, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 143-164

The problem of ‘choice’ and the construction of the demand for English in Cambodia

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Abstract

This paper uses Cambodia as a case study to problematise the notion of choice in the spread of English. I explore specific historical contexts which were central to the construction of the demand for English and English language teaching (ELT) in Cambodia. The actions of a range of external agencies resulted in the close discursive articulation of English with Cambodia’s ‘reconstruction and development’ which was constructed along broadly neo-liberal lines. Alternative models of development were not considered, thus language alternatives were similarly ignored. One language alternative, a programme of mass literacy, was largely ignored, leaving the majority of Cambodians functionally illiterate. I conclude by arguing that the use of ‘choice’ in language choice theories as a form of agency often masks the fact that choice is a marker of socio-economic and political privilege.