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Becoming Canadian : Punjabi ESL learners, national language policy and the Canadian language benchmarks Fleming, Douglas

Abstract

Drawing on the voices of Punjabi-speaking immigrants enrolled in a government-sponsored ESL program, this study sheds light on how a contemporary sample of adult ESL learners are constructing new national identities in the context of the challenges associated with coming to Canada. In particular, it traces how the common threads among their conceptions of citizenship compare to those embedded within national ESL assessment and curriculum documents and illuminates how these documents construct and position idealized conceptions of second language learners. As this study establishes in some detail, there are significant gaps between the principal national assessment and curriculum documents used in this context and the views expressed by the learners polled in this study. Based on this research, the author outlines the implications associated with second language citizenship education in terms of research priorities, national curriculum development, and pedagogical treatment options. In addition, three specific recommendations are made in regards to curriculum content: that citizenship content be made more explicit within our national curriculum and assessment documents; that this content emphasize positive representations of learners in our curriculum documents as being active and socially-integrated; and that this content be centered on the legalistic aspects of citizenship and avoid the use of singular normative cultural standards.

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