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Academic Paper

Title: Multilingualism and Education in South Asia: Resolving Policy/Practice Dilemmas
Author: Suresh Canagarajah
Author: Hina Ashraf
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
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.


This article appears IN Annual Review of Applied Linguistics Vol. 33, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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