Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Nancy H. Hornberger


Early childhood education (ECE) has been branded as a social equalizer that will reverse poverty trends in Mexico. At the same time, language policies that mandate education in Indigenous languages clash with policies that promote Spanish and English as the languages of instruction in preschools, sending contrasting messages about inclusion and justice through the learning of these languages. When language is included in ECE debates in Mexico, it is often used as a proxy for “school readiness”—as in, students are prepared to attend classes in Spanish, the actual language of instruction—precluding discussions on multilingual education and overlooking the impacts of these policies in Indigenous communities. Preschools, especially Indigenous ones, are the social spaces in which these competing policies first interact, revealing implementation challenges at all levels, from professional development to textbook design. This study provides an ethnographic account of how different stakeholders in one Indigenous community in the Yucatan Peninsula respond to language policies and ECE initiatives that promise quality education under the guise of social justice, inclusive education, and economic returns. Through long-term participant observation in an Indigenous preschool and in family and community spaces, the research also reveals preschool children's dynamic language practices and active engagement as what I call "language policy-doers." Moreover, situated within a region coping with migration and mass tourism, the study also traces the impact of these processes on the compromises parents and teachers make in regard to their children’s education. This study deepens our understanding of the ways in which language policies are implemented in ECE settings, but even more crucially, contributes to the design of programs that consider the complexities of ECE in Indigenous contexts.

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