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Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Zulu | 0 comments

Thoughts on bi-lingual education in South Africa

Thoughts on bi-lingual education in South Africa


This post is taken directly from my research article recommendations: The choice of language of learning in iNquthu schools: Who is gaining?   Our strong view is Bilingual Education (instruction) model is one of the effective language policy frameworks that South Africa should continue to strive for. Bilingual education is a simple label for a complex phenomenon (Cazden & Snow, 1990; Baker, 1993:9, as cited in Garcia, 2009). Bilingual education refers to education in more than one language often encompassing more than two languages (Baker, 2001). Bilingual education relies on programs that use the language as a medium of instruction. Bilingual education is a way of providing meaningful and equitable education, as well as education that builds tolerance towards other linguistic and cultural groups. In so doing, bilingual education programs provide a general education, teach in two or more languages, and develop multiple understandings about languages and cultures whilst fostering appreciation for human diversity (Garcia, 2009:7) Rose and Martin (2012) argue that countries such as Australia have adopted the model and the results are amazing already to this end. Bilingual education takes into account the fact that there is the different language background students come to school with. The main focus is on students who, most of the time, have adequate resources of spoken language but little or no experiences of different ways of meaning-making in written language. Learning is described to emerge from within and ‘language is osmotically absorbed from the child’s environment. The principle that effective teaching involves providing learners with explicit knowledge about the language in which the curriculum is written and negotiated in the classroom. The teaching consists of explicit transmissions of knowledge, skills and, values, and the criteria of assessment are visible. Of central importance is that all students are given the opportunities and expected to accomplish the same level of task. Therefore teachers need strategies to support them equally’ (Rose & Martin, 2012:58). Bilingual education is a responsive-model in that it promotes social interaction amongst learners, teachers and members of the educational community, using two or more different languages (Creese & Martin, 2003). Bilingual education is very useful in the sense that it relies on the pedagogy that works for all students, regardless of their social and linguistic background (Rose & Martin, 2012:58) Another emphasis of a Bilingual education model is on building of understanding of a text before learners could start with the actual reading. The whole idea with promotion of bilingual education is the need to build a supportive nurturing classroom environment for literacy development, similar to that experienced by learners during spoken language development in their homes (Rose & Martin, 2012:30) This paper proposes that a tailor-made Language-in-Education Policy framework in South Africa be put in place, where African learners can write text (genre) and answers in their home language, then provide a free English translation during teaching and learning. This will serve three purposes:

  1. Opportunity to answer assessment questions correctly and with ease.
  2. Improve English literacy competence, as they use both English and their indigenous mother tongue parallel with English.
  3. Use and development of indigenous languages for academic purposes.

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