31 SES 08 B, Language policies and ideologies
The Luxembourgish education system can be described as Janus-faced: on one hand, in Europe it is often portrayed as a model multilingual education system. On the other hand, the OECD has remarked that some of its structures and processes, such as grade repetition or early student tracking, are linked to low equity indicators in the education system (OECD 2016: 7). The language regime in primary schools is indeed multilingual, but also rigid: German functions as the language of instruction; French is taught as a 'foreign' language; and Luxembourgish also occupies an important role. This highly specific language regime favours students with a Germanic-language (i.e. Luxembourgish) background, which is problematic given that over 60% of primary school students indicate to have a dominant home language other than Luxembourgish, and a large number of these students grow up in Romance-language home environments. This proportion of students with non-Germanic language backgrounds in Luxembourgish schools has been steadily increasing over the past decade due to continuous immigration. Not limited to Luxembourg, it is an international phenomenon that the heterogeneous nature of student populations with different lingua-cultural backgrounds is increasing and diversifying. Thus, within educational policy research, it is important to give a voice to students who, based on the divergence of their linguistic repertoire from the official curriculum, may be facing educational disadvantage or exclusion.
This research explores students’ views on the educational structures and processes within which they operate. More precisely, this paper analyses Luxembourgish primary school students’ reported experiences with language education policies, educational practices and structural processes. As the data collection and analysis follow an exploratory approach, the theoretical framework is preliminarily built on constructionist understandings of both the linguistic repertoire (cf. Busch 2017) and the concept of identity (cf. Pavlenko and Blackledge 2004). A language ideological perspective (cf. Woolard and Schieffelin 1994) will shed light on how participants engage with, and are influenced by, the ideologies underlying the language policies and educational processes in the Luxembourgish education system.
Data is to be collected in four separate blocks between September 2017 and June 2018 with 33 students aged between 10 and 11 years who attend a primary school in Luxembourg City. Data collection followed a multimodal, exploratory approach composed of qualitative interviews which encouraged students’ active participation and involvement in the research. More specifically, participants were given notebooks in which they could draw or write texts on language- or school-related topics. These materials served as prompts for discussion in semi-structured interviews, which were mostly conducted with student pairs. Data is analysed thematically, and is further contextualised by twelve weeks of ethnographic observations of participants during lessons, focusing on students’ engagement with, and reactions towards, policies and teaching practices.
The data collection for the research was still ongoing at the time of submitting this abstract. It is expected that the themes emerging from the data analysis will provide insights into students’ lived experiences of language education policies and educational processes, and how these are related to wider understandings of their own linguistic repertoire. Suggestions for policy improvements may also be put forward based on the findings. Thus, this paper contributes to sociolinguistic and educational research on lived experiences of language education policies and educational processes in Europe and beyond by giving a voice to young people who operate in educational contexts marked by diversity, as well as by structures and practices that may disadvantage and exclude.
Busch, B. (2017) Expanding on the notion of the linguistic repertoire: on the concept of Spracherleben – the lived experience of language. Applied Linguistics, 38/3: 340–358. OECD (2016) Education Policy Outlook: Luxembourg. (accessed on 25/01/2018) www.oecd.org/education/policyoutlook.htm Pavlenko, A. and Blackledge, A. (2004) Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Woolard, K. and Schieffelin, B. (1994) Language Ideology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 23, 55- 82.
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