The National Bilingual Programme in Colombia

Imposition or Opportunity?


  • Anne-Marie de Mejía


bilingualism, english language proficiency, common european framework of reference, intercultural


The National Bilingual Programme, created by the Colombian Ministry of Education in 2004, offers all students in the county the possibility of becoming bilingual in English and Spanish as part of a vision of increased productivity in a globalised world. However, the language and education policies promoted within this framework tend to foreground the development of English at the expense of bilingual competence in Spanish and English. This bilingual policy has been strongly criticised by several Colombian academics with regard to what they consider as the imposition in the Colombian context of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, the disregard of local knowledge and expertise in informing glocal perspectives, as well as the exclusion of other types of bilingualism (in other foreign languages and in the indigenous and Creole languages spoken in the country). This article will present key aspects of the ongoing debate in Colombia. It will argue that the exclusive emphasis on one type of bilingualism does not do justice to the many different forms of bilingualism and multilingualism present in the country. However, in addition to being an imposition, we will maintain that the National Bilingual Programme could be harnessed as an opportunity to promote a more inclusive vision of bilingualism, alongside the focus on increased national prosperity.

How to Cite

de Mejía, A.-M. (2011). The National Bilingual Programme in Colombia: Imposition or Opportunity?. Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies, 5(3), 7–17. Retrieved from