Namibia: Language policy in education - in practice

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Oct 5 13:57:18 UTC 2007

Namibia: Language policy in education - in

An article seen on All<>

*The Education Corner*

New Era (Windhoek)
24 September 2007
Posted to the web 24 September 2007

By Toivo Mvula

*The Language Policy was developed to guide Namibian schools on how national
languages should be taught in schools, to promote the cultural identity of
learners through the use of their mother tongue as a medium of instruction
in Grades 1-3 and to ensure that English is taught as the medium of
instruction from Grade 4 and upwards. *

What does the Language Policy state?

  The Language Policy states that schools should teach learners in Grade One
to Grade Three in their mother-tongue. Grade Four is to be regarded as a
transitional year where schools start to switch from mother tongue as a
medium of instruction to English as a medium of instruction.

What does this mean?

This means that, as from Grade Four, the mother-tongue becomes a subject and
learners will be taught in English; i.e. other subjects will be taught in

Is the policy being fully implemented?

No. Although the policy states that learners should be taught in their
mother tongue from Grade 1 to Grade 3, this has not happened and is not
being done all over the country. Many schools also do not offer Namibian
indigenous languages as subjects from Grade 4 until Grade 12.

Why is a mother tongue important?

Research has shown that being taught in one's mother tongue at an early age
helps you to make sense of what you are being taught in order to help you to
conceptualise better and acquire writing and reading skills which are best
acquired in the early years of schooling.

Teaching mother tongue in schools also helps to promote the language and
cultural identity of learners.

What about English?

English is the official language of Namibia. The Language Policy states that
English should be compulsory from Grade One to Grade Twelve.

- From Grade 1 - 3 = as a subject.

- From Grade 4 - 12 = as a subject and as the medium of instruction.

The Policy also states that, ideally, learners should study at least two
languages as subjects from Grade 1 to Grade 12 and one of them must be

- The Education Column is a column that was created by the Ministry of
Education to highlight educational issues that are of concern to its
stakeholders (learners, students, parents, teachers, development partners,
unions, and the private and public sector). For more information, contact
the Public Relations Office at Tel: 061-2933358 or 2933366.

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