[lg policy] South Africa: Language =?windows-1252?Q?=91main_issue=92_?=in literacy, maths marks

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 5 18:44:20 UTC 2011

Language ‘main issue’ in literacy, maths marks
Published: 2011/07/22 07:00:45 AM

THE government’s policy of second- language education was most to
blame for students’ underperformance in maths and low literacy levels,
academics said yesterday.

Neville Alexander, direct of the University of Cape Town’s Project For
the Study of Alternative Education, said that while language was not
the only problem facing SA’s students, it was the "fundamental issue"
and the state’s language policy was a "guarantee of failure".

He was speaking at an education seminar hosted by the Centre for
Education Policy Development, standards body Umalusi and the
University of the Witwaterstrand (Wits) in Johannesburg.

The switch to English or Afrikaans as a medium of instruction from
grade 4 onwards is widely cited for the country’s poor performance in
the Annual National Assessments released last month. The national
average performance in grade 3 was 35% for literacy, and 28% for
numeracy, while grade 6 pupils achieved an average of 28% in languages
and 30% in mathematics.

Jill Adler, Wits professor and the Firstrand Foundation’s mathematics
education chair, said the use of language was crucial for students to
be able to grasp complex mathematical concepts, and this was leading
to poor maths results. She said diverse levels of fluency were
significantly complicating teaching as, "in order to teach
mathematics, you need to simplify language".

The Grade 6 Systemic Evaluation National Report of 2005 showed
students who studied in their mother tongue achieved a national
average score of 69% in language, whereas students taught in a second
language achieved only 32%.

Those who wrote mathematics in their home language achieved an average
score of 48,13%, while the average score of those using a second
language was 23,19%.

gernetzkyk at bdfm.co.za


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