Submitted by: Per-Olof Erixon
Abstract: Convener:
Per-Olof Erixon (Umeå University, Sweden)

Bill Green (Charles Sturt University, Australia)
Stanislav Štěpáník (Charles University, Czech Republic)
Per Olof Erixon (Umeå University, Sweden)

Ellen Krogh (University of Southern Denmark, Denmark)

The symposium will take as its starting point an ongoing book project, involving L1 researchers from ten different countries. The preliminary title of the book is “Rethinking L1 Education in the Global Era”, and it is conceived as an edited volume, crafted and bringing together a range of scholars from different countries to address the contemporary state of play in national standard language education – what we refer to as the L1 subjects. Some of the chapters focus on a single L1 subject or a set of related L1 subjects (e.g. Danish, the Scandinavian L1 subjects); some on the same L1 subjects (e.g. English) but in different countries (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, England, & the USA); while others focus on particular clusters of L1 subjects. Other chapters are addressed to key issues (e.g. the role & significance of technology in & for L1 education, across different countries; the dialogue between curriculum inquiry & didaktik studies, etc).
Four thematic threads (or meta-themes) of particular significance overall are to be woven through the volume, as well as being addressed in our opening essay.
1. Educationalisation, i.e. expansion of educational action and mass-popular education, ocurring during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
2. Globalisation, i.e. a process by which national and regional economics, societies, and cultures, and thereby school and curricula, have become integrated through the global network of trade, communication, and dominating political ideologies.
3. Pluriculturalism, i.e. challenges of migration and diaspora, including refugee issues, worldwide
4. Technocultural change, i.e. changing technologies and their associated cultures and cultural politics; further, the thesis that there is an inherent tension between teaching based on digital media, and traditional ways of judging and examining works in schools.
The book works broadly from a comparative-historical perspective and seeks to provide insight into the major issues emerging in the scholarly literature to date, as well as rich accounts of a range of specific L1 subjects and their geo-epistemic communities.
The symposium provides an overview of the book concept and its associated project, and presents three papers based on chapters currently under preparation.


Paper 1

Teaching the (Post-)National L1 Subjects; or, Learning from Gramsci

Bill Green (Charles Sturt University, Australia)

Keywords: language, nation, history, power, Gramsci, transnational curriculum inquiry

(Re)conceptualising L1 education is increasingly important and even urgent in a global era, and very different from the field’s foundational period, well over a century ago. This requires due regard for both theory and history, as resources for curriculum inquiry. This paper looks closely at the question of language in the context of culture and power, nation and empire, place and planet. While its stepping-off point is subject English in the Anglophone world, its concern is equally with its corresponding school-subjects (i.e. ‘French’, ‘German’, ‘Italian’, etc) in countries such as France, Germany and Italy, as classical and distinctive ‘nations’. It asks about the role and significance of such subject-areas, historically, culturally and ideologically. It does so by considering some concepts and arguments from the early 20th-century Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci. While Gramsci is little referenced in the literature of L1 education, the paper proposes that it would be generative to draw more systematically on his work, in seeking to rethink L1 education in the current conjuncture. This is especially with regard to his views on language and translation, which are arguably also key concepts and problematics for the field, understood expressly as transnational curriculum inquiry. Such matters, Gramsci believed, are always to be considered in relation to power and politics. In this regard, then, the paper seeks to provide critical insight into the task of rethinking L1 education in the global era. It focuses on language and education in the context of debates on post-nationalism and post-modernity. It asks: What is it that motivates and authorises the L1 subjects, as governmental projects? How does language figure in contemporary struggles over social inclusion and subjectivity, identity and security? What does all this mean for L1 education, in a global curriculum context of crisis and change?

Paper 2

Between Grammar and Communication: The Case of the Czech Republic and England

Stanislav Štěpáník (Charles University, Czech Republic)

Keywords: Czech, English, language awareness, communication competency, grammar, communication

In many parts of the world, L1 teaching has evolved from Classics, i.e. from a common fundament. Interestingly, even though the divergent and turbulent development of society in the 20th and 21st centuries has brought various paradigms for looking at L1 instruction, and despite the fact that the various national L1 teaching models have come up with various solutions, there are certain problems they all have in common. One of them is the topic of the position of grammar (or knowledge about language – comp. Myhill, 2005).

On the example of a traditionally grammar-based approach to teaching Czech (and to a certain extent also Slovak, Polish or Hungarian – comp. Pieniążek & Štěpáník, 2016) and a skills-based approach to teaching English in England (and other English-speaking countries – comp. Locke, 2010), the presentation is going to elaborate on the historical (political, linguistic, didactic, etc.) factors which have shaped teaching L1 in the Czech Republic and in England, and have led to the current situation when the grammar-based systems are looking for functionally and communicatively oriented solutions and the skills-based systems have in a smaller or larger extent decided to implement more grammar teaching (Myhill, 2018). What are the underlying reasons and policies?

Locke, T. (Ed.). (2010). Beyond the Grammar Wars: A Resource for Teachers and Students on Developing Language Knowledge in the English/literacy Classroom. New York: Routledge.
Myhill, D. (2005). Ways of knowing: Writing with grammar in mind. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 4(3), 77–96.
Myhill, D. (2018). Grammar as a Meaning-Making Resource for Improving Writing. L1-Educational Studies in Languages and Literature, 18, 1–21.
Pieniążek, M. & Štěpáník, S. (2016). Teaching of national languages in the V4 countries. Praha: Pedagogická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy.

Paper 3

Teaching Reading: The Marginalisation of Literature and Mother Tongue Education in Sweden

Per-Olof Erixon (Umeå University, Sweden)

Keywords: Sweden, reading promotion programme, L1 education, neoliberalism

Reading fiction has been an important basic content in mother-tongue education and the school subject Swedish (L1) since the 19th century. Declining results in reading skills identified in large-scale international surveys such as PISA are seen as a critical issue for education in general, but also for democracy, social justice and economic competitiveness (Alexander 2012). Closely related to this is the fact that school has become a battleground in the political debate. This ratio has led to an intensification of reading-promotion programmes in Swedish schools, organised by the National Agency for Education under the name ‘Läslyftet’ (Heightened Reading). The presentation will examine reading-promotion discourses and practices in Sweden, and more specifically the so-called “Läslyftet” (Heightened Reading). Notable in this reading-promotion programme is for example the effective downplaying of literature, with fiction marginalized in favour of non-fiction. Also, and under the motto that all teachers are language teachers, the school subject Swedish is marginalized in the programme to the benefit of other school subjects, such as natural sciences, in which, for example, the importance of reading for the development of democratic society is emphasized. Tasks previously being considered the responsibility of one school may thus be taken over by other school subjects or disappears. The underlying ideas, interests and values of these identified discourses are seen in the light of the neoliberalisation of Education and what Pasi Sahlberg calls GERM – The Global Education Reform Movement, in which he identifies five interrelated features: 1/ standardization of education, 2/ focus on core subject, 3/ the search for low-risk ways to reach learning goals, 4/ use of corporate management models, and 5/ test-based accountability.

Alexander, Robin John (2012). Moral Panic, Miracle Cures, and Educational Policy. What Can We Really Learn from International Comparison? Scottish Educational Review, s. 4-21.
Sahlberg, Pasi (2018) https://pasisahlberg.com/global-educational-reform-movement-is-here/ [Downloaded March 5 2018]