Language policy in Ghana and Malawi: differing approaches to multilingualism in education

by Colin Reilly, Elvis ResCue and Jean Josephine Chavula

21 Jun 2022
Journal of the British Academy
Digital Object Identifier
Number of pages
27 (pp. 69-95)

Abstract: Despite substantial international evidence that children learn best in a language which they understand, language-in-education policies in much of Africa do not effectively accommodate the range of languages found in the classroom, instead prescribing dominant national languages and/or colonial languages such as English. Further, these language policies continue to reflect a monoglossic conceptualisation of languages and do not adequately account for the multilingual repertoires of individuals and communities. They do not reflect an understanding of the ways in which multilingual language practices could be harnessed for education. This article provides a comparative overview of the policy context in Malawi and Ghana, at the levels of legislation, practice, and attitudes. Through interviews, questionnaires, classroom observations, and classroom recordings in primary schools, we highlight the multilingual realities of educational spaces in each country. We highlight that, despite different sociolinguistic and legislative contexts, there are similarities between these contexts which emerge as important factors when considering multilingualism within education.

Keywords: Language-in-education policy, multilingualism, Malawi, Ghana, language attitudes, classroom practices.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 10, supplementary issue 4 (Rethinking Multilingualism: Education, Policy and Practice in Africa).

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