There is no Alternative! Student Perceptions of Learning in a Second Language in Lebanon
Since 1997, children in Lebanese state schools are taught most of the curriculum in English or French. The children’s first language, Arabic, may be used even less in private schools, which educate 70% of children. In many countries, mother tongue education is seen as a right but in Lebanon it is taken for granted that children are taught in English or French. Written opinions were collected from seventy-five university students who were asked about the language in education policy. The results of a thematic analysis were discussed with a focus group of eight students. Findings point to a widespread acceptance of the policy, partly based on an underlying belief in the unsuitability of Arabic for the 21st century and a perception that the Lebanese are culturally predisposed to learn languages. Using the concept of linguistic imperialism, we discuss these results with reference to French colonialism and the global spread of English medium instruction. We also use a critical definition of ideology to discuss how a discourse in favour of the language in education policy, which actually favours the interests of the Lebanese elite, has been internalised by the students who see emigration as their only future.