The role of Medium of Instruction (MoI) or Language of Learning and
Teaching (LoL&T) has not received sufficient attention as a factor
denying meaningful access to education in South Africa. Yet the majority
of under-performing learners are also children who learn in a language
that is not their mother-tongue.
This research aims to assess how recent language policies have changed
the linguistic practices of schools and how this impacts on
'meaningful' access (understood as learners' access to the curriculum
and therefore broad content knowledge). Interviews and open discussions
were conducted with principals, teachers and parents from various
township schools located in Mlazi (KwaZulu Natal) and in Soweto and
Attridgeville (Gauteng) to illustrate the problems.
The paper unpicks the different solutions - taken and proposed – to the
disjuncture between MoI and meaningful access, whilst taking into
account the legacy of past policies. Several proposals have been made to
improve educational outcomes within the existing policy regarding medium
of instruction (MoI) and language in general. Other proposals, in order
to give transformation in education more immediate and concrete content,
seek to exploit to its limit, or even alter, the official framework.
They claim that such a move is a condition to reverse the overall poor
outcome among learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. The MoI issue has
sometimes been invoked in the debate on the relevance in societies of
the periphery of what some see as essentially a Western educational
model, a debate that the African renaissance ideology has helped
rekindle in South Africa.
CREATE Pathways to Access Research Monograph No. 24, ISBN: 0-901881-39-2, 42 pp.
The Impact of Language on Educational Access in South Africa