Language education policies and sociolinguistic criticism

Jürgen Jaspers (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Language education policies are pivotal in nation-states' negotiation of a globalizing economy and a diversifying population. But certainly in urban, non-elite schools, where pupils' linguistic diversity is pronounced, their fixation on language separation and multi-monolingualism produces salient sites of linguistic friction. Much scholarly work has been successfully problematizing this friction, producing an avalanch of criticism and ample calls for a change in schools' approach of pupils' polylingual practices.
This presentation argues that while such calls are pedagogically exciting and justified on principle, a significant number of them reproduce some of the main assumptions behind the policies that they denunciate, or invite problems of their own. Consequently many calls for change underestimate the difficulties of policy implementation, exaggerate their own effects, and overstate their critical character. I suggest this necessitates a reconsideration of the received relation between sociolinguistics and language education policy, and requires that calls for change take a different tack.