South Africa: Unions, DA back plan to allow choice of languages

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue May 17 13:26:14 UTC 2005

Unions, DA back plan to allow choice of languages

By Babalo Ndenze

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and the Democratic
Alliance have come out in support of the education department's plan to
allow learners to choose any two of the 11 official languages. They also
agree with the national education department that most pupils will choose
to take English. Learners will be able make the choice when the Further
Education and Training (FET) system is implemented by the department.
English is currently a compulsory subject.

The system could be implemented as early as next year. Deputy
director-general for FET Penny Vinjevold said yesterday the policy was
mainly for the promotion of indigenous languages. She added that in the
new system learners could choose a maximum of four languages.

"The policy is not different from the past. The choices have to include a
language of instruction and English is one of them. But the majority will
choose English. "We acknowledge that English is the language of the world
and the economy," said Vinjevold. DA education spokeswoman Helen Zille,
said her party noted that the choice of any two languages was consistent
with the country's constitution.

"We believe that most learners will make the choice that is in their best
interest. "Most are likely to choose English as one of their compulsory
languages because it is the predominant language of the global economy and
of tertiary education," said Zille. She said the education department
didn't have the capacity, in most schools, to teach languages at the level
learners require to make their choices meaningful.

"Offering such choices becomes a cruel farce, because they raise hopes
without the option of fulfilment," said Zille. She said according to
information available to her, Education Minister Naledi Pandor would
announce tomorrow whether the curriculum will be introduced next year.
"This roll-out will fundamentally overhaul the subject choice, grading
system, and certification of the final school years, known as the Further
Education and Training (FET) band," said Zille.

Sadtu's national spokesman Jon Lewis said they fully supported the
language policy. "We are in complete support of the policy which provides
for all languages to become optional," said Lewis.

 Published on the web by Cape Times on May 16, 2005.

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