Local problems and a global solution: examining the recontextualization of CEFR in Thai and Malaysian language policies

  • Kristof SavskiEmail author
Original Paper


Since its publication in 2001, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) has become a highly influential means of describing language proficiency. Its spread has, however, been marked by contradictions, since the framework has been appropriated in the service of a variety of different policy agendas. In this paper, I argue that such contradictions are indicative of broader ideological contrasts, which may impact how the framework is implemented at the local scale. By drawing on critical discourse analysis and conceptual history, I analyse a set of recent language policy texts from Thailand and Malaysia, two Asian contexts where CEFR has recently been introduced, to examine how such global ideological struggles connect with local agendas. I find that CEFR has in these multilingual contexts been embedded into a bilingual policy agenda which foregrounds the national language (Thai or Bahasa Malaysia) and English while backgrounding other languages. This means that CEFR was detached from the agenda of the Council of Europe, with the recontextualization of CEFR shown to have been a selective process in which the only part to be consistently transferred were the CEFR levels, which were in this decontextualised form presented as a transnational standard. I argue that these patterns are indicative of a struggle between the global agenda of ELT and its roots in the ideology of neoliberalism, that underlies much of the worldwide spread of CEFR, and a local nationalist agenda attempting to appropriate the framework for its own purposes.


CEFR Recontextualization Globalization Thailand Malaysia 



Funding was provided by Thailand Research Fund (Grant No. MRG6080168). I would also like to express my gratitude to Professor Ruth Wodak and Dr Chonlada Laohawiriyanon for the advice they provided during the course of this research. Any errors or inaccuracies are, of course, my own responsibility.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Liberal ArtsPrince of Songkla UniversityHat YaiThailand

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