A balancing act: teachers’ ideologies and agency in language policy enactment in Maldivian schools

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This paper focuses on the agentive meaning-making role that teachers hold in enacting language policies in Maldivian schools. Drawing on data from curriculum documents, teacher surveys and interviews, I present how teachers’ ideologies about language and language teaching impact how they interpret policy and address linguistic imbalances in schools.

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Teachers are not passive recipients of language policy. Rather, they play an instrumental role in language policy enactment in schools. In this paper, I focus on the school context of the Maldives and argue that teachers can play a significant role in the process of language policy enactment by making schools more equitable places for students studying predominantly in a language that is not their own. Being the main school language in the Maldives, English plays a dominant role in the curriculum and the school environment. Previous studies indicate that the focus on building an English-speaking nation side-lines the native language of the country. The little research done in this context shows that students do not have positive attitudes towards learning Dhivehi, and that the language education policy is not supportive towards learning content subjects. In combination, these factors have led to underachievement in schools, and particularly in Dhivehi; a growing disassociation from Dhivehi; and a heavy dependence on English. This study will address how these issues can be addressed at the school level. Given the agentive role that teachers can play in equalising linguistic imbalances in school policy, this study will focus on unpacking the linguistic ideologies teachers hold and how this impacts their curriculum planning. I will draw on several sources of data. A survey of 200 language teachers will show teachers’ ideological stances towards Dhivehi and English and how this forms the foundation for their pedagogical approach to teaching language(s). An analysis of curriculum documents from 30 schools will show the ways in which teachers have interpreted the national curriculum and designed their own teaching plans. In-depth interviews with four teachers will be used to show contrasting examples of how language ideologies and school practices of curriculum planning affect policy enactment.

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University of Auckland

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