Whose policy is it anyway : a study examining the factors that have influenced the formulation and reform of language-in-education policy (LiEP) in Zambia


Publication date



Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus. Fakultet for lærerutdanning og internasjonale studier

Document type


Master i flerkulturell og internasjonal utdanning


Four decades after independence, debates on the medium of instruction in Zambian schools still exist. English was adopted as a national language as well as a medium of instruction at independence in 1964. Unique to this decision was the historical absence of English as an indigenous language in the country, its minimal use in the first few years of the colonial education system, the small percentage of first language speakers of English, and its virtual non-use as a language of wider communication. Studies conducted earlier have shown how detrimental the use of English has been on the academic development of students. Arguments about the appropriateness of decisions to continue with the English-medium policy, in light of all research evidence, have been a main feature of all education policy reform exercises. This study took a step back and examined the process of making the language policy to reveal the influences that act upon the exercise. The study offers an historical analysis of how policy-making and reform in education has occurred from the time formal education was introduced in the country. Qualitative research methods, including interviews, document analysis and audio recordings were utilized to understand the salient influences on policy formation over the years. The results suggest that pedagogical reasons have not featured as primary considerations during policy formulation and review. Even when issues of pedagogy have featured on the negotiating table, their influence on policy has been negligible. The impact of political and economic considerations has, however, been very noticeable. Furthermore, the study has shown that the ability to influence policy among all the stakeholders is uneven. While politicians, the elite and donors have leverage to bend policy towards their orientations, the masses’ contributions barely make it to the negotiating table. Though not out of the woods yet, it is encouraging to note that the process of policymaking is moving in a positive direction; from total rejection of the inclusion of local languages in the 1960s, to partial recognition in the 1970s and, eventually, formal recognition as media of instruction in the 1990s.


Permanent URL (for citation purposes)

  • http://hdl.handle.net/10642/1331