The neoliberal structures of English in Japanese higher education: applying Bernstein’s pedagogic device

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As global neoliberalism continues to take root, States aim to produce linguistically-skilled human capital to gain an advantage within highly-competitive market conditions. With this relationship in view, English language proficiency constitutes a ‘rational’ educational pathway for national and personal-level success within an outwardly meritocratic knowledge economy. Yet, in Japan, as in many other locales, English has been accused of strengthening pre-existing power relations. Accordingly, this inquiry draws on Bernstein’s pedagogic device, to address the nested fields of production, recontextualisation, and reproduction shaping educational practice. Regarding production, normative OECD discourses framing essential key competencies favour an epistemic hierarchy privileging the orthodoxy of free-market capitalism. Through unequal pedagogic reform, meanwhile, the recontextualisation of regulatory discourse limits valued forms of knowledge to learners attending prestigious mass-market institutions. This, in turn, holds implications for reproduction. Through recognition and realisation, the classification and framing of English as a ‘valid’ knowledge privilege students from middle-class households. The appropriation of English as a ‘rational’ contact point for global communication, business, and finance thereby risks obfuscating the socio-economic order determining its practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-356
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023


  • Bernstein
  • globalisation
  • Higher education policy
  • Japan
  • neoliberalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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