-application dichotomy in the academic disciplines can be reworked into more fruitful networks of hybrid types of studies which interpenetrate and interilluminate one another' (p.39). In conclusion Lin calls on researchers working in the periphery to develop self-reflexive, trans-disciplinary epistemological and political perspectives in a critical project of language-in-education policy and practice research that not only challenges the noted dichotomy but also goes beyond mere academic knowledge production and consumption (p. 39).
Rani Rubdy's chapter (pp. 55-73) addresses the tensions and conflicts of interests in Singapore's language-in-education policies, especially the tensions and conflicts associated with the ideology of pragmatism, of multilingualism, and of meritocracy. The ideology of 'pragmatic multilingualism' is based on the principle of multiracialism, which means equal status and treatment for all races (Chinese, Malay, Indians, and Others) and their languages (Chinese, Malay, Tamil (and English?) and cultures. The author notes that despite this policy English has, because of its instrumental value, been the dominant language in the Island-State. It is explained that English dominates because it is perceived as ethnically neutral for it apparently does not favor any major community in the city-State. As such, the language serves two purposes: At the community level English is said to foster racial harmony and national unity. At the individual level the language is said to be available to all and so it provides equal opportunities for everyone irrespective of their ethnic background (p. 59). Rubdy does, however, question the 'social equalizer' role of English. This is because, according to the author, in Singapore's socio-economic structures there has always been an asymmetry in power relation between the English-speaking elite and the non-English-speaking masses, as can be inferred from the ideology of meritocracy. The latter, which is a euphemism for elitism or what Alastair Pennycook terms "the planned reproduction of socio- economic inequality", dictates that the individual's rewards after school are closely linked to success in school (p. 66).
The third ideology, that of multilingualism, is based on the idea that all four official languages of the city-state, English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil, be available as media of instruction [for their respective speakers]. It seems that the ultimate goal of this ideology has been to promote bilingual education apparently in any two of the four official languages. Rubdy observes that in reality, however, in Singapore bilingual education has come to be defined as 'proficiency in English and one other official language' (p. 61). This confirms further the asymmetry noted earlier in power relation between English and ethnic mother tongues in Singapore, where English is the medium for acquiring new knowledge and keeping the nation abreast with its economic and development objectives; and the mother tongues are for preserving old knowledge and ethnic cultures (p.62). In spite of this positive image of English, the language has also been seen as a carrier of undesirable Western values and a threat to Asian ones. To counter this, Rubdy remarks that in 1979 the Government of Singapore launched the Speak Mandarin Campaign. The unplanned effect of this Campaign has been the emergence of Singlish, Singapore's local colloquial English, as the symbol of intra-ethnic identity and cultural integration in Singapore (p.64). The emergence of Singlish has, expectedly, triggered another campaign, the Speak Good English Movement, whose goal has been to counter the ill effects of Singlish and re-emphasize the importance of Standard English (p.65). In the final section of the chapter Rubdy considers the social consequences of the Speak Mandarin Campaign and the Speak Good English Movement. These include an increase in power status for English and Mandarin at the expense of other languages, social stratification and divisiveness, and language shift.
The chapter by Peter Martin (pp. 74-97) examines classroom language practices in two rural schools in Malaysia. In particular, Martin discusses the discrepancies between official language policy - which recognizes Malay as the official language and requires that subjects such as mathematics and science be taught through the medium of English -- and what the author calls 'the voices of the local classroom participants' (p. 75). Drawing on data from lesson recordings Martin shows that, contrary to the official language policy, teachers and learners make use of codeswitching or 'safe' language practices involving English and Malay rather than the learners' primary languages, Se'ban and Kelabit. And yet, codeswitching is not recognized officially as a resource and is, rather, described as 'bad practice' (p. 88). The chapter concludes with a plea for the development and use of learners' primary languages in the classroom, alongside Malay and English.
Abdolmehdi Riazi describes the political-linguistic history of Iran, with a focus on four eras: the era of the Persian Empire (550BC-211AD), during which Old Persian was used as official language; the era of the Islamization of Iran along with the spread of the Arabic language and culture (7th century); the era of the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925), which was marked by the exposure of Iran to Western culture and language, especially English; and the era of the Islamic Revolution (1979- present), which saw the return of Persian as the official language of the state. The article then concentrates on teaching methods employed for L1 (Persian) and L2 (Arabic or English) teaching; and highlights the impact of globalization, which uses English as medium, on the status of languages and language learning in Iran (p.113).
In their chapter Timothy Reagan and Sandra Schreffler report on an institutional language policy adopted by the Istanbul Technical University (ITU) in Turkey. They do so against the background of the dilemma often facing tertiary institutions in developing countries, whether to use a language of wider communication as the principal medium of instruction and, in so doing, succumb to linguistic imperialism; or to use a local language and, in this process, cut off students from the international scholarly community. Traditionally ITU has used Turkish as the medium of instruction. However and given the influence and power of English globally, the institution has adopted a language policy that requires students to complete one-third of their university courses in English. The policy is intended to ensure that students acquire competence in English to be able to compete in what has become an English-dominant world, while at the same time maintaining a scholarly and academic context in which the Turkish language remains viable. The later sections of the article describe the English language program designed to implement the adopted institutional language policy. Reagan and Schreffler remark, however, that "neither students nor their teachers ..[are aware] of the underlying rationale and justification for the program, [which is to challenge English linguistic imperialism,] nor do they seem to recognize the political and ideological forces that have driven the policy" (p.127).
The next three chapters discuss language-in-education policies and classroom practices in Africa, and are followed by an afterword by Suresh Canagarajah. Grace Bunyi's chapter (pp. 131-152) reports on the functions of codeswitching in a rural school in Kenya, among them improve communication between the teacher and the learners, enhance learners' understanding of lesson content, classroom management, etc. Bunyi apparently attributes codeswitching incidents to teachers' incompetence in the English language. She argues that this practice (CS) may be doing more harm than good to the learners, and calls for in-depth interpretive research that will explain how poverty interacts with the classroom practices she has described in this chapter (p. 148).
In her chapter (pp. 153-172) Margie Probyn concentrates on language-in-education policy in post-apartheid South Africa, and describes the tension between the need to promote the indigenous languages and redress inequality on the one hand, and the instrumental need to acquire English for participation in the global affairs on the other. She shows that there is a mismatch between language policy and practice, and that teachers commonly switch from English to the learners' home language for a range of communicative, affective and management purposes, much as described by Bunyi with respect to the Kenyan context. Unlike Bunyi, however, Probyn argues for teachers' codeswitching skills to be recognized as legitimate classroom strategies, and to be woven into effective classroom practice for the strategic and coherent use of both the learners' home language and the official medium of instruction, here English (p.167). She concludes, however, that "even if CS is recognized, school communities are unlikely to be convinced of the value of indigenous languages since politically and economically these languages have a lower status vis-à-vis English"(p.168).
In the next chapter Birgit Brock-Utne also documents the use of codeswitching in African classrooms, specifically in Tanzania and South Africa. Also, the author critically revisits the argument often advanced mostly by Western donors that Africa's multilingualism, among other factors, hinders the development and use of African languages in the educational system. Drawing on the work of Kwesi Prah and others on harmonization Brock-Utne argues, and I agree with her, that the argument against multilingualism and related factors does not hold. Prah's work shows convincingly that the number of languages spoken in Africa has, against the background of a painful colonial history and vested interests, been overstated. Also, there are countries in Africa, among them Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Botswana, to name a few, where indigenous languages are not used throughout the entire educational system despite the fact that the majority of the population in these countries speak one major indigenous language. Like Probyn, Brock-Une calls for the legitimization of codeswitching and for its use not only in teaching but also in students' examination answers.
In the final chapter Suresh Canagarajah addresses the theme that runs throughout all the chapters that make up this collection, namely, the tensions between language policies and practices in postcolonial communities. Canagarajah remarks that these tensions should be seen as normal rather than as unusual, for language planning involves constant negotiation among various stakeholders. He points out that the negotiation takes place against the background of two competing projects, the on-going project of decolonization on the one hand, and the emerging project of globalization resulting from the spread of English on the other. As a response to the tensions noted above, Canagarajah suggests the ecology model and the continua of biliteracy proposed by Nancy Hornberger (for details, see p. 198). Within this framework codeswitching is seen as a productive strategy, one that can contribute to the development of students' communicative and thinking skills. Drawing on Hornberger's work Canagarajah argues that irrespective of whether codeswitching is used in the classroom or not, it is important that nations give all languages not only a place in their curriculum but also a functional status in their social and economic life. Giving the former without the latter is a recipe for policy failure (p. 200).
Decolonization, Globalization: Language-in-education policy and practice is a must-read for anyone who is interested in issues in language-in-education policies and practices in post-colonial societies. I have found the volume to be cohesive, resourceful and well-written, except for the complex, 12-line sentences that one comes across in some of the chapters. I strongly recommend the volume as required reading for graduate seminars in language policy and planning. In what follows I comment on the scope of the collection and on some of the objectives it set out to achieve. With regard to the scope, the collection provides a partial but critical survey of language-in- education policies and practices in the neo-colonies. Aside from Reagan and Schreffler's contribution on Turkey and Riazi's chapter on Iran, the majority of the contributions in this collection focus on Asia and Africa. It is not clear why post-colonial societies in Latin America are not represented in this volume. In spite of its limited scope, the volume provides useful insights into language-policy failure in post- colonial societies.
The collection seems to have the following two objectives, among others: one, underscore the similarity between the failed project of decolonization and that of globalization and, two, urge language researchers to move away from ""mere critical deconstruction paradigm" and concentrate on "a critical construction paradigm [to] ..come up with constructive suggestions for policy and practice alternatives" (p. 13). Virtually all the contributions in this volume have met the first objective but they have not, in my view, delivered on the second. Instead, much of the discussion in the volume offers a criticism of post-colonial language policies (see chapters by Annamalai, Lin, Rubdy and to a lesser extent Riazi) and a description of classroom practices such as codeswitching (see chapters by Bunyi, Probyn and Brock-Utne). These practices have been documented extensively over the past two decades (e.g., Martin-Jones 1988, Rubagumya 1994, Camilleri1996, Elridge 1996, Espiritu 1996, Lin 1996, Butzkamm 1998, to list a few). It is not surprising, then, that current literature on these practices hardly breaks new grounds.
The legitimization or recognition of classroom practices such as codeswitching is not the answer to the problems facing indigenous languages and their speakers in post-colonial societies. As Probyn notes pointedly, "even if CS is recognized, school communities are unlikely to be convinced of the value of indigenous languages since politically and economically these languages have a lower status vis-à- vis English"(p.168). Canagarajah makes a similar point when he says that "it is important that nations give all languages not only a place in their curriculum but also a functional status in their social and economic life"(p. 200). Put differently, what is missing in language policies in post-colonial societies is an awareness of the relationship between language and the economy. Until policy-makers officially recognize and establish this link, no progress can be made in attempts to promote indigenous languages in domains such as education. In this regard, I have found the Turkish case study of an institutional language policy discussed by Timothy Reagan and Sandra Schreffler most illuminating. The case shows convincingly that ex-colonial languages and indigenous languages can coexist, in a productive way, in post-colonial communities. The problem is that they hardly do, and competing forces ensure that they do not, as is evident from the tensions, described throughout this volume, between language policies and practices in these communities.
Butzkamm, W. 1998. Codeswitching in a bilingual history lesson: The mother tongue as a conversational lubricant. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 1, 2: 81-99.
Camilleri, A. 1996. Language values and identities: Codeswitching in secondary classrooms in Malta. Linguistics and Education 8: 85-103.
Elridge, J. 1996. Codeswitching in a Turkish secondary school. ELT Journal 50, 4: 303-311.
Espiritu, C. C. 1996. Codeswitching in the primary classroom: One response to the planned and the unplanned language environment in Brunei. A response. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 1, 2-4: 145-148.
Lin, Amy. 1996. Bilingualism or linguistic segregation? Symbolic domination, resistance and codeswitching in Hong Kong schools. Linguistics and Education 8: 49-84.
Martin-Jones, M., ed. 1988. Codeswitching in the classroom: A review of research in bilingual education programs. Lancaster: Center for Language in Social Life Working Paper series No. 22.
Rubagumya, C. M., ed. 1994. Teaching and Researching Language in African classrooms. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He teaches Linguistics and English at Howard University in Washington, D.C. His current research interests include codeswitching, multilingualism and language policy, language and identity, African Englishes, African American English, and African linguistics.