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Review of  Decolonisation, Globalisation

Reviewer: Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu
Book Title: Decolonisation, Globalisation
Book Author: Angel M.Y. Lin Peter W. Martin
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 16.3223

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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.


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

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