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The discourse of ESL policy: the impact of the ‘literacy crisis’ Mairead Hannan Master of TESOL.

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Presentation on theme: "The discourse of ESL policy: the impact of the ‘literacy crisis’ Mairead Hannan Master of TESOL."— Presentation transcript:

1 The discourse of ESL policy: the impact of the ‘literacy crisis’ Mairead Hannan Master of TESOL

2 Why this research? Practicing ESL teacher since 1990 Wanted to understand what what happening to ESL profession in schools Why basic literacy is the focus to exclusion of other needs Why many schools don’t provide ESL support Why teachers and communities seem to have lost voice

3 Determined the reasons for changes as relating to: Policy Discourse The ‘literacy crisis’ (Lo Bianco and Freebody 2001) Currently focus on economic discourse and away from the rights of multilingual Australian communities

4 What has happened to ESL Subsumed by literacy needs (Lo Bianco 1998) Collapsed into literacy funds (Lo Bianco, Hammond, Michell 1998, 2009) Silenced (Ives, 2008)

5 Why and how has this occurred? Examined federal language and literacy from 1986: National Policy on Languages (1987) Australian Language and Literacy Policy (1991) Literacy For All (1998)

6 Victorian documents ESL Companion to CSF (2000) ESL Companion VELS (2005) The ESL Handbook (2006) ESL Continuum (2008) PoLT (2004) Blueprints (2003; 2008) Literacy Teaching and Learning in Victorian Schools (2006) VCAA (2008)

7 Research Methods Critical Discourse Analysis (Blommaert 2005, Fairclough 1992,1995, 2001) Grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss1967) Political Sociology (Faulks 1999) Neo-liberalism and education (Apple 2004)

8 Research premise That policy and planning for languages and ESL exhibit three orientations (Richard Ruiz 1984): 1. Languages as a problem 2. Languages as a right 3. Languages as a resource Resource model is most desirable and productive for a multilingual nation (Clyne 2005). 15-30% of Victorian students are bilingual.

9 Research process Highlighted key words in policy texts Matrix of comparative, contrastive and incommensurate data Related discourse to wider socio-political contexts Theorized about discourses and related to existing literature and theory Essentialized ideas relating them clearly to the data

10 Themes arising from the data Policy style and discourse i) A collaborative style and inclusive multicultural discourse ii) A directive style and discourse of economic reform iii) An imposing style and discourse of crisis iv) A neo-liberal discourse focussed on competition and the individual Five restrictions i) Restriction of languages ii) Restriction of literacy iii) Restriction of assessment iv) Restriction of voice v) Restriction of participation


12 Findings A Neo-liberal state school ‘system’ in Victoria means that: Varying practices and difficult to ascertain common practices relating to provision, programs and teaching ESL is fore-grounded, back-grounded and absent in Victorian documents, depending on their sources

13 Manifestations of neo-liberalism The government simultaneously: Devolves responsibility Applies accountability and compliance measures Marketisation of education and prioritisation of choice and the individual. (Apple 2004). Results in a lack of voice for minority groups and reflects a simplistic understanding of power. (Faulks 1999)

14 Currently Literacy and language are conflated. Benchmarks and state-regulated tests are designed for native English speakers and disadvantage ESL students. ‘Literacy crisis’ makes individuals responsible for own learning. Accountability measures abound but Dept does not ensure that ESL funds are directed towards ESL programs. (It seems ESL Survey no longer has a compliance measure but NAP and Multicultural Education have )

15 Orientation towards language planning in Victoria ESL documents can show multilingualism as a resource but also exhibit other orientations as affected by mainstream concerns General documents show multilingualism as a problem: either backgrounds or omits planning for a multilingual population

16 General documents PoLT: no ESL Literacy Teaching and Learning Paper no. 9: no ESL VCAA: ESL backgrounded DEECD: ESL backgrounded or absent

17 Diffused practices in Victoria Self managed schools ‘system’ mean there is great variety of practices and difficult to ascertain. Schools respond to markets and clients: Whose voices? Dominant discourses?

18 ESL and literacy ESL is not properly seen as a part of literacy Benchmarks and tests not ESL-friendly Literacy documents and national policy omit ESL (and languages) ESL documents are backgrounded and practices subservient to literacy needs which are ‘in crisis’ This is re-confirmed in documents, media, schools provision, curriculum - throughout.

19 2009 Developments National Curriculum describes EAL/D students well in “considerations” NAPLAN assessment continues to be designed for mother tongue English speakers and applied across the nation 2008 policy broadbanded all ESL funding, including NAP – how many states will have ESL units in 2010?


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