Experiences of disadvantaged youths in Colombia and the role of EFL in enabling their social mobility
: Exploring, the (trans)formation of identities and inequalities.

  • Maria-Fernanda Puentes-Rodriguez

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Globally, the spread of English continues to have a significant impact on educational policies and practices in countries around the world. Implementation challenges have been acknowledged widely and Colombia is no exception to this. The Colombian government has endorsed policies and pedagogical reforms to improve the teaching-learning quality of the English Language and thus advance the language competence of students. This thesis aims to provide a deeper and useful insight into how disadvantaged youths experience the objectives of Colombia’s National Bilingual Program (NBP) in relation to the symbolic and cultural capitals associated with learning English. This is an under-researched area, where available literature has mainly focused on teachers, teaching methodologies and the national bilingual program itself, with limited consideration for the social context and the learning process experienced by the students. The project asks disadvantaged youths about their perspective on and perception of the role of English as a Foreign Language (EFL)in their social mobility, social integration, and/or marginalisation as local and global citizens, and how EFL influences their life trajectory, identity (trans)formation, and present and future desires. In doing so, the findings enable policymakers and academics to better understand the experiences and realities of those directly affected by the implementation of these policies. This study gives youths a voice to express their attitudes, experiences and perceptions concerning the role of the English language in their lives. By looking at individual experiences rather than figures at Macro level, the study provides a new perspective of Colombia’s National Bilingual Program directly from those at the receiving end of it. Following a qualitative methodology consisting of focus groups, interviews and observations, I show that EFL learning experiences at school, family support and social networks can influence why most participants do not reach the objectives of Colombia’s NBP. Similarly, the presence of structural and symbolic violence in their social context influences their perception of English as well as plays a significant role in their lives, identity formation and future aspirations.
Date of Award16 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorLorella Terzi (Director of Studies), Marie-Pierre Moreau (Co-Supervisor), Eva Eppler (Co-Supervisor) & Lucy Henning (Co-Supervisor)


  • EFL
  • social and cultural capitals
  • Language Policies
  • violence
  • Social Mobility
  • identity (trans)formation
  • Social Inequalities

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