An exploration of the effects of language policy in education in a contemporary Puerto Rican society

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During the Spanish regimen, Puerto Rican education was limited and restricted to Spanish language as the medium of instruction. It was not until the U.S. colonization of the island that public education was introduced. As a result, English replaced Spanish as medium of instruction in the new educational system. Immediately after, Puerto Rican elitists and politicians ignited a political movement against using English (Algren de Gutierrez, 1987), resulting in a language battle fought through a series of educational language policies. In the end, policymakers enacted a language policy that reinstated Spanish as the official language of Puerto Rico’s education system. Consequently, policymakers also strengthened the use of Spanish instruction in Puerto Rican schools and universities while English was taught as a subject through all grade levels (Canino, 1981). Thus, this policy secured the island’s status as a “monolingual Spanish speaking society”. In addition, the enactment of this language policy also legitimized English as a de jure second official language, with the possibility of recognizing Puerto Rico as a “bilingual speaking society”. This paper discusses the impact of these language policies on the use of Spanish and English in education and presents a case study of Guaynabo City to exemplify the effects of these language policies on a contemporary Puerto Rican society and its acceptance of or resistance to becoming an English-speaking society.


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How to Cite
Maldonado-Valentín, M. (2016). An exploration of the effects of language policy in education in a contemporary Puerto Rican society. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24, 85.
English Language Teaching in Public Primary Schools in Latin America
Author Biography

Mirta Maldonado-Valentín, California State University, Stanislaus

Mirta Maldonado-Valentín is originally from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English Linguistics and, and a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. After completing her master’s degree, Mirta began teaching courses in Education, Applied Linguistics, and Literature at various universities in Puerto Rico. In August 2010, she pursued a Ph.D. in Culture, Literacy and Language from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). As a Ph.D. student, she engaged in research on teaching English as a second language, discourse analysis, and linguistic landscape. She also taught courses in English as a Second Language and Bilingualism to pre-service teachers for the Department of Bicultural and Bilingual Studies at UTSA. Mirta also worked in the development of curriculum and assessment in the English for International Students and English with a Specific Purpose programs under the ESL Services Department. After obtaining her Ph.D., she was hired as a Postdoctoral fellow by the Applied Linguistics Department at the University of Massachusetts in Boston where she engaged in research about flipped learning in the ELL classroom. Mirta is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Applied Linguistics in the English Department at the California State University in Stanislaus.