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

Mirta Maldonado-Valentín


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.


language ideologies; language education policy; English as a second language; Spanish-English medium of instruction

Full Text:



Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM

Copyright (c) 2019 Mirta Maldonado-Valentín

Contact EPAA//AAPE at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College