Teachers’ agency and the gatekeeping of language policy: The appropriation of the policies in classrooms of Pakistan

Presenters: Muhammad Yasir Khan; Dr. Liaquat Ali Channa; Dr. Syed Abdul Manan

Affiliation: BUITEMS, Pakistan

Chosen format: Presentation


The top-down language policies often uninformed of the needs of the stakeholders and ground realities are either not implemented or tailored accordingly through “appropriation” (Brown, 2010) in classrooms, the ultimate implementational spaces. Using their agency, teachers often interpret and negotiate ‘the authorized policies’ (Levinson, Sutton & Winstead, 2009. p.767) into “informal policies” (p.767) in a bid to meet the needs of the students. This qualitative study focused on exploring the difficulties faced by students and teachers in the wake of the implementation of the Mother Tongue Act (2014) that made the teaching of mother languages compulsory from grade 1 to 5 in Balochistan, Pakistan. More specifically, the study investigated the role of teachers’ agency in interpreting the act in different locales of the province. For the purpose, the researchers recruited two pools of participants: one comprised of the bureaucrats and members of the concerned implementation bodies; and the other pool comprised of the teachers.  Mindful of the principle of maximum variation, the researchers made sure that the recruited participants represented most of the linguistic communities of the province affected by the act. Data acquired through semi-structured interviews was thematically analyzed through the steps proposed by Braun and Clark (2006).The findings showed that the challenges on political, operational and institutional levels cause problems in the implementation process. Looking at the implementation process as a “socio-cultural process” (p.300) that involves appropriation , the findings of the study demonstrate how the teachers negotiate, interpret and resist the policy. This study provides pertinent implications for the important stakeholders such as teachers, students, policymakers and parents.


Keywords: Policy appropriation; informal language policies; language-in-education policy; Balochistan Mother Tongue Act Pakistan



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Brown, K. (2010). Teachers as language-policy actors: Contending with the erasure of lesser-used languaegs in schools. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 41(3), 298-314.

Levinson, B. A. U., Sutton, M., &; Winstead, T. (2009). Education Policy as a Practice of Power:Theoretical Tools, Ethnographic Methods, Democratic Options. Educational Policy, 23(6), 767–795. https://doi.org/10.1177/0895904808320676



Muhammad Yasir Khan is a lecturer of linguistics at the Department of English, BUITEMS. His interest areas are language policy & planning, multi/bilingual education and language-in-education policies. He can be reached at yaskat19@gmail.com

Dr. Liaquat Ali Channa is a professor at the Department of English, BUITEMS. His areas of interest are Language policy and planning, multi/bilingual education, content based instruction, English as a/the language of instruction and foreign language teachers and textbooks. He can be reached at  channauga@gmail.com

Dr. Syed Abdul Manan is working as an associate professor at the Graduate School of Education, Nazarbayev University. His areas of interest are language planning & policy and multi/bilingual education. He can be reached at syed.manan@nu.edu.kz