[lg policy] Namibia to remove English as a medium of iinstruction in the lower grades.

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Thu Apr 18 15:23:48 EDT 2019

Govt to remove English as medium of instruction at lower gradesNews -
National | 2019-04-17Page no: 5by Sakeus Iikela

A classroom at Walvis Bay, at the new Kuisebmond Project School in 2017.
File photo.

*PUPILS at government schools in Grades 1 – 3 and at pre-primary level will
be taught and assessed in their mother tongue, if a revised draft language
policy for Namibian schools is approved.*

The revised language policy for schools in Namibia was submitted to
parliament by education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa last week.

The first language policy for schools in Namibia was introduced in 1991,
and approved English as the medium of instruction and assessment in schools.

According to the documents, the policy seeks to promote the acquisition of
irreversible literacy and numeracy in the mother tongue and English. The
policy also strives to attain effective additive bilingualism through the
maintenance of the mother tongue and effective teaching and learning of
English, among other things.

It further strives to raise awareness of the importance of mother tongue in
education, and make provision for the establishment of a language institute
or centre to spearhead language research, development and documentation.

Although the draft policy recognises English as a compulsory subject from
Grades 1 to 12, it says the medium of instruction and assessment at the
lower grades (from pre-primary to Grade 3) would be changed to mother
tongue if the policy is approved.

The policy states that Grade 4 would be the transitional place in which the
change to English as a medium of instruction would take place.

A mother tongue may be used in a supportive role “to enable pupils to
understand difficult concepts during the primary cycle”.

English will, therefore, be used in its official capacity as a medium of
instruction and assessment throughout the education system in public
schools as from Grade 4 onwards.

The draft policy says all pupils should study at least two languages as
subjects from Grades 1 to 12, one of which must be English and the mother
tongue as a requirement by the language policy and national curriculum,
“especially in pre-primary to Grade 3”.

It, however, doesn't prevent pupils from taking English, a foreign language
and a Namibian language if one of the languages is taken on either first or
second language level.

Documents furthermore state that provision would also be made where pupils
from the same language group are in the minority at Grades 1 to 3 to be
taught in their mother tongue, and be offered their mother tongue as a
subject from Grades 4 to 12.

In multilingual schools, classes in which the mother tongue is the medium
of instruction will be constituted where there is a sufficient number of
pupils in that mother tongue.

“If the number of learners with the same mother tongue is too small to
constitute a class, the medium of learning for those pupils will be the
predominant local language,” the document reads.

English as a medium of instruction from Grade 1 at government schools shall
only be offered with the written approval of the minister of education, the
policy states.

Private schools may use a language other than English as a medium of
instruction throughout the primary cycle (Grades 1 – 7), provided they
offer English and one other Namibian language as subjects.

The languages considered as first languages under the revised policy
include Afrikaans, English, German, Ju|'hoansi, Khoekhoegowab,
Oshikwanyama, Oshindonga, Otjiherero, Rukwangali, Rumanyo, Setswana, Silozi
and Thimbukushu. English and Afrikaans are also considered at the
second-language level option.

The draft policy would be debated in the National Assembly before it is


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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