Reading performance in post-colonial contexts and the effect of instruction in a second language

Auteur(s) : Howie, Sarah; Chamberlain, Megan

Organisation(s): International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement

Date: 2017

Pages: 12 p.


The IEA’s Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2011 provided evidence which showed differences in the reading achievement of students who spoke the language of assessment at home and those who did not for many countries including a selection of the participating “post-colonial countries”. Colonization of these countries by different European nations occurred as early as the 1600s, through to the 1800s. The language of the colonizing nation was most often imposed (formally and informally) upon indigenous population(s) and became the official (legally or by its widespread use) language(s) of the country. These countries are now presented with challenges surrounding finding an appropriate balance between having policies that support and value indigenous and heritage languages, and policies that promote and support the official or colonizing language(s). It is not uncommon in countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, for the dominant colonizing language(s) to be viewed as being of greater value, particularly when supporting new immigrants without local (colonizing) language skills. Understanding the effect of language policies, both past and present, is important to interpreting the achievement differences for these countries. Although beyond the scope of this brief, countries and systems that are developing language policies for populations, especially for their minority groups, may also learn from these countries’ experiences. Out of the nine education systems investigated, the language of learning was found to have a positive relationship with reading achievement in most post-colonial contexts and, in particular, in English-speaking contexts, even when the socioeconomic status of the students was taken into account.

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