Worm's-Eye View; The Impact of Policy and Research on the Classroom Practitioner
by Neil McBeath
This segues neatly into Kennedy's (2001; 36) model of Language Policy and Planning (Figure 1). This model has been chosen because it directly refers to the situation that applies in the Arab Gulf, and to its "mismatches between language policies, the realities of the social situation outside the classroom and pedagogical practice" (Kennedy 2001; 39). The model works down the page, starting at the highest level – International and National Context – socio-economic; political; cultural; linguistic – and ending up at the very bottom with the classroom teachers – the worms – who are mentioned only in the context of variables.
International and National Context
Classroom practitioners, of course, are not supposed to concern themselves with the international or national contexts of language planning. In military parlance, such concerns are "above their pay grade".The most dramatic, recent example of such planning, however, was the 2008 announcement by the Government of Rwanda that henceforward the official language would be English, not French (Vesperini 2010). So far as the Rwandan government was concerned, France had been complicit in genocide and civil war (Smith 2011), and so, in future, Rwanda would look east to the Anglophone countries of Africa.
National Policy and Planning (non-linguistic)
Now clearly, this type of policy change has an impact. The Rwandan decision has stretched that country's resources almost to breaking point (De Lotbiniere 2010), but the problems faced by classroom practitioners are mainly logistical. A shortfall in teacher numbers means larger classes and overcrowded classrooms. Lack of resources means shared, or no, books
National Planning and Policy (non-linguistic) is effectively a misnomer, for it has three strands – educational policy and planning; language policy planning and human resource planning. It is easy for governments to announce policy changes. The difficulties come in ensuring that those policy changes are actually carried out. For example, a lack of human resources can invalidate both language and educational policy and planning.
This could be the situation that applied in Saudi Arabia in the period 2002 to 2004. Following the notorious fire at a girls' school in Mecca, the Saudi government revised its education system and it was announced that English would be introduced in Grade 6 of primary education. The Ministry of Education had initially intended to introduce English in Grade 4, but it is entirely possible that they were unable to find enough teachers.
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