Language Education Policy in the (post/neo)Colonial Pakistan and the Life Trajectories of Low SES Students

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Language Education Policy in the (post/neo)Colonial Pakistan and the Life Trajectories of Low SES Students

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Educational policies in Pakistan have been the mandate of colonial masters since British colonialism in the eighteenth century. Today, the monetary and symbolic power of international neocolonial development agencies shape Pakistani educational policies, especially those related to medium of instruction (MOI), and these policies act to strengthen a (neo)colonial hegemony. Although English is the mother tongue of fewer than 1% of Pakistanis, 52% of students were barred from higher education (HE) in Lahore, Pakistan during the last 12 years, because they failed a standardized English language exam. Moreover, most K-10 teachers in Punjab province lack functional English language skills. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s National Education Policy 2009 declared English as the MOI from grade four on-wards in order to comply with a quality education mandate of UNESCO’s Education for All (EFA). This language policy vertical case study constructs a multimodal critical discourse analysis to analyze data (including documents, government websites, Skype and face-to-face interviews, and Facebook discussions) collected in Pakistan from policymakers, administrators, teachers, and HE students, including recent graduates. The study analyzes how global educational Discourses inform, (re/de)shape and are (re/de)shaped by national, provincial and local educational discourses, and how those discourses (re/de)shape the life trajectories of post-colonial Pakistani HE students. The study illustrates how low-SES Pakistani HE students negotiate, appropriate, subordinate, and resist neocolonial oppression by language education policy. This dissertation finds that global discourses on internationalization of HE, competition through HE, and quality education through English MOI carry direct implications for academic and professional trajectories of Pakistanis. Pakistani HE students have become what Ramanathan called “the contact zone of subordination and resistance” to the hegemony of English. This contact zone is frequently skewed towards subordination, risking the academic, linguistic, and national identity of Pakistanis. Selecting English MOI directly affects language and cultural shifts, and the vitality of local languages, cultures, and knowledges. Deeper analysis of the Discourses of (mis)trust, dislocation, need and desire reveals two conflicting possibilities for the educational crisis in Pakistan. The first is a continued journey towards loss of identity and freedom; the second is genuine educational reform BY and FOR the people of Pakistan.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. November 2016. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Kendall King. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 428 pages.

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Shier, Sadaf. (2016). Language Education Policy in the (post/neo)Colonial Pakistan and the Life Trajectories of Low SES Students. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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