Is it “just language”? Focusing framings and the scholarship on issues about equity in Language education for migrant/refugee adults

About this Session


Wed. 10.04. 15:05



Authors – Karin Ingeson , Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta


The study presented in this paper aims to illuminate concepts, narratives and positionalities that circulate in language education for migrants/refugees. Building on a meta-study the study presented in this paper provides an overview of the (English language) international and Swedish national scholarship about the implicit or explicit political, cultural and ideological dimensions that frame this education. The meta study is part of the TISA-21 project which broadly seeks to identify and illuminate tensions in Swedish adult education, with a specific focus on language education.

Adult language education is generally understood as the key to successful integration, wherein the migrant/refugee needs to be “fixed” in order to fit into an existing society. In this context the present study explores the nature of citizenship and democracy as it gets conceptualized in and through migrant/refugee language instruction generally, and how such an education is approached in the scholarship specifically. The paper illuminates’ questions about the development, purpose, beneficiaries, and providers of such education both theoretically and pragmatically.

The study is guided through the tenets of a Second Wave of Southern Perspectives framework (SWaSP) that brings into focus both sociocultural, integrational, ubuntu perspectives, as well as anti/post/decolonial ideas. Using the lens of SWaSP, the paper critically examines foundational aspects of language education, illuminating its complexities in terms of political-ideological framings of its foundations, the vocabularies that are in play, participant, teacher and researcher positionings (when these are explicated), and its implicit/explicit goals of fostering active citizenship. Furthermore, the meta-study synthesizes the dominant methodologies, theoretical framings, research foci, geopolitical areas where the research is conducted, and scholars’ perspectives in the field of adult language education. Preliminary findings reveal a North-American and Australian-centric dominance with a focus on specific nationally categorized people (often women). The over 350 studies that are part of our dataset indicate weak theoretical discussions and frameworks. The positionalities of the researchers are generally not explicit in this scholarship either.

Based on a third position from SWaSP framings, a salient outcome of the meta-study presented in this paper calls for revised ways of comprehending language education for adult migrants/refugees. The findings raise questions about equity in the rigid and taken-for-granted positions where the focus lies primarily on equipping migrants/refugees for a fixed societal structure. The marginal focus on processes of participation for everyone and for a common future in a contemporary societal context here constitutes a critical equity question.