Finnish teachers as policy agents in a changing society

Tarnanen, M., & Palviainen, Å. Language and Education, 2018.


As policy agents, teachers are involved in representing and reproducing language education policies in their talk, practices and classroom interaction. Contemporary Finland and its education system are experiencing times of change from the increased globalisation and dynamic flows of migration. This has affected the most recent Finnish curriculum reform for compulsory education, which to a greater extent than before promotes multilingualism. In this article, we explore how Finnish teachers reflect language policies in the two most recent curricula [Finnish National Board of Education (FNBE 2004 and FNBE 2014)] and how teachers (re)produce ideologies of language and multilingualism. The findings, based on a meta-ethnography and discourse analysis of four recent studies, show that teachers acknowledged multilingual children’s language competencies but rarely made use of them in the classroom. Teachers expressed the belief that the use of other languages than the language of schooling might impede language learning, and they discursively distinguished between us and them in terms of cultural practices, nation and language. Teachers’ talk reflected the previous curriculum and was not yet aligned with current national education policy. In order to have some effect on persistent monolingual ideologies in schools, teachers’ role as (re)makers of language policy should be taken more seriously.

Copyright © 2018, Taylor & Francis.

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