[lg policy] Pre-education schools language policy: Call for government language policy to help Deracialise South Africa

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 23 14:22:31 UTC 2011

Pre-education schools language policy: Call for government language
policy to help Deracia
Publié 21/03/2011

17 March 2011


The Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy has called on
government to review its schools language policy. This is in light of
an incident in which a 16-year-old learner said she was kicked out of
class for speaking her home language at school. "Clearly, language is
still a bitter issue in schools in South Africa, something that comes
as no surprise given the country's history of using language for
political dominance and subjugation," says Molteno's CEO Masennya

A fundamental problem, according to Dikotla, is the fact that language
policy in schools is left in the hands of school governing bodies.
Language is a curriculum matter and hence may not be delegated to
school governing bodies who most of the times abuse that power. In
rural schools these school governing bodies choose an additional
language as a language of learning and teaching. This is done out of
sheer ignorance and it is wrong. .

"This results in a situation where, out of good manners and in order
to avoid segregation, teachers have to rule that only English is
spoken in the context of the classroom." "But how will we ever achieve
real integration if our children aren't even able to converse
naturally with each other?" he questions. "It's also resulting in a
weakening of African cultures as some children being schooled in
English are no longer able to converse with their grandparents."

According to current language policy, decisions regarding primary and
additional language instruction are left up to school governing
bodies. "This leaves these crucial decisions open to personal agendas
which, quite understandably, tend to job protection and, in some
cases, subtle racism," says Dikotla. "Now is the time for government
to provide leadership on this vital issue at a national level."

He says government should consider incentivising schools that
accommodate African languages, tying the government subsidy to
compliance. "For example, where English is the medium of instruction,
the school needs to have an African language as the first additional
language in order to qualify for the subsidy.

All public schools should be doing this." Beyond influencing
integration, the question of language policy is fundamental to the
effective education and proper schooling of our children. It was
recently reported that the English home language question papers for
last year's matric exams had the highest failure rates of all the home
language subjects. The primary reason for this is that most
non-English home language speakers who attend former Model C schools
do not have the option of choosing their mother tongue as their first

"It's not surprising that most of these children are failing English,
but it's also likely that they're doing badly in other subjects too as
a result," says Dikotla. "It's no wonder there are also issues with
skills development in this country and standards dropping,
particularly at tertiary level."
He says the problem here is government's lack of firmness on language
policy means that African children are not properly grounded in their
mother tongues before switching to English.

"In the interests of effective learning, a solid grounding in the
mother tongue is needed in the foundational grades 1-3. However, at
the same time it's important that the second language is emphasised,
not as an either/or but as a complementary process."
For this reason, Molteno has welcomed government's move to make it
compulsory for the second language, usually English, to be introduced
in the foundational grades from next year, 2012.

"This is a very positive step, but the problem we're now facing is
that for most teachers, English is usually their third or fourth
language. That's why we're emphasising the importance of teachers
receiving further training and support in their ability to teach
English well."

To this end, Molteno recently announced the introduction of its new
and improved distance education training course, presented in
conjunction with UNISA. "The Certificate Programme for Teachers of
Language in Primary Schools helps teachers improve their language
teaching skills, with practical classroom support provided by the
Molteno Institute," explains Dikotla.

Another positive step that Molteno has welcomed is government's move
to encourage children from foreign countries to learn one of the
country's indigenous languages. "But we believe the directive needs to
be more specific, to emphasise one African language," he says.

In conclusion, Dikotla says that by taking a prescriptive approach to
language policy now, government will be heading off future problems
facing our country. "The beauty of multilingualism is that it will not
only improve skills development, but it will promote racial harmony in
South Africa. If we deracialise education, we'll deracialise the
country." For more information, please visit www.molteno.co.za.

leandri at prrepublic.co.za This email address is being protected from
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