Language of instruction: a question of disconnected capabilities

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This paper focuses on the issue of language of instruction, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and considers the persistent preference for monolingual learning environments in multilingual societies. The perception that the use of African languages in education interferes with the acquisition of a global language is shown to be incongruous with current research and theories about multilingual learning and translanguaging. Moreover, drawing from an empirical study in Tanzania, it is observed that the rigid separation of different languages not only has implications for effective language acquisition, but is also associated with negative social consequences for learners. This paper argues that the capability approach can contribute to improved understanding and analysis of these phenomena. In particular, it suggests that several issues relating to language of instruction can be usefully reframed as a problem of disconnected capabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-205
Number of pages19
JournalComparative Education
Issue number2
Early online date4 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2021


  • language of instruction
  • capability approach
  • secondary education
  • Tanzania
  • translanguaging


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