Towards a discourse of inclusion? Tensions between policy and practice in rural Bolivia

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Towards a discourse of inclusion? Tensions between policy and practice in rural Bolivia

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This multi-leveled case study examines how local actors, such as administrators and professors from higher education institutions, and rural, college students make sense of Bolivian educational policy. The contentious relationship between neo-liberal and anti-neoliberal mechanisms for providing poverty alleviation are being played out in Bolivian higher education, amid diverse youth. This study explores how educational policy, in the context of neocolonialism and globalization, may open up or close implementational spaces (Hornberger & Cassels-Johnson, 2007) for rural college students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, across social class, gender and ethnic differences. Through vertical case study and discourse analysis methodologies, this study taps the perspectives of critical stakeholders and ‘youngest policymakers’ (McCarty, T. et al., 2011), within a wider context, highlighting the transversality of global ‘flows’ of policies (Appadurai, 1996) in postcolonial contexts. This study examines ethnic identity and assimilation in a dynamic context where marginalized students are negotiating their own identity (Deaux, 2006) as well as how these disparities are resisted, co-opted, and framed around a higher education context (Arrueta & Avery, 2011; Burman, 2012). The study attempts to examine the perceived role of language education policy in this postcolonial space (Canagarajah, 2011) of tension and possibility. Additionally, this study builds on critical analysis of discourses of language endangerment (Duchêne & Heller, 2007) in a lesser-known context such as Bolivia. Through examination of key ideas within contemporary language policy discourse, linguistic diversity is situated within a wider discourse. Thus, by examining globalizing discourse in a developing society by using an approach that reflects local realities and attempts to “explore how globalizing processes intersect and interconnect people and policies that come into focus at different scales” (Vavrus & Bartlett, 2014, p. 2), this study proposes a novel approach. Unlike past research in this context, this study takes a contextualized approach to examining bi-multilingual, intercultural education in Bolivia in its local, national and global dimensions. This study significantly takes into account the wider historical, political and social spaces that multilingual, intercultural educational policy occupies within Bolivian society.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2015. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Mary Hermes. 1 computer file (PDF); xxiv, 293 pages.

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Arnal, Martina. (2015). Towards a discourse of inclusion? Tensions between policy and practice in rural Bolivia. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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