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'Practicality Won over Principle’

Shabaan reflects that in the debates over languages of instruction, ‘practicality won over principle’.71 After the Taif Agreement, a consensus emerged over reconstructing Lebanon as a multilingual society and language policy was depoliticised. Thus, Lebanon’s multilingual schools reflect the functional trilingualism of Lebanese society: Arabic is the mother tongue and language of national affiliation, and English and French remain the languages of business and science.

When it is successfully implemented, as in several private schools, Lebanon’s additive bilingualism creates citizens ‘whose mother-tongue is neither Arabic, nor French, nor English but the movement between all of them’.72 Multilingualism cuts across confessional lines and may even strengthen an overarching Lebanese identity among a select group of wealthy trilingual citizens. However, due to the weakness of language teaching in state schools, Lebanon’s multilingual education also entrenches socio-economic inequality and strengthens class cleavages. This may fuel communal grievances and further long-term political instability when, as in the case of the Shia community, socio-economic and confessional cleavages coincide.

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