Education Department Says It's Working On Its Language Policy

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The Department of Basic Education's language policy has been called into question for not functioning sufficiently by those that argue that it is exclusionary in some respects. The Department's minister has explained the plans put in place to address the issue. 


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The Department of Basic Education has come under scrutiny over its introduction of indiginous languages as a language of teaching. 

The language in question is IsiXhosa, and Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga addressed the issue by saying that the Eastern Cape Mother Tongue Based Bilingual Education initiative has 2 295 educators who can teach in both IsiXhosa and Sesotho.

She went on to say that  the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is working on a plan to promote all nine formerly marginalised official African languages beyond Grade 3 as languages of learning and teaching.

Additionally, the DBE is working with the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) to develop a strategy for promoting the nine previously marginalised official African languages (IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, IsiNdebele, Siswati, Sesotho, Setswana, Sepedi, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga) as languages of learning and teaching after the Foundation Phase. The DBE is forming a task force made up of several stakeholders.

Motshekga also pointed out that the task team includes Old Mutual, as well as the Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture is as well. 

The DBE also conducted Mother Tongue Based Bilingual Education beyond Grade 3 under the Eastern Cape Education Department's project, in which IsiXhosa and Sesotho were used as languages of learning and teaching for Mathematics, Science, and Technology.

Learners learn better in their native languages, according to research from around the world. The DBE has been studying the effects of learning in one's native language for a long time. The Early Grade Reading Studies (EGRS) were designed as nested Randomised Control Trials led by the DBE with the help of other academics.

The Department further states that EGRS research focuses on the Foundation Phase, investigating various treatments for assisting with reading instruction. The projects attempt to gather information about what works in South African schools to improve early grade reading, learning and teaching.

According to the minister, EGRS was a cost-effectiveness study that compared three promising intervention approaches for improving reading outcomes in Setswana as a Home Language.

The interventions included:

  • A structured learning programme with lesson plans and integrated materials as well as centralised training, 
  • a structured learning programme with lesson plans and integrated materials but with on-site coaching, and a parent participation intervention.

After three years of intervention, the coaching intervention had the most significant positive impact of the three programmes. Learners who received this coaching intervention for two years were nearly 40% of a year ahead of kids in schools where no intervention was provided.

The minister also pointed out that when the same learners were assessed in Grade 4, one year following the intervention, they were still around 40% of a year ahead in terms of learning. In 2021, a follow-up on these learners was undertaken to assess long-term improvements, and the results are now being analysed.

Based on the recommendations, an improvement plan was created. This was approved by the Cabinet, and the improvement plan is still being implemented. Attached are EGRS-related documents.
 


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