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In pursuit of intercultural communicative competence: An investigation into English language policy and practices at a private university in Indonesia

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posted on 15.11.2021, 20:44 by Siregar, Fenty Lidya

Intercultural language teaching and learning (ILTL) in Asian contexts is an area of growing interest. Reflecting this growth, this study investigated the viability of adopting an intercultural stance in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) instruction at tertiary level in Indonesia.  The research was carried out in three phases. Phase 1 was a document analysis of Indonesia’s English language education policy (ELEP). Phase 2 was a case study which investigated the ELEP underlying two English programmes at a Private University of Indonesia (PUI). It focused on examining the construction of culture and language in curricula of two English programmes, teachers’ beliefs and practices, and students’ beliefs. Phase 3 was an autoethnographic study of my own ILTL in one of the English programmes in PUI. The data was collected from records of my autobiography and one-semester of reflective teaching practice.  The findings of the three phases showed challenges and opportunities of cultivating interculturality in the context. First, the findings of Phase 1 revealed how the need for cultivating respect for cultural diversity – for political unity and social harmony – within the country influenced the ways in which culture and language were constructed in the ELEP. Since policies relating to cultural and linguistic diversity at the national level were influenced by political agenda, they also highlighted an essentialist view of culture. Second, the findings of Phase 2 echoed the findings of Phase 1. The data revealed deeply ingrained essentialist beliefs about culture, and a separation of culture and language in the design and implementation of the curriculum. However, some teaching staff aspired to cultivate intercultural understanding and to help students to understand their own culture and other cultures. Third, the findings of Phase 3 showed the complexity of implementing ILTL. This included challenges in the forms of linguistic goals imposed by the curriculum, no in-house community of practice, and multifaceted classroom behaviour. Despite this, the opportunities for cultivating interculturality were also present in the forms of teaching resources that reflect global and local linguistic and cultural diversity, teacher’s questions that prompt students to decentre, and various activities for students to be active in their own learning (such as group or pair discussions, rehearsals, and role-plays). On top of that, this phase revealed the complexity of collecting evidence of students’ learning and my ethical dilemmas due to various philosophical views embedded in my identities, the teaching context, and the construct of ILTL.  Through its three-phase approach, the study brought outsider and insider dimensions to the task of understanding the fertility of the ground for intercultural teaching in the context of tertiary English classroom in Indonesia. It revealed that the implementation of ILTL can be initiated by teachers who are willing to take an intercultural stance; however, they also need support from community and policy makers to smooth the process and maximise the outcome. It is hoped that the study can inform the work of teachers, teacher educators, and policy makers regarding what it means to be an intercultural learner and teacher in tertiary education in Indonesia and elsewhere.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Applied Language Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Newton, Jonathan; Crabbe, David