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Language Policy and Education in Southeast Asia

Living reference work entry
Part of the Encyclopedia of Language and Education book series (ELE)

Abstract

Southeast Asia comprises 11 nations: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam. More than 1,200 languages are spoken in the region. Due to the evident linguistic diversity, Southeast Asian nations have attempted to find a balance between the national, local, and international languages – English in particular. Consequently, the chosen language policies and language education practices vary widely throughout the region. Southeast Asian language policies and education systems have traditionally emphasized the respective official and national languages. In contrast, little attention has been paid to other languages, apart from English, which has been taught as a foreign language – or in some countries used as a language of instruction. Prioritizing different languages in education represents conflicting interests in terms of national identity (national languages), globalization, and economic development (English), as well as pluralism and cultural heritage (local languages). Policy support for local languages differs widely, and the scope ranges from the Philippines’ and Vietnam’s supportive language policies to Brunei and Laos, where the use of local languages in education is currently impossible. According to its policy of mother tongue-based multilingual education, the Philippines is attempting to include all languages in education. Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Timor-Leste use several dominant languages as languages of instruction. In other Southeast Asian countries the respective national language is almost exclusively the language of instruction. Multilingual education which includes local languages is increasing in Cambodia, Thailand, and Timor-Leste.

Keywords

Language of instruction Language policy Local languages Multilingual education Southeast Asia 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SIL International and Payap UniversityChiang MaiThailand

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