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English Education Reform in Asian Countries  

Wenyang Sun and Xue Lan Rong

Language education is becoming an increasingly important topic in education in Asian countries, especially as schools in Asian countries have become more multilingual and multicultural as a result of rapid urbanization and globalization. A comparative analysis of the issues in language education reform in Asian countries—using China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore as examples—shows that, historically and currently, English language education policies are shaped by various underpinning ideologies such as linguicism, nationalism, and neoliberalism. English can serve as a vehicle for upward socioeconomic mobility, or an instrument of linguistic imperialism, or both, in Asia contexts. These ideologies, through language education policies and reforms, impact the status as well as the pedagogy and promotion of the English language. There is a trend and a need with regard to addressing critical consciousness in English education in order to counter the forces of linguicism and neoliberalism in an increasingly multilingual, multicultural, and globalized world.


Foreign Language Education in Japan  

Ryuko Kubota

Historically, foreign language education in Japan has been influenced by local and global conditions. Of the two major purposes of learning a language—to gain new knowledge from overseas and to develop practical communication skills—the latter pragmatic orientation became dominant toward the end the 19th century, when access to foreign language learning increased and English became a dominant language to learn. The trend of learning English as an international language for pragmatic purposes has been further strengthened since the 1980s under the discourses of internationalization and neoliberal globalization. An overview of the current status of foreign language education reveals that there are both formal and non-formal learning opportunities for people of all ages; English predominates as a target language although fewer opportunities to learn other languages exist; English is taught at primary and secondary schools and universities with an emphasis on acquiring communicative skills, although the exam-oriented instructional practices contradict the official goal; and adults learn foreign languages, mainly English, for various reasons, including career advancement and hobbyist enjoyment. Such observations include contestations and contradictions. For instance, there have been debates on whether the major aim of learning English should be pragmatic or intellectual. These debates have taken place against the backdrop of the fact that the learning of a foreign language—de facto English—is much more prevalent in society in the early 21st century compared with previous periods in history, when access to learning opportunities was limited to elites. Another contradiction is between the multilingual reality in local and global communities and the exclusive emphasis on teaching English. This gap can be critically analyzed through a critical realist lens, through which multilayers of ideology in discourses and realities in the material world are examined. The predominance of English is driven by a neoliberal ideology that conceptualizes English as a global language with economic benefit, while testing and shadow education enterprises perpetuate the emphasis on English language teaching. The political economy of foreign language education also explains the longstanding socioeconomic disparity in English ability.


Critical Literacy  

Vivian Maria Vasquez

Changing student demographics, globalization, and flows of people resulting in classrooms where students have variable linguistic repertoire, in combination with new technologies, has resulted in new definitions of what it means to be literate and how to teach literacy. Today, more than ever, we need frameworks for literacy teaching and learning that can withstand such shifting conditions across time, space, place, and circumstance, and thrive in challenging conditions. Critical literacy is a theoretical and practical framework that can readily take on such challenges creating spaces for literacy work that can contribute to creating a more critically informed and just world. It begins with the roots of critical literacy and the Frankfurt School from the 1920s along with the work of Paulo Freire in the late 1940s (McLaren, 1999; Morrell, 2008) and ends with new directions in the field of critical literacy including finding new ways to engage with multimodalities and new technologies, engaging with spatiality- and place-based pedagogies, and working across the curriculum in the content areas in multilingual settings. Theoretical orientations and critical literacy practices are used around the globe along with models that have been adopted in various state jurisdictions such as Ontario, in Canada, and Queensland, in Australia.


Language Planning and Education in Asia  

M. Obaidul Hamid and Md Maksud Ali

The relationship between language planning and education is described by terms such as language in education planning (LEP), which is a subtype of language policy and planning (LPP). Although LEP is limited in scope because of its association with education only, it has attained special significance because the broader societal language policies are usually enacted through the mechanism of LEP. A survey of LEP in theoretical and empirical terms is reported. Theoretically, the examination of the nature, context, purpose, and process of LEP with reference to a framework for policy translation is followed by a discussion of various directions of research in LPP and LEP to provide an understanding of what questions have driven the field, and what theoretical and methodological resources have been deployed for research. The empirical examination focuses on language in education policy in Asia to provide an understanding of what languages have been prioritized, what types of language programs have been implemented, what linguistic perspectives have underpinned those languages and programs, and what linguistic and social outcomes have been reported for this linguistically and culturally diverse region in the world. The review of selective studies shows that LEP in Asia has prioritized national language and English, giving limited attention to local minority languages. Although there is a growing recognition of linguistic diversity and multilingualism across the world, Asia seems to be still dominated by monolingual ideologies as reflected in the language programs. The continued dominance of English, which is brought to schools and higher education institutions as a language subject and/or a medium of instruction, is another observation. Language testing, which works as de facto language policy, also endorses the hegemony of English given its perceived instrumental value as a global lingua franca in a neoliberal world. An overview of where LEP with reference to Asia currently stands and how it may evolve in the future marks the conclusion.