Redirecting...

Chapter 9

LANGUAGE IN EDUCATION POLICY

9.1 LANGUAGE IN EDUCATION POLICY

9.1.1Legislative and Policy Framework

ACTS

  • The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) [SAC]
  • The Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act No. 108 of 1996 [BoR]
  • The National Education Policy Act, 1996 (Act No. 27 of 1996) [NEPA]
  • The South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 [SASA]
     

POLICIES

  • Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements for the respective subjects (Government Gazette No. 34600 of 12 September 2011) [CAPS]
  • National Policy Pertaining to the Programme and Promotion Requirements of the National Curriculum Statement Grades R-12 (Government Gazette No. 34600 of 12 September 2011 as amended by Government Notices No.1496 and 1497 in Government Gazette, No. 40472 dated 2 December 2016) [NPPPR]
  • Language in Education Policy 14 July 1997 (SASA 2B-12 to 17) [NP LANGUAGE]

FreeState

ACTS

  • Free State School Education Act, 2000 (Act No. 2 of 2000) [Reference B2 FS EDACT]

NorthWest

ACTS

  • North West Schools Education Act, Act no. 3 of 1998 [Reference B8 NW EDACT 3/1998]

9.1.2Framework for the Development of School Policy on Language Matters

  1. The two focuses of the Language In Education Policy (LIEP)
    The national policy distinguishes two aspects, namely:

    • Language as medium of learning and teaching (LOLT)
    • Language subjects in the curriculum
  2. Terminology
    The following terms are used as core terminology and a good and accurate understanding of these is essential:

    • Language of learning and teaching (LOLT)
      The main language of the learners in the school as the mastery thereof determines the learners’ ability to achieve in all the learning areas/subjects.
    • Language subjects
      A subject which focuses on the mastering of a certain language. Reference is made to Language 1, Language 2 and Language 3, or Language subject 1, Language subject 2 or Language subject 3 in the curriculum.
    • Home language (HL)
      The language in which learners communicate at home.
    • Home language level (HLL)
      The highest level at which a language is offered.
    • Additional language (AL)
      A language that is not the learner’s home language.
    • First Additional Language level (FALL)
      The second highest level at which a language is offered.
    • Second Additional Language level (SALL)
      The third highest level at which a language can be offered. The focus is on communication.
    • Multilingualism
      The ability to verbally communicate in more than two of the 11 official languages in South Africa.
    • African language
      The nine official marginalised African languages in South Africa.
  3. Intention of the legislator
    Legislation and policy are tools to realise the legislator’s intentions. It is therefore important to know what the legislator’s intentions are.
    The legislator’s intentions with regard to language in schools can be summarised as follows:

    • Promotion of multilingualism
    • Development of the 11 official languages
    • Respect for all the languages
    • Promotion of communication
    • Promotion of home language
    • Right to choose language of learning and teaching within the framework of the promotion of bilingualism
  4. Competences and responsibilities on various levels within the system
    • According to Section 3(4) of NEPA the National Minister of Education has the competence to determine policy with regard to language in education. [Annexure 1]
    • According to Section 6(1) of SASA the National Minister of Education has the competence to determine the policy with regard to language in school education. [Annexure 2]
    • According to Section 6(2) of SASA the school governing body has the competence to determine the school’s language policy within the framework of the norms and standards. [Annexure 2]
    • If it is not practical for the school to provide for the needs of the community and/or learners, the Department of Education must try to find a solution, e.g. through common utilisation of resources.
      Judgements in this regards:
    • In the case of Ermelo the court ruled that the department erred in retracting the governing body’s competence to determine the school’s language policy. The department could not do this, as this was a Section 6 competence and not a Section 21 competence.
    • In the case of the Mikro school in the Western Cape where 21 learners demanded a certain LOLT, the court judged that the learners did have a right against the state, but not against the school (the number of learners is important).
    • In the Laerskool Middelburg case (2003) the Mpumalanga Head of Department declared the school as parallel medium. The school applied for the setting aside of the decision by the HOD. The court emphasised section 28(2) of the Constitution, which stipulates that a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in any matter concerning a child. The court found that even though the Minister, MEC and HOD’s actions were administratively unfair, the best course of action was to keep the learners in the school. A single medium school may be compelled to create a second medium of instruction.
      Remarks:
    • Language policy issues or disputes should be concluded between the Department and the SGB. It becomes a ‘disciplinary’ matter when a Principal is confronted with instructions that are contrary to the SGB-policy – or simply with an allegation that the policy is ‘unfair’ or ‘unconstitutional’. 
    • The Principal should advise the SGB immediately and not end up in the middle of the dispute.
    • The Principal should also look to comply with the instruction of the HOD / the Department, pending clarification by the SGB.
  5. National policy with regard to the Language of Learning and Teaching (LOLT) in schools
    • The policy determinates as follows:
    • The LOLT in a public school must be an official language.
    • An official sign language is recognised as an official language.
    • The LOLT in Grade R–3 should preferably be the learner’s HL; from Grade 4 onwards the LOLT may be the learner’s HL or AL, depending on the school’s medium of teaching. It must be presented at FALL at least.
    • The parents may exercise the child’s right to choose the LOLT.
    • The learners choose the LOLT when applying for admission to the school.
    • If there are 40 (Grade 1–6) or 35 (Grade 7–12) requests for a LOLT other than that of the school, it is regarded as being practical and the school must attempt to honour the request.
    • If there are less than 40/35 requests per grade for a LOLT not offered by a school in the relevant district, the provincial department of education must try to find a solution, e.g. by the sharing of scarce resources.
    • The governing body must have a written plan for the promotion of multilingualism, e.g. by offering additional languages as subjects, or by introducing special induction (immersion) or language maintenance programmes.
    • The route for appeal is as follows: MEC ─►Pan South African Language Board ─► Arbitration Foundation of South Africa.
      Remarks:
    • Schools often find that learners who are taught in the HL up to Grade 3 are not ready to switch to their AL as LOLT in Grade 4. This doesn’t mean that the model does not work but rather that the quality of teaching in the HL and AL in Grades R to Grade 3 should be improved. HL teaching in this very important phase in a child’s life (up to Grade 3) still remains more acceptable than being taught in an additional language, in spite of the possible challenges which might arise.
      According to language specialists, a child should be taught in his or her HL (mother tongue) up to the end of Grade 6. The South African policy determines that a child should start with formal education in an AL in Grade 3 and if the learner’s home language is not the LOLT in higher grades, the learner should start with the AL which will later become the LOLT in Grade 1 already, so that the learner will be able to switch to that AL as LOLT in Grade 4.

      One of the provincial departments of education is presently testing a model in terms of which a learner who starts schooling in his/her HL in Grade 1, will be allowed to switch to the AL as LOLT only in Grade 6. Such an approach should be supported and schools in other provinces that experience similar problems should be allowed by their department to do the same.
    • The importance of a written plan for the promotion of multilingualism should not be underestimated. It should form part of the school’s written language policy as determined by the governing body. It might not be possible to immediately implement the written policy or plan in full, but shows that the school management has a vision and is committed to complying with the policy requirements. It is recommended that the school’s policy be submitted to the relevant district office indicating why the policy cannot yet be implemented in full, e.g. due to staffing, funds, space, etc. The information in par. 19 about situations that may develop in schools should be useful for the development of such a policy and plan.
    • In cases where there are 40 or 35 requests per grade for a LOLT other than that of the school, the school must attempt to honour the requests. Once again the situation should be managed in terms of the school’s language policy and plan for the promotion of multilingualism.
      If there are fewer than 40 or 35 requests per grade, the applicants will have no claim against the school, but against the state.  The department of education must then investigate ways in which to provide in the need, e.g. by using other schools in the vicinity.

      The degree to which the 40/35 divide (more of fewer) will be conclusive in a dispute is not clear.  In the case of the Mikro School where the court ruled in favour of the school, 40 learners initially requested a different LOLT, but this number diminished to 21 over time.  A study of the judgement, however, reveals that various other factors were considered in the judgement.
    • A single medium school, as in the Laerskool Middelburg case, may be compelled to create a second medium of instruction. The court weighed the interest of the school against the interest of the learners and found that the fundamental right of a child takes precedence over the school’s right to fair administrative action.
  6. National policy regarding language subjects in the curriculum
    The policy states the following:

    • In Grade R the learners must be taught one official language at Home Language Level.
    • From Grade 1 onwards, learners must be taught one official language at home language level and a second official language at 1st additional language level. One of the two must be the LOLT of the school.
    • If a learner is taught in his/her HL up to Grade 3 but has to change to the AL as this is the LOLT from Grade 4 onwards, the AL must be included in the Grade 1 timetable and the teaching in the AL should be such that the learner will be able to successfully switch to the AL as LOLT at the beginning of Grade 4.
    • The additive approach to bi/multilingualism forms the basis of the policy and should apply wherever possible:
      • The learner is taught in his or her HL and in at least one other official language as AL.
      • When the learner reaches the appropriate competency level in the additional language, he or she can switch to this language as LOLT (then the main language) (in the case of a learner in the Foundation Phase, the learner must be able to switch to the additional language as LOLT after completion of Grade 3).
    • The SASA as amended by the Basic Education Laws Amendment Act No 15 of 2011, in Section 6B determines as follows:
      The governing body of a public school must ensure that –

      • there is no unfair discrimination in respect of any official languages that are offered as subject options contemplated in section 21(1)(b); and
      • the first additional language and any other official language offered, as provided for in the curriculum, are offered on the same level.”
    • Special support should be provided to learners with regard to the LOLT if this is not the learner’s HL.
    • Time allocation for languages per week: See 4.1
      Remarks:

      When a learner is exposed to an AL at an early stage, the exposure should initially be informal, e.g. playing together with learners who use the learner’s AL as their HL.

9.1.3Guidelines for the Development of School Policy on Language Matters:

  1. Possible situations in schools and how these should or could be managed (case studies)
    • Provision for two main languages (LOLT and 1st AL)
      NB: The following case studies must be approached in terms of the learners’ needs. In other words, the language model which applies at the specific school should be regarded as the point of departure, but it should be tested in terms of the learners’ needs and a decision should be taken on whether adjustments can or should be made to accommodate such needs. 

      Case 1:
          The school’s Language 1 (LOLT) and Language 2 (AL) are the learners’ HL and AL (applicable to primary and secondary schools)Remarks:

      • This is typical of a school where English speaking learners attend an English single medium or an English/Afrikaans parallel medium school (or Afrikaans speaking learners attend an Afrikaans single medium or an Afrikaans/English parallel medium school) (ex-Model C schools)
    • The model provides for the language needs of all the learners, provided that there are no HL speakers of African languages in the school.
      Case 2:
              The school’s LOLT is the learners’ AL and the school’s AL is the learners’ HL.
      Remarks:
      • In this instance, an English-speaking learner attends an Afrikaans single medium school or an Afrikaans speaking learner attends an English single medium school (ex-Model C schools). As the learner chooses to be in the school, the model provides for the learner’s needs.
      • If there are no African language speakers in the school, the school provides for the needs of all the learners.
    • Case 3:        Neither the school’s LOLT nor AL is the learner’s HL
      Remarks:
    • This situation exists where an African language speaking learner attends an English or Afrikaans single medium school or an English/Afrikaans parallel medium school (ex-Model C schools): both school languages are AL’s to the learner.
    • If practically possible the school should offer the learners HL as an option to either its language 1 or language 2 (at the same level).
      Case 4:
             The school’s LOLT is the learner’s HL up to Grade 3, but from Grade 4 the school’s LOLT is the learner’s AL.
      Remarks:

        • This situation is typical of the so-called township schools which are attended by African language speaking learners and who use an African language as LOLT up to Grade 3 but English from Grade 4 onwards.
      Summary regarding the accommodation of two main languages:

      • Schools will often find that they need to have a combination of more than one of the models in place in order to provide for the needs of all the learners.
      • The management of a single medium English primary school with a small number of African language speakers (fewer than 40 per grade up to Grade 6 and fewer than 35 in Grade 7) will find that, in order to comply with the policy, they have to ensure that the African language speakers are taught both English and Afrikaans from Grade 1 onwards. To make this possible, the African language speakers will have to be placed in a separate class. Departmental officials could regard this as racial segregation, but as the intention is to allow the African language speakers to be brought to a level where they can be divided into the same classes as the other learners, they should find the model acceptable.The learners are taught in the HL up to Grade 3, but in Grade 4 they switch to their AL, namely English.  
      • In the case of a single medium English primary school with more than 40/35 African language speakers per grade, management will have to consider the possibility of placing African language speakers in separate classes in order for them to be taught in their HL with English as AL from as early as Grade 1, so that they will be able to switch to English as LOLT in Grade 4.
  2. Provision for the two main languages and a third language
    • What policy requires
      As mentioned previously a school might find itself in a situation that requires that three languages be offered.  This implies that the school has to introduce a third language in addition to the two languages that is offered as its two main languages.
      The fact that SASA in Section 6B determines that the first additional language and any other official language offered must be offered on the same level (see 9.1.2(f)), means that the language that is introduced as a third language must be offered as an option either for the language that is offered at home language level or the language that is offered at 1st additional language level.
  3. Multi-level and multi-grade teaching and assessment as core elements of the effective implementation of the language policy in schools
    • Multi-level teaching and assessment
      • Multi-level teaching implies that the teacher meets and supports each learner at his or her specific level of achievement. Learners never all work on exactly the same level.  The teaching-learning activities in each class should therefore be characterised by multi-level teaching. This implies that the teacher will differentiate with regard to knowledge content, skills, teaching methods and assessment.
      • In the case of language teaching, multi-level may also refer to language levels, such as HLL, FALL and SALL. The assessment standards in the NCS allow the teacher to handle more than one language level in the same class and to apply multi-level teaching in this sense.
    • Multi-grade teaching and assessment
      A multi-grade class is created when learners from more than one grade are taught in the same class by the same teacher.
    • Application of multi-level and multi-grade teaching in order to improve the implementation of the language policy
      • In small schools or schools with minority language groups, it might be necessary to create a multi-level or multi-grade setup in order to make teaching in the mother tongue/home language possible.
      • A former Model C school might find that it is necessary to group a small number of African language speaking learners from different grades together in one class in order for them to be taught in their home language.
      • In some instances the learner population of former Model C schools might have changed to such an extent that only a small number of Afrikaans speaking learners remain in the school. The group might be too small to provide a teacher for each grade in order for them to be taught in their home language. In such cases learners from more than one grade could be placed in one class. This still remains preferable compared to the learners being taught in a language other than their home language.
  4. Medium to long-term planning with regard to the implementation of the language policy
    • Importance of medium/long-term planning
      A school should provide for the needs of the learners in the school.  The needs with regard to language are regarded as very important as language plays a decisive role in the child’s ability to achieve well and to reach his or her full potential.
      Poor planning may cause the school to move in a direction which only at a later stage might appear not to be in the learners’ best interests.  It might then be too late to change direction again.
    • Factors to be taken into account
      • National language policy and related legislation
        The national policy and related legislation were discussed in the preceding paragraphs. The policy is binding on the provincial departments of education. However, provincial departments do sometimes impose requirements on schools that are not in line with national policy or legislation.
      • Composition of the learner population of the school in terms of home language
        It is important that the school keeps statistics in this regard. Without statistics, planning is not possible – especially in cases where the situation at the school is in a state of change.  Constructive discussions with the Department and justification for decisions taken by the school are possible only if the relevant statistics are in place.
      • Language preferences of learners and parents
        Learners and parents must be kept informed on the school’s language policy and the options available to them.
      • Community and change taking place or being anticipated
        The demographic changes taking place in South Africa might cause drastic changes in the circumstances and learner populations of schools.  Proactive action is of the utmost importance.
      • Language policy of other schools in the vicinity
        The acceptability or not of a school’s language policy and related decision-making, is often determined by the situation in other schools in the vicinity.  If two African languages are equally strong in a certain community, it might be advisable for two neighbouring schools not to both offer the same language.

Also see Chapter 1.3 Developing of Policies