Multilingual language policy and mother tongue education in Timor-Leste: a multiscalar approach

Jo CAFFERY, gabriela coronado, Bob Hodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


This article looks at multilingual, mother-tongue-based language policies influenced by colonial and postcolonial histories and globalization processes. We use multiscalar analysis to show these policies as creative responses to problems affected by national and international forces. Our study focuses on Timor-Leste, specifically a pilot mother-tongue-based multilingual education program. We analyse the program’s practices and successful outcomes, in the adverse circumstances of this small, impoverished, recently independent nation, as it attempts to manage high levels of linguistic diversity (16 mother tongues and a five-language destination system) through multilingual education. We also identify tensions and problems that impinge on the outcomes for this ambitious program. Despite the obstacles, Timor-Leste’s multiscalar multilingual literacy policy is an important case that reinforces the significance of mother tongue education as a response to global complexity. The pilot program provides valuable lessons for many other parts of the world with similar problems, particularly for nations with comparable colonial histories
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561–580
Number of pages20
JournalLanguage Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


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