Pandor: English not 'optional' where it is the language of instruction

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Jun 1 14:30:59 UTC 2005

English not 'optional' where it is the language of instruction, says

Published on the web by Cape Times on June 1, 2005.

By Angela Bolowana

Durban: English is to remain a compulsory subject in schools where it is
the medium of instruction. Education Minister Naledi Pandor yesterday made
it clear that there had not been an intention by her department to make
English "optional''. Speaking at the National Consultative Conference on
Education here, Pandor said although it had been reported that English was
to be made optional, the language policy of 1997 said that all 11 official
languages were optional, at least in theory.

South African schools use English or Afrikaans as their language of
instruction. Pandor said pupils had no choice but to study the languages
of instruction. In most cases, this was English. "I have stated previously
that the study of English as a language of learning and teaching needs
improvement, particularly given the place of the language in our education
system," she said.

"Nevertheless, I cannot be swayed from the belief that the indigenous
languages of South Africa have been marginalised, neglected,
underdeveloped and that their strengthening and revival depend to a great
degree on what we do in education." Pandor said it was not true that
indigenous languages posed a threat to English. "I believe it is correct
for all our young people to acquire fluency in one of the nine African
indigenous languages. Our challenge now is to act on the policy while
ensuring acquisition of effective competence in English and any other
language chosen by parents and learners."

There was a need to bridge the gap between urban and rural access to
quality education. "The bottom line is there are non-debatable basic
conditions that must be created to facilitate effective teaching and
learning." It was not true that the department intended excluding from
tertiary institutions first-year students who failed. Nevertheless, it was
necessary to deal with the questions of access and performance to ensure
greater accountability in the use of public resources.

"Graduation rates remain particularly low, especially for black students.
The cost of failure is high, not only to individuals but also the system
as a whole. We estimate that the number of students dropping out of the
system is costing R1 billion."

 Cape Times 2005. All rights reserved.

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