Linguistic diversity in transition: Shifting language orientations in the Swedish ECEC curricula




early childhood education and care, Sweden, multilingualism, language policy


This article explores the dominant language orientations within the Swedish national curricula for early childhood education and care (ECEC), with a focus on multilingualism, an approach traditionally embraced in Sweden but recently under strain. Through documentary analysis of relevant policy documents over a period of 30 years, the research utilizes Ruíz’ (1984) analytical framework that identifies three orientations towards language in education policies: language-as-a-right, language-as-a-problem, and language-as-a-resource. The findings indicate first that language is seen as a positive resource, and multilingualism has been consistently embedded in curricular policy discourses even though there are shifts in the presence and emphasis of such discourses across time. Second, the differences in how much value is placed on diverse languages used in preschools, and their perceived associated functions, reflect changes in educational and social goals of ECEC. Finally, the findings identify a general shift in policies towards the prioritisation of competence development and Swedish language proficiency for future educational, social, and economic purposes. The article argues for a more comprehensive language policy approach and a policy orientation that helps preschool teachers to value and support multilingualism.


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