A scalar analysis of Paraguayan bilingual education policy implementation

Katherine Mortimer, University of Texas at El Paso


Educational language policy is an important tool in the struggle to achieve educational equity for language minority students, and how educators interpret and appropriate policy in schools has much to do with its results. Research on educational language policy has faced the perennial question of how to conceptualize and analyze the relationships between what are often seen as macro-level policy and micro-level practices. Following recent trends in research on language-in-social-context, however, language policy scholars are using the concept of spatiotemporal scales to better understand these dimensions and connections (Collins, in press; Hult, 2010). Based on a larger ethnographic study of Spanish/Guarani bilingual education policy implementation in Paraguay, this paper describes how, despite its equalizing promise, a national policy to incorporate Guarani into instruction was appropriated in ways that left rural, Guarani-dominant children marginalized while benefitting urban, Spanish-dominant children. I use hierarchically-ordered sociolinguistic scales (Blommaert, 2007) to explain how sociolinguistic resources—including different varieties of Guarani, ideologies about those varieties, and translanguaging practices—were mobilized in two schools such that, even though Guarani was used in instruction in both places, its use had an up-scaling effect for Spanish dominant students and a down-scaling effect for Guarani-dominant students. I show how the scalar frame more adequately accounts for the largeness and/or smallness of language policy activities, enabling consideration of time, space, and power dimensions at once. And I explore how the scalar frame illuminates opportunities to make language policy work harder and do more good for the education of language minority students.