DOI: 10.1177/01614681231194414 ISSN:

A Critical Examination of Language Ideologies and Policies in an International School in Colombia

Esther Bettney Heidt
  • Education


In recent years, scholars and educators have criticized exclusionary language ideologies and policies within international schools. International schools often emphasize proficiency in English as a language of power instead of valuing students’ and teachers’ dynamic multilingual practices.

Focus of Study:

Although oppressive language ideologies and policies in international schools are a central concern for critical education scholars, relatively little is known about international schools that are negotiating a shift toward more inclusive and equitable approaches. To understand the role of language ideologies and policies within an international school context, I examined the following research question: What language ideologies influence language policy creation and appropriation at Colegio Colombiano (CC)?

Research Design:

To answer this question and further understand the complex and shifting roles of language ideologies and policies within international schools, I conducted a case study at CC, an international school in Colombia.

Data Collection:

Through collaborative research with nine teachers, I examined how teachers engaged with more equitable approaches to multilingual education. I collected and analyzed various types of data, including school language policies, lesson and unit plans, classroom observations, teacher and student interviews, and a teacher questionnaire.


Through analyzing the collected data, I found a spectrum of language ideologies and language policies, as many faculty demonstrated a significant shift away from oppressive and exclusionary language ideologies and language policies through an increasing recognition of Spanish. On the other hand, although explicit messages about English as superior were no longer officially promoted, colonialistic ideologies and policies persisted that valorized English, denigrated Spanish, and ignored other societal and home languages. To analyze these findings further, I critically examined the described spectrum of language ideologies and policies through Pennycook’s (2000) framework of language ideologies.


I conclude with key considerations for educators and researchers across diverse contexts as they critically reconsider and decolonize current approaches to multilingual education.

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