South Africa: Western Cape Promotes Learning Home Languages

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Aug 22 13:45:51 UTC 2007

W Cape Promotes Learning Home Languages

BuaNews (Tshwane)

21 August 2007
Posted to the web 21 August 2007
Cape Town

The Western Cape Department of Education's Language Transformation
Plan promotes mother-tongue-based bilingual education and
"conversational trilingualism."  "The Western Cape Education
Department's Language Transformation Plan will promote six years of
mother-tongue-based bilingual education and envisages that all
learners in the Western Cape will by the end of Grade 9, have some
basic conversational trilingualism," Education MEC Cameron Dugmore
said Tuesday.

The MEC said all schools would, for the first time, submit a
comprehensive School Language Policy and Implementation Plan to the
department by 10 September. The plans are to be studied by officials
who will respond to the schools in the fourth quarter.
"We are encouraging schools to provide at least six years of
mother-tongue-based bilingual education wherever practicable," said Mr
Dugmore, adding that research has indicated that this is long overdue.

He explained that there is clear evidence that learners need a minimum
of six years of tuition in their mother tongue, in order to achieve
enough language skills to cope with the linguistic challenge of
learning through the medium of a second language. The WCED has set up
16 project schools, which have enthusiastically adopted this policy,
in consultation with parents, and which are already reporting obvious
changes in classroom behaviour and academic performance.

"They report, for example, that the learners are far more lively in
class, now that they can learn through the medium of isiXhosa and that
their academic performance is improving," said the MEC. The model is
being used effectively in the trilingual and bilingual schools in the
project group as well. All eyes will be on these schools later in the
year when they will write, for the first time, the WCED Grade 6
Assessment Tests in isiXhosa.

Evaluators note that it is not just learner self-esteem, which is
growing but that educator esteem is on the increase as well.
"Lecturers at UWC are impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of
the 16 teachers from these schools who have been enrolled by the WCED
in an "Advanced Certificate of Education" in language studies." The
MEC said Dr Neville Alexander, who serves on the Provincial Language
Consultative Committee, notes that this is a really promising model.

He delivered a lecture to about 70 teachers from the project schools
who came to Cape Town for a Saturday seminar to discuss research plans
and found their enthusiasm and dedication infectious. The project
schools indicate that virtually the only constraint they are
experiencing is the lack of text books in isiXhosa after Grade 3. The
MEC approached publishers last year with a view to getting
partnerships going.

"I have found that the publishing houses were ready to commit and some
are ready with books, which schools are ordering now as part of the
current WCED special project to put two text books into every
classroom from Grades 4 - 7 in all schools in quintiles 1 to 4 [in
which the Project Schools all find themselves]." In pursuit of the
second target - at least conversational trilingualism - the MEC
announced that a volunteer cohort of about 30 - 40 teachers has been
working on a provincial learning programme for the teaching of
isiXhosa as a second additional language.

The department seconded a core group of teachers for a week but beyond
that the work has been voluntary.  "The core group has been
implementing their draft programme and report that their lessons are
going very well," said the MEC.

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