Language Education Policies and Early Childhood Education

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


This chapter discusses the importance of different types of early language education in the public system according to national policy in two geopolitical
contexts: Continental Northern Europe and the UK. We define early language
education policy as the language policies in early childhood education (ECE)
including planning, practices, and ideologies related to the teaching and learning
of languages. We present a variety of theoretical approaches and discuss their
applicability to the field of early language education research. These approaches
include traditional top-down policy implementation models as well as more
dynamic and ecological theoretical approaches. Following that, we look atmajor contributions in the field, presenting empirical studies from Northern
Europe and the UK following two lines of research: critical readings of ECE
policy documents, and ecological approaches identifying ECE language policy
agents and power. Based on our review of the empirical studies, we point out
critical issues and topics that need to be addressed, such as prevailing monolingual native speaker norms; how children, communities, and languages are made (in)visible in policy texts; conflicting policy paradigms and ideologies; practical challenges in the implementation of official policy; and also how national policy documents open spaces for multilingual education in ECE. Lastly, we present some new projects in the two sociopolitical contexts and suggest directions for future research based on the idea of ecological systems, in which the roles of different policy actors and agents are examined as a function of the setting and conditions under which they operate.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Handbook of Early Language Education
EditorsMila Schwartz
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2020


  • Early language education policy · Early Childhood Education (ECE)
  • Northern Europe
  • UK
  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Ecological approaches
  • Multilingual children
  • Monolingual norm


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