Language in Education Policy and Practice in Post-Colonial Africa: An ethnographic case-study of The Gambia

PhD Thesis

Mcglynn, C. 2013. Language in Education Policy and Practice in Post-Colonial Africa: An ethnographic case-study of The Gambia. PhD Thesis University of East London Cass School of Education and Communities
AuthorsMcglynn, C.
TypePhD Thesis

This thesis examines the interaction between the language in education policy and classroom practices in The Gambia, West Africa. This examination takes place against a background of current and vigorous academic debate regarding policies for language in education and the learning and teaching of students, particularly in post-colonial countries.
Using an ethnographic case study this thesis builds on the analysis of more than 38 hours of data collected during classroom observations of 10 teachers in three schools. Conversational interviews were held with 10 teachers and field notes from all observations were produced. Stimulated recall interviews were held with four teachers. The findings of this research suggest that the language in education policy currently in use in The Gambia is regularly subverted by the teachers and students in order to meet the pragmatic and pedagogic needs of the classroom. It was noted that the local languages were used differently in the urban sites, where evidence of a language amalgam was recorded, when compared with the rural sites, in which a phenomenon of serial monolingualism was observed. The impact of historical, political and cultural norms also affected the language in all the sites in the study.
The thesis argues that there is an observable subversion of the language in education policy and different language practices are present as a result of heteroglossic conflict (Bakhtin 1981). The conflict is caused by the imposition of a monolingual language in education policy on a multilingual community. The findings reveal that the teachers and learners have developed a repertoire of pedagogic techniques, some of which are geographically specific, in order to present a demonstration of effective teaching and learning.
In answering the research questions this thesis demonstrates that local languages do have a place in classroom interactions and that a reconsideration of the current English Only policy would be appropriate. There are few studies of language use in classrooms in The Gambia. This research therefore makes a significant contribution to this literature and to the ways in which language use is theorised.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.15123/PUB.3968
Publication dates
PrintSep 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Dec 2014
Publisher's version
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