A defiance of language policy: seamless boundaries between languages in Botswana classrooms

by Mompoloki M. Bagwasi and Tracey Costley

21 Jun 2022
Journal of the British Academy
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Number of pages
16 (pp. 125-140)

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Abstract: Botswana is a multilingual and multicultural country with 25 to 30 languages. In contrast to this everyday lived multilingualism, the country’s language-in-education policy (LIEP) attempts to create a homogenous population in which only two languages are used—Setswana and English. This study investigates language use in classrooms in two schools in Botswana. It explores how the LIEP is enacted in classrooms, which language(s) are used and how. The paper argues that despite a LIEP which tends to prescribe how languages are to be used within education, there is evidence that Botswanan languages are used in much more fluid ways and that the boundaries constructed through the LIEP do not necessarily play out in the day-to-day worlds of teaching and learning in schools. The paper explores the different ways in which the current LIEP meets and diverges from everyday language practices and ends with some suggestions for future policy and practices.

Keywords: Language policy, multilingualism, education policy, 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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