Multilingualism and education in South Asia: Resolving policy/practice dilemmas

Suresh Canagarajah, Hina Ashraf

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article focuses on the multilingual educational policies in India and Pakistan in the light of challenges in implementation and everyday communicative practices. The challenges these countries face in the context of the contrasting forces of globalization and nationalism are common to those of the other communities in this region. Both India and Pakistan have adopted versions of a tripartite language formula, in which the dominant national language-Urdu in Pakistan, and Hindi in India-along with a regional language and English are to be taught in primary and secondary schools. Such a policy is aimed at accommodating diverse imperatives, such as providing access to schooling to everyone regardless of their mother tongues, developing national identity through competence in a common language, and tapping into transnational economic resources through English. However, this well-intentioned policy has generated other tensions. There are inadequate resources for teaching all three languages in all regions and social levels. Certain dominant languages enjoy more currency and upset the multilingual balance. Furthermore, as people integrate English into their repertoires in recognition of the better-paid employment opportunities and communication media associated with globalization, language practices are becoming more hybrid. To resolve such tensions between policy and practice, some scholars propose a plurilingual model indigenous to the region. Rather than compartmentalizing languages and demanding equal competencies in each of them, such a model would allow for functional competencies in complementary languages for different purposes and social domains, without neglecting mother-tongue maintenance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-285
Number of pages28
JournalAnnual Review of Applied Linguistics
Volume33
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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