ERG SES D 13, Language and Education
This paper intends to promote a discussion on the issue of trilingual education in Kazakhstan. It is based on the doctoral study aimed at examining (1) how secondary school teachers interpret trilingual education language policies and (2) how their views and understanding are reflected in their classroom practices.
The language question in Kazakhstan has undoubtedly been influenced by a number of historic, political, cultural, social, and economic reasons and factors. The State Programme for Development and Functioning of Languages in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020 (2011) envisages future Kazakhstanis as trilingual. They should know Kazakh as a state (national) language, Russian as an official language used alongside the Kazakh language in state organisations and local self-government agencies (also actively used in the public communicative domain), and English as an international language.
The main site for implementing the policy is educational institutions. Trilingual education has been piloted in a network of 33 schools for gifted children since 2007 (Daryn National Scientific-Practical Centre, 2012). Trilingual education is also piloted in seventeen Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools established to become sites for the development of a wider range of best educational practices as part of the ongoing national reform of education. By 2020, the number of trilingual schools in Kazakhstan is meant to reach 700. However, there is no written trilingual education policy or clear guidance for implementation in schools, which causes confusion and lack of clear focus for unity of practice whereas pilot schools appear to be finding their own way.
The primary reason for conducting this research lies in the need to promote awareness of the undeniable role of education in language policy implementation in Kazakhstan. Ferguson (2006) argues that “education is probably the most crucial, sometimes indeed bearing the entire burden of language policy implementation” (p. 33). The second reason for this study stems from the concern over clarity as to how trilingual education is perceived by teachers and how implementation takes place in classrooms. Mehisto, Kambatyrova, and Nurseitova (2014) argue that educators find the trilingual initiative challenging to implement in the current conditions. This leads us to suspect that views and practices can differ substantially.
The study draws on European practices with different trilingual education models and approaches where all three languages are used commonly and extensively in educational contexts (European Schools) and educational as well as authentic contexts such as in Luxembourg and Nordic countries. The study is grounded in the recognition that teachers are a crucial component in the implementation of trilingual education. Research suggests that teachers’ theories and beliefs are among the factors affecting their practices (Borg, 2003). I posit that the lack of voice as to how teachers understand the policy and how they translate that understanding into their classrooms can negatively impact the effectiveness of implementation. If we believe that teachers can and should exercise their agency at the policy interpretation stage, this means that we should take into account their beliefs about the policies and the ways their beliefs affect implementation in classroom practices.
In this study, language policy is viewed through the lens of agency of teachers at language policy interpretation and appropriation stages (Johnson, 2013). Trilingual education is understood as education that embraces the use of three languages as medium of instruction (Cenoz, Hufeisen & Jessner, 2001). Teachers’ beliefs are seen as “statements teachers make about their ideas, thoughts, and knowledge that are expressed as evaluations of what ‘should be done,’ ‘should be the case,’ and ‘is preferable” (Basturkmen, Loewen & Ellis, 2004, p. 244).
Basturkmen, H., Loewen, S., & Ellis, R. (2004). Teachers’ stated beliefs about incidental focus on form and their classroom practices. Applied Linguistics 25(2), 243-272. Borg, S. (2003). Teacher cognition in language teaching: A review of research on what language teachers think, know, believe, and do. Language Teaching, 36, 81–109. Cenoz, J., Hufeisen, B., & Jessner, U. (2001). Towards trilingual education. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 4(1), 1-10. Daryn National Scientific-Practical Centre. (2012). Schools with a training in three languages. Retrieved from http://daryn.kz/content/view/4/244?lang=en Ferguson, G. (2006). Language planning and education. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Johnson, D. C. (2013). Language policy. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan. Mehisto, P., Kambatyrova, A., & Nurseitova, K. (2014). Three in one? Trilingual policy and education practice. In D. Bridges (Ed.), Educational reform and internationalisation: The case of school reform in Kazakhstan (pp. 133-151). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. State Programme for Educational Development for 2011-2020 (2010). Retrieved from http://www.akorda.kz/en/category/gos_programmi_razvitiya State Programme on Development and Functioning of Languages of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020 (2011). Retrieved from http://www.akorda.kz/en/category/gos_programmi_razvitiya Wellington, J. (2000). Educational research: Contemporary issues and practical approaches. London, UK: Continuum.
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