Indigenous Students Learning English in Higher Education: Challenges and Hopes




language policies, indigenous students, English language learning, critical interculturality, decolonial theories


The increasing enforcement of English language policies in higher education represents a significant challenge for indigenous students entering Colombian universities. Researchers in this study worked on a sociolinguistic profile of over 300 indigenous students at Universidad de Antioquia and, from a critical decolonial perspective, aimed to understand the multiple views and challenges these students face in relation to their identities, languages, academic literacies, and the most recent institutional language policy that requires them to learn English to earn their university degrees. Data collection methods included several institutional databases, a survey, interviews, and conversation circles. Results from this study suggest that more equitable pedagogical principles coupled with a more sensitive and effective appropriation and implementation of this type of reform in higher education institutions are both necessary. These measures would prevent that learning English for indigenous students becomes an obstacle to complete their tertiary education in conditions of justice, respect, and a real validation of their ancestral languages, cultures, and knowledge.

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Author Biographies

Jaime Usma, Universidad de Antioquia

Education Doctor, University of Wisconsin-Madison; full-time professor, Languages School, University of Antioquia

Janeth Ortiz, Universidad de Antioquia

Master in Teaching and Learning of Foreign Languages, University of Antioquia, Colombia; full-time professor, Languages School, University of Antioquia.

Claudia Gutierrez, Universidad de Antioquia

Master in Teaching and Learning of Foreign Languages, University of Antioquia, Colombia; full-time professor, Languages School, University of Antioquia.


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How to Cite

Usma, J., Ortiz, J., & Gutierrez, C. (2018). Indigenous Students Learning English in Higher Education: Challenges and Hopes. Íkala, Revista De Lenguaje Y Cultura, 23(2), 229–254.



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