The research was conducted among 1 094 teachers at about 110 schools across Limpopo. In his recent Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture to the English Academy of South Africa, Professor Jonathan Jansen recommends the introduction of English as the language of instruction as early as possible (“Wrest power from English tyranny“, Mail & Guardian, October 4). As Jansen observes, many black parents recognise that English proficiency is important for successful participation in the economy, and therefore conclude that their children should be instructed in English. What we need is rigorous evidence. 8.POLICY: LANGUAGE OF LEARNING AND TEACHING The language(s) of learning and teaching in a public school must be (an) official language(s). And it is not actually allowed in most South African classrooms. The transition which English second language (ESL) students need to make when using English as language of learning in higher education is a matter of great concern in … However, we estimate the impact of the alternative models as they are being implemented currently, within specific contexts of schools, teachers and homes. Therefore, we cannot make deductions about what the impact would be if all teachers were able to speak English fluently and household poverty and gaps in school quality were eliminated from the South African landscape. Home languages are part of their identity. In most African countries, languages of instruction come from overseas. Despite a large, comprehensive body of research that proves the value of mother tongues, such language attitudes seem to be very deeply rooted and persistent. This large scale quantitative study covered public primary and secondary schools and the questionnaire focused on general teaching conditions, language attitudes and teachers’ language practices. Its main aim was to increase multilingualism at schools and to consider the languages spoken in the surrounding area of a school to ensure these were central to language policy and teaching. Our results are not directly informative for policy decisions regarding the extension of mother-tongue instruction beyond the grade three level. This policy decision would require additional research. Some of these Systemic barriers in a South African context which impact on children with disabilities include: • Overcrowding in classrooms • Inappropriate language of learning and teaching at the . In conclusion, our research indicates that, as far as we can tell from empirical analysis, the current language policy is on the right track. Given the practical realities of the South African education system, the policy to encourage the use of mother-tongue instruction in the foundation phase but still allow schools to make the final choice based on their specific circumstances seems to be beneficial. We believe these research findings to be an important starting point from which to take the language debate forward. The Impact of Language Barriers on Academic Achievement in South Africa's Schools 1.1 Introduction and background to the study Copyright © 2010–2020, Academic Journalism Society, JLWarehouse/Shutterstock/Editorial use only. The goal is to optimise educational outcomes, which include English fluency, mother-tongue fluency and skills in other subject areas, for pupils whose first language is not English but how does one best achieve this? However, inclusive education within South Africa does not argue for the inclusion of all learners, regardless of ability level or barriers to learning, into mainstream schools; rather provision is made for the development and availability of full-service and special schools (Department of Education, 2001). A much more flexible and open teaching and language policy would help teachers and pupils to enable a meaningful learning environment in a multilingual and heterogeneous classroom setting. (Department of Education, 2001). – the absentee owner. 331. the foregrounding of English as language of teaching and learning should be examined so as to provide every South African child with an opportunity to master the language that might control his/her access to the means of socio- economic and educational empowerment. ( Log Out /  Finally, although our study points to the value of the mother tongue as the language of instruction, it may well also be important to strengthen the teaching of English as a subject in the early grades to help to facilitate the transition to English in grade four, as the curriculum and assessment policy statements recommend. THADEUS MARUNGUDZI . And it is not actually allowed in most South African classrooms. Many pupils then remain in schools that teach in their mother tongue right up to the matric level. This aspect is viewed as one reason why South African schools show poor academic achievements (National Education Evaluation and Development Unit [NEEDU], 2013:13–14). The variety and the use of those languages depend very much on the colonialist legacy. The analysis of the language policies is preceded by an overview of the link between conflict and language in South Africa and a discussion on the manner in which the post-conflict South African state has attempted use language as a key player in transformation, particularly with regard to education. According to the country’s official language policies, schools must choose a language or languages of … What happens in South African schools is that children usually learn in their mother-tongue for the first three years (Grades 1-3) then switch to either English or Afrikaans in Grade 4 and continue with that language for the rest of their schooling career. In some countries also, African languages are used as the language of instruction but only at the elementary school level. Such an open language policy would and should include code switching or translanguaging to see the unused potentials of teaching in African languages as well as in English in classrooms. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Therefore, a “straight-for-English” approach still involves a transition in a child’s language of learning, and children may be less well prepared for such a transition in grade one than in grade four. But these arguments only take us so far. This situation gives rise to a number of questions like when and how one should transition to English. ( Log Out /  In Kenya, the language of instruction is English, and some learners in urban and some cosmopolitan settings speak and understand some English by the time they join school. Others were afraid to code switch because of their schools’ language policy documents. The Language Learning Journal: Vol. 4.2.2. Young (ed. What language should South African children be taught in? Among children in schools of a similar quality and coming from similar home backgrounds, those who were taught in their home language during the first three years of primary school performed better in the English test in grades four, five and six than children who were exposed to English as the language of instruction in grades one, two and three. The size of the difference is not inconsequential: it is equivalent to about a third of a year of additional learning for children who were instructed in their home language during grades one, two and three compared with their peers who were instructed only in English during that same period. This finding seems to be in line with the thinking of education specialists, who have for many years promoted the advantages of mother-tongue instruction in the early stages of children’s education. Most of the books available on the market are in English … The advent of democracy in South Africa in the early 1990’s led, due to choice or circumstances, to the influx of numerous learners whose home language is an indigenous language, into school environments where the language of learning and teaching (LoLT) is English. Most children experience a transition from mother-tongue instruction to English instruction in grade four, something that by all reports is a difficult process. However, the suggestion that using English as the language of instruction from grade one would avoid this difficult transition is too good to be true. Our study provides preliminary evidence on one key aspect of the matter: as things are currently being implemented, the choice to use mother-tongue instruction as opposed to English instruction in grades one, two and three generally leads to better English learning in the long run. Two friends (and colleagues) of mine have recently completed a Working Paper (“Estimating the impact of language of instruction in South African primary schools: A fixed effects approach“) which is well worth the read – methodologically interesting and highly policy-relevant, the very thing we need more of in South Africa. Many linguists argue that when it comes to learning a second language it is crucial to first have a solid foundation in one’s first language. These theories predict that several years of mother-tongue instruction will lead to better second-language acquisition than being instructed in that second language from the first day of school. So education policymakers in countries with multiple home languages, such as South Africa, have a dilemma. the learner’s second or third language). The importance of English education in South Africa cannot be stressed enough. We will describe our findings below. In order to make headway on this important issue, we need to move beyond a discourse fuelled by ideology and emotions towards one informed by rigorous research. This indicates the importance and influence of language attitudes on language practices and policies. by . According to the country’s official language policies, schools must choose a language or languages of learning and teaching. About 60% of children in grade three learn in a language other than English or Afrikaans. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. This is, of course, not unique to South Africa – it happens in all multilingual societies to a certain degree. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. African languages are then only taught as subjects and are rarely used as a medium of instruction. ), [The following article appeared in the Mail & Guardian on the 18th of October], Mother-tongue classrooms give a better boost to English study later – Stephen Taylor & Marisa Coetzee. Although there is a lot of theory about this, there is very little empirical evidence on the causal impact of these alternative instructional models. As researchers focused on education in South Africa, we recently conducted a study that we believe provides some preliminary evidence on one important part of the language in education debate. Last March, academics from across Africa and beyond came to discuss multilingual education in an African context, and to look at the language policy options facing South Sudan, Africa’s newest nation, which had become independent just nine months before. But, as a recent study we conducted in Limpopo showed, the real daily language policy within classrooms differs significantly from the official language policy document of the school. Introduction A much more flexible and open teaching and language policy would help teachers and pupils to enable a meaningful learning environment in a multilingual and diverse classroom setting. Even more importantly, the quality of teachers, their English background and other aspects of school quality are typically stacked in favour of these “straight-for-English” schools. In addition, children who attend the “straight-for-English” schools are on average from richer households where they receive more academic support from better-educated parents or caregivers, are less likely to go to bed hungry, have fewer siblings with whom they need to share resources and are more frequently exposed to English on television and in the home. Both sets of factors – school quality as well as the home environment – have been shown by research to impact strongly on the academic performance of children. When we therefore observe that children in the “straight-for-English” schools perform much better than their peers in the home-language schools in both English and mathematics, it would be naive to conclude that this is primarily driven by the language of instruction. Cultural loci and African intellectuals…, http://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2013/wp212013, South Africans prefer their children to be taught in English - AfricansLive, South Africans prefer their children to be taught in English – FREE SPEECH DAILY. On the other hand, most schools choose to teach in the home language of the majority of the children in the school during grades one, two and three while they take either English or Afrikaans as a language subject to help them to prepare for the switch (we refer to these schools as mother-tongue schools). Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. Languages of instruction in African schools include English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Afrikaans. They believed these languages were better suited to social situations, and that their use should be limited to these situations. Others had all dealt with some issues related to language – either in terms of their school’s language policy or how they grappled with what languages to use in class. … District “language clusters” to offer all 4 language families - Nguni (4 groups taught together) - Sotho (3 groups) - Venda/Tsonga (2 groups) - Afrikaans … Multi-level teaching where academic & prac levels together … extra-mural options where a wide range of languages … 3 indigenous languages available in … Doesn’t practice make perfect?However, most linguistic theory doesn’t agree. Evidence-based findings As it is the language of business communication, one most used on television, and also for communicating in day to day living at shopping centres, as well as with overseas companies, employees will benefit from the English education provided by Triple-e. At first this seems like a fair assumption to make: Surely the earlier you start with English the better? For some, these were strongly emotional issues. ), Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice in English Second Language Teaching. Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of . For those less interested in fixed effects and more inclined to scroll to their conclusions, you’re better off reading a Mail & Guardian article they wrote last week which I am going to include verbatim below because I think it is a truly excellent article! Rhodes University provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA. In light of these challenges, and bearing in mind the need for evidence-based policy, we have released a working paper containing our research on this issue. We used data from the department of basic education’s “annual survey of schools” to identify the language of instruction in each grade in each school for the years 2007 to 2011. We also used test score data from the annual national assessments of 2012 for all children in grades one to six. Combining these data sets, we are able to separate the effects of overall school quality and home circumstances from the impact of language of instruction on the performance of children in a standardised English test written in grades four, five and six. The motivation for this study was to gain insight into the situation at the schools where this policy matters most. Therefore, our analysis was limited to the 9 000 or so primary schools that serve predominantly black children who come from the poorest households in South Africa.What we found is quite striking. Measuring the impact of this language choice on the academic performance of children later in life is no simple task. First, schools that decide to teach in English are, on average, more likely to charge school fees, have smaller classes and have access to more resources than mother-tongue schools. For those who aren’t from South Africa, we have 11 official languages – Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga. This is a practice known as code switching or code mixing, which can form part of a translanguaging process. What we can and cannot say Van Heerden (1998:110) concluded in her research on teaching and learning in two desegregated South African high schools that the process of desegregation in these schools is primarily a case of assimilating black learners into the school and its culture, with the result that the status quo is kept intact. committee also recommended that each tertiary institution in South Africa should identify an indigenous African language of choice for initial development as medium of instruction. Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. 38, Language Policy and Practice in South Africa, Part II, pp. : 1987, ‘Language policy in African education in South Africa, 1910–85, with particular reference to the issue of medium of instruction’, in D.N. ( Log Out /  NRF SARChI Chair Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, School of African Languages, Rhodes University, Professor of African Language Studies, Rhodes University, Michael M. Kretzer receives funding from the NRF, Russell H. Kaschula receives funding from the NRF. ( Log Out /  Section 29(2) of the Bill of Rights, which forms part of the South African Constitution, is unequivocal about In addition, it appeared that teachers perceive the use of languages in the classrooms were generously influenced in absentia by the Language in Education Policy that was introduced to schools for implementation prior to the curriculum reform in post-apartheid South Africa, which is not easily accessible and understood by the teachers. 1.AIM OF THESE NORMS AND STANDARDS 2. ENGLISH AS A LANGUAGE OF LEARNING AND TEACHING: PERSPECTIVES OF SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS IN THE MASVINGO DISTRICT (ZIMBABWE). Other teachers viewed African languages as having limited use in teaching, especially in subjects like science. Learning, including language learning, begins well before children enter formal schooling. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. Pingback: South Africans prefer their children to be taught in English - AfricansLive, Pingback: South Africans prefer their children to be taught in English – FREE SPEECH DAILY. Language Policy and Education in South Africa …. Most often in South Africa, children with disabilities bear the most severe consequences of an inadequate, under resourced education system. One of the two languages should be offered at Home Language level, and the other at either Home Language or … Because non-language subjects in the matric exam are available only in English or Afrikaans, schools with pupils who are neither Afrikaans- nor English-speaking must figure out when to begin using English (or in a minority of cases, Afrikaans) as the language of instruction. The current language in education policy encourages the use of mother-tongue instruction in the first three years of primary school followed by a switch to English or Afrikaans in grade four, but allows schools to make the final decisions. The language of academia and business in South Africa is primarily English (or in some regions, Afrikaans). 1.INTRODUCTION 2. Where the language of choice is a particular regionally dominant language, Higher Education Institutions in that region should utilise a regional approach. Some teachers who answered the questionnaire in Limpopo said they found value in code switching or translanguaging. They feel pupils should have maximum exposure to English – and this hinders a stronger inclusion of African languages at schools. Most universities teach in English, and most textbooks are in English. SGBs consist of the principal and elected members; elected members are the parents or legal guardians of enrolled pupils; teachers; pupils from grade 8 upwards or other school staff members. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AFRICA . Ongekho akekho! What happens in South African schools is that children usually learn in their mother-tongue for the first three years (Grades 1-3) then switch to either English or Afrikaans in Grade 4 and … THE STATUS OF THE LANGUAGE OF LEARNING AND TEACHING (LOLT) IN SCHOOLS: A QUANTITATIVE OVERVIEW language policy in schools – particularly in the context of recent debates on the status of English as a medium of instruction in schools. the foreseeable future. itself. Others with African home languages struggle with the switch to English-only lessons in Grade 4, which happens in many schools. Setswana in a maths classroom in South Africa’s North West province. 273-292. Most choose English or Afrikaans and not the African language spoken in the area. This is in accordance with the South African legal framework to de-centralise education and also language policies. Change ). By grade four, this proportion is only about 5%. Hartshorne, K.B. But this conclusion rests on a key assumption: “Instruction in English from as early as possible is the best way to become fluent in English.”. Language policies must be set up within the country’s constitutional framework and in accordance with the Language in Education Policy, which came into effect in 1997. Evidence on language and learning in South Africa Due to the high political profile of language policy and practice in South Africa, as well as the work of a number of South African language scholars and research-oriented institutions, a number of important studies on language and learning have been carried out. After all, evidence-based policy needs exactly that – evidence. Others thought code switching was a great idea and recognised its value: I fully agree that it would be good for learners to be taught in their mother tongue or at least allow for code switching in the classroom to allow learners better understanding. For those who aren’t from South Africa, we have 11 official languages – Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga. On the other hand there are many schools … Even the traditionally Afrikaans universities now offer most lectures in English. Enjoy the read…, (Update: Sara Muller provides a useful summary of some the qualitative research on language of learning and teaching in SA here – go check it out. Many schools teach traditional foreign languages as an option and, depending on their location, local languages such as Zulu and Afrikaans. schools where the Language of Learning and Teaching (LOLT) is English and/or Afrikaans (i.e. This is not ideal in a country with 11 official languages that enjoy Constitutional protection. But learners in the rural areas enter school with only their home language. South Africa's history of segregation and the privileging of English and Afrikaans as the only languages of teaching and learning beyond primary schooling, make the post-apartheid period a complex one, especially in light of the Constitutional commitment to multilingualism in the 11 official languages. They also felt that African languages were undervalued in their schools. This research tells us the average effect of language of instruction in South African schools as things are currently being implemented. Advocates of both “straight-for-English” approaches and mother-tongue instruction envisage a carefully thought-through set of instructional practices implemented by high-quality teachers and supported by sufficient materials. Translanguaging should be embraced and supported as a teaching and learning technique. English from day 1), and this is especially true for wealthier parents. population. The choice is between English instruction from grade one or starting with mother-tongue instruction and transitioning to English as the language of instruction at a later grade. Education and language experts gather to tackle the issue in Africa’s newest country. Alternatively, there are plenty of language schools in South Africa to help with learning a local language. Teachers used it mainly in oral communication, in classroom situations. (2010). Parents or other members of the SGB often have a very biased language attitude that only favours English. In English language schools, English is learned as a rst language and another of various languages is taught secondarily, whereas in Afrikaans-language schools the second language choice is … According to the 2011 Census, approximately 88% of the population speaks native South African languages, and children are accordingly sent to schools that use their home languages as the medium of instruction from grades 1-3. Teachers use code switching as well as a translanguaging process, alternating and blending languages to help pupils understand concepts. There is a reason for this: research has proved many times that pupils learn best in their own mother tongues. Most schools offer mother-tongue instruction in the first three grades of school and then transition to English as the language of instruction in the fourth grade. The result is that many South African learners attend schools where the language of learning and teaching (LoLT) is different from their mother tongue. Banda (2004:11) Dr Stephen Taylor works in the department of basic education and Marisa Coetzee is a researcher in the economics department at the University of Stellenbosch. In South Africa, English and Afrikaans speaking pupils have the advantage of being taught in their home language from Grade 1 to Grade 12. Similarly, our study has no direct application to the language policy debates at the university level. It is important to recognise these limitations, because there are many policy issues and arguments that often get confused in South Africa’s language debates.  Although this is what government recommends, many parents choose to send their children to straight-for-English schools (i.e. She might begin a sentence in English, and then switch to Sepedi – the African language most commonly spoken as a mother tongue in the province. Bantu languages in education in South Africa: an overview. International schools usually follow an August to June school year. Rather, what is required is to separate out the effects of the various factors affecting academic performance. The real question is how much of the differences in performance is explained by children’s home circumstances, how much by a school’s quality and, lastly, how much by the language in which children are taught. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Mandela. One of the perennial issues that arises when discussing South African education is our complex language policy. Some schools choose to commence immediately with English as the language of instruction from grade one (these are sometimes referred to as “straight-for-English” schools). Flexible language policies and teaching approaches should be utilised to put each and every individual pupil and his and her individual learning progress at the centre of classroom interactions. This paper argues that mother tongue education be considered in South Africa if we hope to get good grades from students who come from rural schools Key words: South African Language Policy, indigenous languages, isiXhosa, medium of instruction, multilingualism. The ongoing debates about the language of instruction in schools evoke strong (and often emotional) responses, as has again been seen in the various contributions in the media during the past two weeks.However, these responses are seldom backed by evidence. As with any study, our findings have their limitations. Education in South Africa is governed by two national departments, namely the department of Basic Education (DBE), which is responsible for primary and secondary schools, and the department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which is responsible for tertiary education and vocational training. Write an article and join a growing community of more than 117,600 academics and researchers from 3,794 institutions. 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