[lg policy] Namibia: Call for major language review

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 25 14:38:33 UTC 2011

Call for major language review
THE Urban Trust of Namibia (UTN) has called for “a major review of the
language policy” in schools “to stop continuing failure among

Research conducted by the civil rights movement found that “a high
proportion of learners – more than four out of five children in Grade
7 – are confused by the second language (English) in which they are
taught. They want to succeed at school generally and in English in
particular but do not understand their subjects well enough because of
the problems of language.”

According to Priscilla Harris, who conducted the research on behalf of
UTN, teachers and parents do not “fully understand the problems that
learners face with language and often attribute poor learner
performance to [a] lack of interest and commitment”. The research
established that “parents are keen to see their children succeed in
English but are divided as to how best this can be achieved.
Educationalists are divided as to the correctness of the language
policy, with those in the regions seeing the language policy as
failing learners.”
It was further found that “the longer a child learns in his or her
home language, the more successful he or she will be at school”.

The full research findings will be released on December 13.

In a UTN document on the language policy released in June, it is
stated that the language policy “was last addressed in 2003 through a
national discussion document and the preparation of a draft policy,
which was never formally adopted”.

Since then, it is charged in the document, “learners continue to
achieve poor education results despite high levels of investment.
While there are many explanations for these poor results, it is the
UTN’s belief that the current approach to the language of learning is
a major, overlooked factor in these poor results.”
Following the national conference on education at the end of June this
year, Cabinet directed the Ministry of Education to “revisit the
language policy to ensure that the Namibian child optimally benefits
from its provisions regarding the medium of instruction – especially
in the lower primary phase”.
Also, Cabinet directed, the teaching of English from Grade 1 onwards
needs to be reviewed and strengthened “by providing in-service
training to teachers and fully implementing the English Language
Proficiency Programme”.

The results of a recent English proficiency test showed that about 98
per cent of Namibia’s teachers are not sufficiently proficient in
basic English and need further training.


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