Timor-Leste: sustaining and maintaining the national languages in education

Kerry Taylor-Leech*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents an overview of language-in-education policy development between 1999 and 2010 in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. In the decade since independence language-in-education policy in this newly independent country has been dominated by debates about the medium of instruction. Over time, policy has shifted from an authoritarian stance that insisted on monolingual, submersion schooling in a former colonial language to one that accepts the need to accommodate linguistic diversity in order to promote social inclusion. Recent policy documents allow for instruction in the vernacular languages, designated in the 2002 Constitution as national languages. The article identifies some key drivers that have provided impetus for this change in orientation, a change which offers opportunities for localised language planning from below. The paper therefore suggests that the acceptance of agency at both macro- and micro-levels will play a critical role in sustaining and maintaining the national languages in East Timorese education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-308
Number of pages20
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • language planning from below
  • language-in-education; language policy and planning
  • mother tongue-based multilingual education
  • national languages
  • Timor-Leste


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