The politics of distraction in planning English-medium education policy in schools

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This article presents the findings of a critical ethnography focused on the English-medium instruction (EMI) policy in Nepal’s public schools. Through the analysis of policy documents and interviews with policymakers, the study reveals that policymakers view the EMI policy as a solution to the crisis in public schools by enhancing their competitiveness with private English-medium schools. However, this approach is identified as a ‘politics of distraction’, as it diverts attention from broader issues such as implicit privatization, funding cuts, and accountability deficits for implementing multilingual education policy. By framing EMI as a public policy doctrine using discursive strategies (e.g. neoliberal rationalization and justification) and suggesting that the crisis can be resolved through school privatization, which in turn promotes commodified languages like English and the national dominant language, Nepali, over local/Indigenous languages, policymakers largely disregard inequalities, structural conditions, and reinforce the existing unequal power relations. By diverting attention from critical issues, policymakers perpetuate historical marginalization, colonial agendas and ideologies, and unequal power asymmetries, failing to address systemic challenges. The research underscores the necessity of scrutinizing the motivations and agendas underlying the promotion of EMI in mainstream schools in multilingual contexts. Copyright © 2024 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Early online dateMay 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - May 2024


Sah, P. K. (2024). The politics of distraction in planning English-medium education policy in schools. Current Issues in Language Planning. Advance online publication.


  • English-medium instruction(EMI
  • Politics of distraction
  • Multilingual education
  • Medium of instruction policy
  • Language ideology
  • Public education in crisis


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