In a bid to promote multilingualism and fostering nation-building, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) will incrementally introduce an African language in Grade R and Grade 1 where such languages are not yet offered in 2014.
South Africans are encouraged to learn an indigenous language as it promotes multilingualism and fosters nation-building, said Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
The DBE recently announced that all schools will now offer an African language to all learners from Grades R to 9.
It is preparing for the implementation of African languages in 2014 by phasing it in this year already in selected schools in each province. Based on this exercise, provinces will determine what is required for full scale implementation in 2014.
All provinces, through their Heads of Education, have committed to ensuring that African languages are implemented incrementally and effectively.
The implementation of African languages requires that all learners exit at Grade 9 level having learnt an African language for at least one phase.
It is perceived that African languages do not enjoy the same development and utility as English and Afrikaans. The department will therefore ensure that all African languages are equally developed and used by learners in the best interest of their learning and performance in their 12 years of schooling.
All schools will offer an African Language to all learners from grades R to 9.
The implementation of African languages in schools is made possible by the National Curriculum Statement (NCS), which requires that all learners exit at Grade 9 level having learnt an African language for at least one phase. The Language in Education Policy (LiEP) promotes additive multi-lingualism, which means that learners come to school knowing their mother-tongue and are taught other languages incrementally across the different grades in school. In the Foundation Phase, learners learn TWO languages.
These languages should be their mother-tongue, for purposes of learning and expressing themselves, and another language which makes them bi-lingual. It is in this phase, that we promote the use of mother-tongue instruction as the Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT). We know that for many, many learners, this is not the case. We have learners entering the system in grades R and 1 with insufficient English language competence to be able to learn effectively through the medium of English. This is evidenced by the poor learner performance in our Annual National assessments (ANAs) in Languages and Mathematics, which show that learners are often not able to read the question or express themselves in their answers in English.
One of the major challenges in implementing what LiEP requires in terms of additive multi-lingualism is that School Governing Bodies will select the Languages policy of the school. This means that SGBs decide on language offerings for the school based on the demographics of the learners in the schools. Our own research shows us that language selection does not promote the African languages of the learner body in many schools. They are forced to learn English and Afrikaans instead. For our learners who do not speak an African language, many are still leaving the schooling system having never been taught an African language. This must have huge implications for the constitutional and social goal of promoting social cohesion and nation building in all our citizens.
If it is perceived that our African languages do not enjoy the same development and utility as English and Afrikaans, then we will ensure that all African languages are equally developed and used by learners in the best interest of their learning and performance in their 12 years of schooling.
This is how the DBE will do it:
- Already English First Additional Language (EFAL) was introduced in grade 1 in those schools where learners transition to using English as a medium of instruction in Grade 3 or 4.
- All schools who do not have an African language as a language in their school language policy at all, will introduce incrementally from 2014 in Grade R and 1, the learning of an African language as another first additional language. This will promote multi-lingualism as promoted by the Constitution and LiEP.
- In schools, where learners are doing one African language and either English or Afrikaans, learners will learn another African language in Grade R and 1 in 2014.
- We have the necessary resources to do this in the workbooks developed by the DBE for Languages. These have proven to be effective teaching and learning materials, and teachers are using them as core classroom materials.
The DBE is preparing the implementation of African languages in 2014 by phasing in this year already in selected schools in each province. Based on this exercise, provinces will determine what is required for full scale implementation in 2014. All provinces, through the Heads of Education have committed to ensuring that African languages are implemented incrementally and effectively.
Promoting language as a cultural and heritage issue is necessary for improving the fabric of our society, and will indeed foster social cohesion across different cultures, languages and traditions. We celebrate true diversity by promoting multilingualism in all schools.