Dissertation: A study of the implementation of the LiEP in three South African primary schools

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Sep 20 15:59:00 UTC 2006

Forwarded from Linguist-List,

>>From Policy to Practice: A study of the implementation of the
Language-in-Education Policy (LiEP) in three South African primary schools

Dissertation Director: Carol Benson, Birgit Brock-Utne, Desai Zubeida

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis analyzes the LiEP in South Africa and the implementation in
order to better understand the effectiveness of the language policy in
promoting additive and functional multilingualism, and sociolinguistic and
-cultural integration, which are major policy objectives. For nearly fifty
years the majority of South Africans suffered from language policies aimed
at social and political control. As a result schools were used as a
mechanism to restrict speakers of African languages access to power with
language policies in education as a major component in the apartheid plan.
In spite of a very progressive language in education policy (July 1997)
that enables learners or their guardians to choose the language of
instruction, schools catering for learners who are speakers of African
languages still use English as their medium of instruction from the fourth

The lack of political will among the political leadership of the country
to seriously implement the national ideals expressed in the Constitution
and the LiEP may be little more than a symbolic gesture or a strategy to
obtain public support without any intention of leading to real change in
the society. As part of this empirical investigation the observations show
that in the township schools both teachers and students are struggling
with using a language as a medium of instruction that is foreign and
additionally a language that neither is proficient in. The result is that
learners are left with partial subject knowledge and little or no real
knowledge in the foreign language.

Observations showed that Xhosa was generally used for most of the talk
time in the classrooms with teachers utilizing code alternation strategies
to assist learners.  Moreover, learners employ a number of coping
strategies in dealing with a foreign medium. Ultimately, how can we expect
children and adults to acquire knowledge and skills when they are taught
through a language they do not understand? Finally, this thesis questions
the use of theories of bilingual and multilingual education developed as a
result of research on immigrant minorities mainly in the North. Although
the majority population in South Africa can, somewhat, be compared to such
groups the reality is that they are a majority population and not an
immigrant minority. Thus it is argued that despite the theoretical
foundations in this thesis there is a need to draw attention to the
differences between these two groups as well as their similarities in
order to develop more appropriate theories.  In this way this research
contributes to the literature on bilingual and multilingual education not
only for minority groups but also for majority groups who are often
treated as minorities within their respective countries.



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