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Policy as practice: Local appropriation of language and education policies in Lesotho primary schools

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Stephen Backman
Abstract:
This dissertation study sets out to take a close look at the complex mix of factors on the ground, which influence the appropriation of language and education policies by local education stakeholders at Lesotho primary schools. I argue that much of the research in language policy and planning (LPP) has focused too largely on the macro-level dynamics of language policy, especially as they relate to education, while overlooking, sometimes disregarding, the local dynamics which play a crucial role in the actual implementation and appropriation of language and education policies in schools and communities. In order to investigate the various dynamics contributing to the appropriation of language and education policy by local stakeholders, I take a "policy as practice" approach to the research. In contrast to the traditional approach to LPP research, a policy as practice approach begins with the actual practices and lived realities of key stakeholders as the unit of analysis and investigates how policies influence those practices. Thus, rather than analyzing the policy itself, a policy as practice approach analyzes language and education policies as one of many different factors which influence the attitudes and practices of local stakeholders. The intent of such an approach is to place policies in proper perspective within the multitude of factors influencing how and why local stakeholders behave and respond to their circumstances. Indeed, policy is an important factor contributing to what happens at schools, but it is only one of many. In this study I utilize three main conceptual frameworks to analyze the findings of a year-long ethnographic field research conducted at five selected government and private primary schools in Lesotho. Utilizing Bordieu's concepts of cultural, social, economic, and symbolic capital, I analyze the multifarious mix of capital that students and their families possess, which either act as constraints on their educational opportunities or provide certain opportunities not available to those who possess less valued sources of capital. A second conceptual framework borrows from the linguistic anthropology concept of language ideologies and investigates the various competing and conflicting ideologies which play out simultaneously at schools and in the lives of teachers, students and their families. These differ greatly, especially when comparing government schools to private schools. The final conceptual framework investigates the structure-agency dynamics by exploring the role which agency plays in the linguistic and educational decisions local stakeholders make. Although there are many structural limits placed upon schools and individuals, they are still able to utilize their agency to influence their practices within certain constraints. By taking a policy as practice approach and focusing on the lived realities of local schools and their stakeholders, this study attempts to provide a deeper understanding of the role policies take in influencing their language and educational practices. In so doing, it is hoped that language and education policy studies will gain a greater appreciation of the local dynamics which influence the appropriation of policies on the ground.

TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW/CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK 21 Introduction 21 Language Policy and Planning 24 Language Ideologies 46 Forms of Capital 57 Agency 68 Policy as Practice 72 Conclusion 74 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY AND RESEARCH SETTING 77 Introduction 77 Epistomological Considerations 78 Research Questions 82 Ethical Considerations 85 Research Methods and Design 92 Data Analysis 104 Research Sites 107 Historical, Linguistic, and Social Background to Lesotho 121 CHAPTER 4 GOVERNMENT SCHOOL FAMILIES 124 Introduction 124 Economic Capital 125 Cultural Capital 145 Social Capital 161 Symbolic/Linguistic Capital 173 Conclusion 176 CHAPTER 5 PRIVATE SCHOOL FAMILIES 180 Introduction 180 Economic Capital 182 Cultural and Symbolic Capital 195 Social Capital 211 Conclusion 222 CHAPTER 6 IX

IDEOLOGICAL INFLUENCES ON LANGUAGE POLICY IN LESOTHO 224 Introduction 224 Competing Ideologies in School Practices 224 Colonial Legacy of English 227 Hegemony of Global English 234 CHAPTER 7 IDEOLOGICAL INFLUENCES ON SCHOOL PRACTICES IN LESOTHO 243 Introduction 243 Language Use in the Classroom 243 Learning English versus Learning Subject Content 255 Competing Purposes of Education 262 Private versus Public Education 269 Conclusion 291 CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSION 295 The Structure-Agency Dynamic in the Lives of Local Stakeholders 296 The Influences of Ideologies at all Levels on Policy and Practices 299 Placing the Role of Policies into Perspective 301 APPENDICES 303 REFERENCES 306 x

Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 1: Introduction Much of the literature on language in education policy (LiEP) in Africa has advocated for "mother tongue" instruction, or the use of local, indigenous languages as the language of instruction at schools. This literature draws from theories in language acquisition, cognition, pedagogy, and curriculum while also relying on postcolonial and other critical traditions of scholarship. The typical argument claims that students learn best in a language that is familiar to them (e.g., mother tongue). This is in opposition to the common practice in Africa where most state education systems have policies which favor the use of an ex-colonial language (English, French, or Portuguese) as the language of instruction at schools instead of using local, indigenous languages. There is a rich source of empirical research which supports these claims for mother tongue instruction and has been used in forceful arguments advocating changes in these policies to utilize African languages to a greater extent in schools. Despite this scholarship which effectively advocates for the use of indigenous languages at schools, most state education systems continue to use ex-colonial, European languages as the language of instruction at schools. Perhaps more significantly, a great majority of the citizens in these countries seem to support and favor the use of ex- colonial languages at their schools. Scholars have attempted to explain this phenomenon through structuralist or postcolonial theories, claiming that the legacy of colonialism continues to play out in most African countries through neo-imperialism and other forms of inequality. They claim the use of ex-colonial languages at schools helps to perpetuate 1

the inequalities that were established under colonial rule and is now used to favor the interests of the educated elite in Africa who are subsequently in control of governmental, educational, and other influential systems of society. By using a foreign language at schools, which is not commonly known to all citizens, and must often be learned in a formal setting, the educated elite are able to maintain their social status while keeping the majority of people at a lower level of education, and therefore, a lower status in society. Many scholars argue that the complicit support of the general population of Africans for using ex-colonial languages in education is due to their being "colonized in the mind" (Ngugi, 1986) and thus buying into the current systems that oppress them. They claim that people make decisions within the structural frameworks in which they live, which largely determine the options available to them. They claim this is even more so in today's world where knowledge of English and other western languages are seen to be increasingly important in participating in the global economy and international society. Although these arguments may help to explain the structural systems which have led to the current situation in most African countries, they do not satisfactorily explain why most parents, teachers, and students continue to support, and even push for, the use of ex-colonial languages at their schools. These theories do not take into account the lived realities and decisions which face individuals and families on a daily basis. Rather, they describe a somewhat deterministic system which perpetuates inequalities and allows little room for agency to play a role in individuals' and families' lives. These deterministic explanations are unsatisfactory because they put too much stress on the structures involved and leave out the role of individuals. Under such models the only real 2

way structures can change is by changing policies from the top down. Therefore, much of the scholarship on LiEP in Africa has argued for changes in policies at the national education system level. As mentioned before, the scholarship in this field is quite sophisticated and convincing, drawing upon strong theoretical traditions and a wealth of empirical evidence. But even so, this approach has done little to influence significant changes in education policies and practices, especially as they apply to the local level of schools and communities on the ground. In this study, I investigate the language policy issue from a more local perspective. In doing so, I attempt to understand the role that lived realities and every day decisions play into the attitudes and actions parents, teachers, and students have towards the use of language at their schools and towards education in general. Further, I attempt to gain a better understanding of the role agency plays in the attitudes and practices of those with whom I worked. Throughout this study I attempt to understand not only what constraints are placed upon individuals, families, and schools by the structures imposed upon them, but also what opportunities are presented to them through the systems and resources available to them. By doing so I hope to portray a situation in which not only constraints, but also opportunities present themselves to local participants in various, complex ways. It is within these constraints and opportunities that actors make decisions which influence not only their own lives, but systems around them. By conducting an ethnographic study of local primary school stakeholders in Lesotho schools and communities I attempt to draw out some of the complexities of their lived realities and come to a better understanding of how they influence larger policies and practices in education. 3

In what follows, I will provide a brief overview and discussion of each chapter in the dissertation. I will also make connections between the chapters and give a general overview of the findings, interpretations, and analyses of this study. Chapter 2: Literature Review/Theoretical Frameworks Chapter 2 discusses four main theoretical concepts which have driven this study and are used for its analysis. The first discusses the history and development of language policy and planning (LPP) as a distinct field of study. The second is a discussion of language ideologies, especially through the lens of linguistic anthropologists as they attempt to explain the daily uses and perceptions of languages in their various contexts. The third, drawing largely upon the theories of Bourdieu, explores different forms of capital (economic, social, cultural, and symbolic) which contribute to the constraints and opportunities facing individuals within societal structures and systems, especially with regards to educational decisions and practices. The final concept I will discuss in Chapter 2 is that of agency and how it is conceptualized in this study. I will briefly explain each of these here, but will go into much greater detail in Chapter 2 itself. In conclusion, I discuss how these four theoretical concepts work together to produce a theory of "policy as practice" which analyzes how language and education policies end up being received, interpreted, appropriated, and implemented by local populations in actual practice on the ground in schools, homes, and communities. Language policy and planning With regards to research on language planning and language policy there have been three main theoretical traditions. The first of these is a technocratic and descriptive 4

approach where scholars and practitioners have attempted to describe the essential components of language policies and develop models of best practices, with the ultimate goal of developing language policies that will lead to the development, unification, and modernization of nations. The field of LPP under this theoretical tradition has often been portrayed as a "neutral", scientific field with little ideological concerns. This technocratic approach mainly came out of the larger field of national development during the 60s when there was a great focus on decolonization and creating newly independent states. It has continued on today in many different forms. The second phase of LPP research is largely in reaction to the first. As development projects and nation building efforts began to show signs of failure, many scholars began to question and criticize the technocratic approach to LPP. They have argued that LPP is not a neutral field of study and is strongly influenced by ideological preferences, regardless of whether these biases are recognized or acknowledged at all. Critical scholars of LPP in this phase have claimed that many of the efforts to create unifying and modernizing language policies has had the opposite effect by perpetuating the inequalities developed under colonial rule and in many countries has resulted in even greater dependence on the former colonial powers. Powerful arguments within this approach include concepts such as linguistic imperialism (Phillipson, 1992), linguicism (Phillipson & Skutnabb-Kangas, 1986), and language ecology (Phillipson & Skutnabb- Kangas, 1996). These concepts maintain that western languages, especially English, have been utilized by dominant forces to create and maintain a global hegemony over subordinate populations. They also argue that many language speaking communities are being discriminated under this global hegemony, leading some languages (along with 5

their accompanying cultures) towards extinction. This branch of LPP argues that we must work against these forces by fighting for linguistic human rights and implement policies that work against the neo-imperialistic, hegemonic forces in order to reverse the current negative trends. The third phase of LPP research has, in turn, developed out of reactions towards this critical approach. Although most scholars in this third trend would agree with the overall claims of critical LPP theorists, they believe that critical theories are also too deterministic and do not sufficiently explain the complexities of language issues in the world today. Even though there are powerful global and national forces which strongly influence the language policies, attitudes, and practices of local communities, they do not determine how local actors appropriate, resist, and/or accommodate these forces. This trend of LPP research calls for a greater focus on local interactions with LPP issues in order to understand how local populations and individuals act as agents who "take over, appropriate, adapt, adopt, and reuse" (Pennycook, 2000, p. 116) English and other global languages for their own purposes and intents. Another important concept in this approach is to look at language practice on the local level in terms of resistance theories. Resistance theorists acknowledge that social institutions impose a powerful reproductive force on society in general, but this does not change the fact that local actors interpret and react to these institutional forces through their own particular historical and culturally situated identities. It is through the agency of local actors, resistance theorists claim, that we find the possibility for changes and modifications in the status quo. Scholars that fit this model include Canagarajah (1999), Pennycook (2001), and Ramanathan (2005). These critical theories on LPP help to 6

explore the dynamics between the constraints placed upon actors by the structures of systems and policies along with the possible actions and reactions, either through resistance, conformity, or a mixture of both, through the agency they possess within the structures placed upon them. Language ideologies The second theoretical concept I draw upon is that of language ideologies as it is explored in the field of linguistic anthropology. In Language Ideology: Practice and Theory (Schieffelin, Woolard, & Kroskrity, 1998), a collection of influential linguistic anthropologists explore the concept of language ideologies through various cultural contexts and linguistic situations. Their conception of language ideologies differs from those employed by the LPP theorists discussed above because its focus of research is on linguistic differences within particular linguistic and cultural groups rather than those of competing global languages and cultures. Therefore, rather than focusing on the macro- level dynamics of a dominant linguistic group imposing its will upon less powerful populations (i.e., colonial powers implementing English as the language of education), linguistic anthropologists strive to understand the micro-level dynamics of why people choose to use different forms of language over others within specific sociocultural contexts. By focusing on the micro-level dynamics this approach allows us to analyze the particular contextual realities which influence the linguistic decisions made by groups and individuals. It also helps to explain how individual and group choices are informed and influenced by larger macrosocial issues. For example, it is easy to state that Sesotho speakers in Lesotho are "colonized" in their minds when they express a preference for 7

English as the language of instruction at school (which many reproductive-oriented critical LPP theorists would argue), but this does not help to explain why those same Sesotho speakers prefer to use their own language in nearly every other social context, often including official politics and many aspects of official business. By parsing out the specific influences of the local sociocultural contexts combined with forces from the outside world, we are able to better understand why sometimes seemingly contradictory choices are made by individuals under specific contexts. One of the most useful aspects of using language ideologies as a theoretical framework for this study is that it provides a mechanism to link actions of local agency within structural limitations imposed by national and global forces. Forms of capital The third theoretical concept I draw upon for this study is that of different forms of capital (economic, social, cultural, and symbolic). This concept draws largely upon the theories of Pierre Bourdieu (1977, 1986) and his discussion of different forms of capital. Bourdieu's concept of capital helps to analyze the educational and linguistic decisions actors make for their own families' lives beyond just language policy decisions. I argue that one of the shortcomings of the critical LPP theorists, with regards to the influence of language policy in education, is that they analyze LiEP issues without taking enough account of social and cultural influences outside of language-specific issues in education. Educational stakeholders are concerned with many competing issues at the same time, of which language policy is only one - and often not the most important - according to local stakeholders. Therefore, although language issues play a significant role in the education of children, especially when they are being taught in an unfamiliar language, they often 8

are not the most important, or most pending, issues which weigh into local stakeholders' decisions. By exploring the different sources of capital available to local stakeholders, especially teachers, school children, and their families, we are able to see the conflicting and competing factors that go into the decisions that they make. In addition, we are able to gain a better understanding of which factors pose structural limits upon individuals and which areas offer opportunities for potential acts of agency within the larger social structures imposed upon them. By exploring the dynamics between constraints and opportunities in individuals' lives we can gain a greater understanding of why students, families, teachers, and other educational stakeholders make the decisions they do and how their decisions influence societal structures and policies around them. Agency The final theoretical concept I rely on for analysis in this study is that of agency. The notion of agency is often an illusive one, with many different fields of study having divergent ways of conceptualizing and understanding what agency is and what role it plays in social dynamics. Therefore it is important to provide a thorough definition of the concept, along with an explanation of the role it plays in social interactions. The basic definition I use for agency is borrowed from Ahearn (2001, p. 112) which states that, "Agency is the socioculturally mediated capacity to act." The expanded definition I provide in Chapter 2 emphasizes that agency is not completely free will and is highly influenced and structured by sociocultural influences, both local and global. In the way I conceptual agency, it is rational and conscious, but only to the extent that groups and individuals make the best decisions they can based upon the knowledge, experience, and understanding available to them. Agency can be performed through acts of resistance, but 9

acts of agency do not necessarily mean individuals are resisting. It can often be performed through acceptance, accommodation, or hybridization of structural forces. Within this study the concept of agency is very important because it is what mediates between structural forces, as Bourdieu's forms of capital help to explicate, and local ideologies and individual interests. It is through agency where the possibilities of social transformation and real changes lie. It is also through agency where policy and practice meet in the actual appropriation of policies on the ground. In short, by focusing on the linguistic and educational attitudes and practices of local stakeholders in Lesotho schools and communities, I attempt to provide a more complex and nuanced understanding of how global and national forces (such as national language and educational policies) impact local actors and institutions (such as schools and families) while also investigating to what extent the role agency plays in the actual attitudes and responses which local stakeholders display through their practices. By utilizing these theoretical frameworks we can hopefully obtain a better understanding of the implicit role that local actors and the realities within which they live play in maintaining social inequalities while also gaining a better appreciation of their potential power agency provides to effect changes to the status quo, for better or for worse. Policy as practice At the end of Chapter 2,1 have a discussion on how the four theoretical concepts discussed above come together to form a theory of "policy as practice" through which the findings of this study are interpreted and analyzed. In more traditional approaches to education policy research scholars have focused on the theoretical and social foundations of policies along with their intended implications for educational practices. Policy 10

research is often concerned with how to produce the most "effective" policies that will address educational "problems" which have been identified by key educational stakeholders. Traditionally this has been done with a top-down approach, with policy makers at national, regional, or other macro-levels devising policies which have implications for the local level of schools and communities. The "policy as practice" approach, in contrast, begins with the actual practice of policies on the ground level (in schools, homes, and communities) and analyzes what factors, at both the micro and macro levels, have an influence on how things are done in actual practice, regardless of whether these practices follow the intended policies or produce unintended results. This approach has less to do with trying to come up with the most "effective" policies for education, but rather looks at how and why education is practiced in actuality. This approach attempts to draw connections between policy decisions and how they are realized in actual practice by focusing on local factors, such as, the attitudes and lived realities of local stakeholders, the social, economic, and cultural constraints placed upon individuals, schools, and communities, and the role of individual and community agency in the appropriation, resistance, conformance, and/or rejection of certain policies actualized through local stakeholders' practices. In short, the "policy as practice" approach theorizes that policies should be interpreted through the ways in which they are performed in actual practice. This in turn can inform policy decisions by understanding how local stakeholders potentially will receive, interpret, and implement policy mandates from above. Without a strong understanding of the factors influencing the actual appropriation of policies on the ground level, then policy formation can be a misinformed and counterproductive enterprise. This is because ultimately it is 11

Full document contains 323 pages
Abstract: This dissertation study sets out to take a close look at the complex mix of factors on the ground, which influence the appropriation of language and education policies by local education stakeholders at Lesotho primary schools. I argue that much of the research in language policy and planning (LPP) has focused too largely on the macro-level dynamics of language policy, especially as they relate to education, while overlooking, sometimes disregarding, the local dynamics which play a crucial role in the actual implementation and appropriation of language and education policies in schools and communities. In order to investigate the various dynamics contributing to the appropriation of language and education policy by local stakeholders, I take a "policy as practice" approach to the research. In contrast to the traditional approach to LPP research, a policy as practice approach begins with the actual practices and lived realities of key stakeholders as the unit of analysis and investigates how policies influence those practices. Thus, rather than analyzing the policy itself, a policy as practice approach analyzes language and education policies as one of many different factors which influence the attitudes and practices of local stakeholders. The intent of such an approach is to place policies in proper perspective within the multitude of factors influencing how and why local stakeholders behave and respond to their circumstances. Indeed, policy is an important factor contributing to what happens at schools, but it is only one of many. In this study I utilize three main conceptual frameworks to analyze the findings of a year-long ethnographic field research conducted at five selected government and private primary schools in Lesotho. Utilizing Bordieu's concepts of cultural, social, economic, and symbolic capital, I analyze the multifarious mix of capital that students and their families possess, which either act as constraints on their educational opportunities or provide certain opportunities not available to those who possess less valued sources of capital. A second conceptual framework borrows from the linguistic anthropology concept of language ideologies and investigates the various competing and conflicting ideologies which play out simultaneously at schools and in the lives of teachers, students and their families. These differ greatly, especially when comparing government schools to private schools. The final conceptual framework investigates the structure-agency dynamics by exploring the role which agency plays in the linguistic and educational decisions local stakeholders make. Although there are many structural limits placed upon schools and individuals, they are still able to utilize their agency to influence their practices within certain constraints. By taking a policy as practice approach and focusing on the lived realities of local schools and their stakeholders, this study attempts to provide a deeper understanding of the role policies take in influencing their language and educational practices. In so doing, it is hoped that language and education policy studies will gain a greater appreciation of the local dynamics which influence the appropriation of policies on the ground.