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Review of  Language Policies in Education:Critical Issues

Reviewer: Gabriel Rei-Doval
Book Title: Language Policies in Education:Critical Issues
Book Author: James W. Tollefson
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 13.606

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Tollefson, James W., ed. (2001) Language Policies in Education:
Critical Issues. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, xiii+350pp, paperback
ISBN 0-8058-3601-2, $34.50.

Gabriel Rei-Doval, The University of Birmingham.

This volume edited by James W. Tollefson represents a new effort to
take systematic research in the field of Language Planning and
Education. Previous Tollefson's pieces of work (1991, 1995) also
approached this area from a wide perspective, integrating the field in
a comprehensive framework where main social disciplines were
considered. The book consists of 16 original chapters written by
specialists in different language situations around the world,
including North America, Australia, Eastern Europe, Africa, East and
South Asia and the Pacific.

>From different approaches, the diverse authors try to deal with such
important matters as the interface between language policy and dominant
groups in various societies, the role of language in the promotion or
isolation of ethnic groups or the relation between educational system
and language promotion.

It is suggested that the volume be used as a textbook in graduate and
advanced undergraduate courses on language policy (LP) and language
education. Indeed, it might be useful for scholars in different areas
such as education, applied linguistics, language planning, critical
linguistics or language teaching.

The editor establishes six parts in order to offer different
complementary views on the field. After the corresponding preface and
list of contributors, Part I offers an initial theoretical overview of
LP, focusing on the nature of forces affecting language policies in
education and their eventual constraints and alternatives. In chapter
1, James W. Tollefson highlights key ideas recurring throughout the
book. In chapter 2, Mary McGroarty considers different approaches and
theoretical implications of LP in Education, first noting the
limitations of approaches used in language-related fields and then
turning to the work of contemporary scholars in political science,
philosophy and law. From a US perspective, this chapter illustrates the
complicated relationships maintained by forces affecting education.

Chapters in Part II discuss how authorities use educational policies to
manage access to language rights and education, and the subsequent
consequences of specific programs for language minority communities.
Wiley's chapter 3 analyses the unbalanced historical distribution of
language rights and educational programs in the United States,
considering the mixed bag of official and unofficial policies that have
affected both immigrant and indigenous communities over the last three
centuries. Burnaby's approach in chapter 4 deals with the French-
English debate in Canada, considering in particular the linguistic
integration of Ontario's immigrants and the efforts carried out on the
east coast of St. James Bay to promote education in Cree language.

Part III deals with the use of language policy by state authorities in
order to achieve political and cultural 'governance'; that is,
strategies of controlling individuals and groups by state authorities.
The focus is not only on the results of particular policies, but also
on the nature and capacity of these debates to generate discursive
regimes. This is the perspective adopted by Pennycook in chapter 5 to
explain the colonial implications of educational system in Hong Kong,
historically constricted between British and Chinese empires. Helen
Moore's historical analysis of Australian English-only policy in
chapter 6 is particularly illustrative of the backward step suffered by
that society over the last fifteen years of conservative policies
towards immigrants' rights and identity. In chapter 7, Thomas S.
Donahue provides a clever analysis of political, legal and discursive
struggles on languages in US Arizona, part of a broader problem, the
disconnection between the individual and the community in a solipsistic
social and educational system, whose constraints are clearly
ideologically conditioned. From Donahue's point of view, a society
under these circumstances of anomie offers ideal conditions for
ideological manipulation to politically dominant groups, who enjoy
unbeatable tools to confuse the public and private ideological
certainties of the citizens.

Two chapters in section IV consider the contribution of LP in Education
to the creation, endurance or reduction of political conflicts among
different ethnolinguistic groups. The comparison between the
Yugoslavian and the Indian situation aims to offer contrasting insights
into such a delicate and intriguing topic. In chapter 8, Selma K.
Sonntag depicts the Indian situation and its "three language formula",
examining the relationship between the symbolic politics of language
and the practical pedagogical import of minority language use in
education in the context of North India. A more imperialist national
view was promoted by Serbian leaders in Yugoslavia after the death of
General Tito in 1980. In a insightful chapter 9, Tollefson considers,
first, the role played by ideologies in legitimizing Serbian language
policy and, secondly, the depiction of the internationalist strategy
followed by the Slovenians before, during and after their political
segregation from the Serbians.

Section V explores the influence of global factors such as colonialism,
decolonization, the spread of English and the growth of the integrated
capitalist economy on local programs and policies in language
education. In chapter 10, Florian Coulmas traces the social history of
Japanese since the Meiji era, and its role as an element of national
unification and dialogue with the West. Particular attention is paid to
the symbolic power of its writing system and its reforms, as well as to
the contemporary role played by English and the immigrant languages.
Chapters 11 by Sue Wright and 12 by Sook Kyung & Bonny Norton are
clearly related with the role played by English as an international
language. Wright shows in chapter 11 how in Vietnam, despite dramatic
experiences with Western countries, international languages have been
faithful partners of military and economic Empires, first French,
afterwards American, and now both in competition. Chapter 12 deals with
the plans and motivations to learn English in contemporary Korean
schools. While it seems to be clear for Korean society that English is
a useful language of wider communication, some policymakers wonder
about the effects of such a decidedly English-led policy on Korean
language development and national identity.

In chapter 13, Mazrui examines the role of English as an international
language from the African perspective by highlighting its historical
colonialist dimension, still present and even reinforced in recent
times thanks to university education, the ultimate instrument of
cultural westernization. It is particularly interesting to see how
English is winning the battle even in countries where, like in
Tanzania, bets have been placed on Swahili as a language of wider
communication for the continent.

Prior to the conclusion, Part VI is focused on the alternatives of
indigenous peoples and other language minorities to develop educational
policies and effective programs for their needs and demands, against
the important pressures exerted by more powerful social and
ethnolinguistic groups. In chapter 14, Teresa L. McCarthy deals with
educational programs in the US Southwest and Hawaii, showing the
impetus that language demands can acquire even in an imperial English-
only country, highlighting failures and achievements in terms of
corpus, status and acquisition planning. Following with rethinking
indigenous and minority language education policy, chapter 15 analyzes
the difficulties of pedagogic programs in the Solomon Islands to
preserve traditional values and ways of thinking.

In Chapter 16, Tollefson offers his conclusions and key ideas about the
interface between educational system and language policies, focusing on
such aspects as language maintenance, revitalization and reclamation
programs, as well as the dependence of language policies on
sociopolitical constraints.

Language Policies in Education is a highly interesting book for any
scholar or student interested in Language Planning and Policy. Its
varied chapters give us a multiple view on these topics, showing a
multi-disciplinary conception of the referred areas.

The selection of focuses and chapters in this volume expresses "the
belief that language policies in education must be understood in
connection with broad social, political, and economic forces" (p. X).
This led Tollefson to select articles that "move outward from
educational concerns of the classroom toward broader social, political
and economic issues" (ibid). This theoretical point of view guides the
following articles and is especially useful in order to expand the
focus and aims of the field. However, articles obviate approaches set
in the past such as Fishman's (1991) illuminating debate about the
capacity of the educational system for reversing language shift, only
briefly considered by McCarty in pages 303-04.

Nevertheless, most of the chapters offer different angles on this
polygonal field, leading us to a comprehensive overview. Even for a
reader with a scant knowledge in multilingual situations, this book is
extremely helpful and formative.

A possible shortcoming could be attributed to the English-led
perspective along the book. In almost all the chapters English is in
some way the object of analysis. In some of them, as a primary topic
(chapters 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14), and in the rest, central
attention is paid to its role as a language of wider communication for
those societies. While it must be acknowledged that an open-minded
perspective has been maintained, the interplay between languages like
French, Spanish, German, Russian, classical Arabic or Swahili and
minority or indigenous languages could also have been explored. It is
certainly the task of the editor to decide what to include in his
volume, namely when, as in this case, his aim is not to offer an
encyclopedic compilation of language situations around the world, but
appropriate exemplification of the main topics in this field. But, in
order to complete such a pluralistic, democratic and progressive view
of LP in education as the offered by Tollefson, this suggestion might
be of interest.

In any case, Tollefson's book is definitely remarkable, showing maximum
interest for both students and scholars in Language Policy and Planning
in Education. In one word, this is a potential future classic-book in
its field.

Fishman, Joshua A. (1991) Reversing Language Shift. Clevedon:
Multilingual Matters.

Tollefson, James W. (1991) Planning Language, Planning Inequality:
Language Policy in the Community. London: Longman.

Tollefson, James W. (1995) Power and Inequality in Language Education.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gabriel Rei-Doval is a Honorary Lecturer in Galician Language and
Culture at the University of Birmingham. In 1999, he completed a MPhil
in Linguistics at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Galicia,
Spain) with the dissertation "A Brief Approach to the History of
Galician Sociolinguistics (1967-1997)". In 2001, he received his PhD
from the same University with the dissertation "Galician Language in
Urban Settings: a view from Macro-Sociolinguistics". Over the last
decade, he has worked on research projects as the Sociolinguistic Map
of Galicia and the Euromosaic survey on Minority Languages, among
others. His research interests encompass Sociolinguistics and Language
Planning, Second Language Teaching, Historiography of Linguistics, and
Galician and Hispanic Linguistics.