Many recent research reports speak to the need to strengthen language teaching and in particular African language teaching in order to improve learning outcomes.
They show language and communication are two of the most important factors in the learning process, with Home Language playing a key role.
The Global Monitoring Report on Education for All in 2005 (UNESCO 2004) highlighted the fact that worldwide the choice of language of instruction and language policy in schools are critical for effective learning. In a landmark study on quality of education in Africa, by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA 2004), the language factor emerged strongly as one of the most important determinants of quality.
We’ve done our homework particularly conscious of the importance of languages and communication in promoting social cohesion and nation-building. An investigation was conducted to determine properly how this should be done.
Our Department received a report recommending that as from 2014 all public schools should introduce African languages from Grade R. The Council of Education Ministers broadly supported the recommendation and resolved that Provincial Education Departments would largely consider piloting the initiative in 2014. This will be in ten schools per district, after which it will be implemented incrementally from Grade 1 in 2015 and continuing until 2026 with implementation in Grade 12.
The Incremental Introduction of African Languages policy intends to promote and develop the previously marginalised languages. We hope this will raise confidence of parents to choose their own languages as languages for learning and teaching. We believe, also, that the policy will increase access to languages by all learners, beyond English and Afrikaans.
Currently the National Curriculum Statement requires learners to offer two languages, one as a language of learning and teaching and the other as an additional language. One of the two languages should be offered at Home Language level, and the other at either Home Language or First Additional Language (FAL) level.
The IIAL will require all learners to offer three languages, one of which should be an African language. One of the three languages should be offered at Home Language (HL) level. However, depending on the school context, learners can offer two languages at Home Language level or First Additional Language level. Effectively all learners will therefore offer three languages.
The learning of three languages is not a new phenomenon. Pre 1994 it was a standard practice for African schools to offer three languages in the curriculum. Currently there are still some schools that are offering three languages, i.e. Western Cape and North West. These schools are offering the third language at Second Additional Language level. Reports state that these schools have extended the school day to accommodate the teaching of the third language.
The extension of the school day as reported by some parents assist them with the transport arrangement as they can fetch their children at one time because all learners are finishing at more or less the same time.
The IIAL has implications for time allocation. The National Curriculum Statement Grades R-12 (CAPS: 2012) makes provision for instructional time per week for all the subjects. Languages as a subject is allocated instructional time for the Home Language and for the First Additional Language. The offering of a third language necessitates an increase in instructional time and impacts on the extension of the school day.
The instructional time for Grades 1 and 2 is currently 23 hours and for Grade 3 is 25 hours. Languages (as a subject) is allocated ten hours and eleven hours respectively for Grades 1-2 and Grade 3. The compulsory learning of three languages in the Foundation Phase means that the instructional time for Grades 1 and 2 will need to be extended by two hours per week (24 minutes per day). Grade 3 will need to be extended by three hours per week (36 minutes per day). The instructional time for Grades 4-12 is currently 27.5 hours per week. The instructional time will be extended from 27.5 to 32.5 hours per week, an extension by I hour per day.
The extension of time allocation has no implications for the conditions of service for teachers. Teachers according to their condition of service are required to work for seven hours per day and the extension of the school day affects learners and not teachers.
The IIAL pilot project is targeting the introduction of the previously marginalized African languages in schools wherein an African language is not offered. Schools in collaboration with their school governing bodies will decide on the two languages that will be offered at FAL level, one of which must be an African language. The choice of the three languages will largely be informed by the demographics of the school population. Provinces in collaboration with districts will select the pilot schools and will request schools to volunteer.
The successful implementation of the IIAL is heavily reliant on teacher availability. DBE conducted an audit. Results show that provinces are at varying levels of teacher provision. Four provinces (FS, LP, NC and KZN) have provided African Language teachers in all former Model C schools; two provinces (MP and GP) have teachers in some schools; EC and NW have put plans in place to provide the teachers for African languages; in WC schools share an African language teacher.
DBE and provinces are working on a model to ensure incremental provision of African language teachers in grades that are implementing IIAL. This is to ensure that schools are provided with qualified African language teachers. However, the post provisioning norm to promote African languages will differ from one province to the other. It would be simpler in provinces with few official languages and more complex in those with more official languages.
The most ideal situation is to provide all schools with African language(s) teacher(s). Depending on school context, this might mean a provision of one or more African language(s) teacher(s).
In KZN IsiZulu is the dominant language (though there are IsiXhosa and Sesotho in the boarders). Schools (primary and secondary) in KZN have IsiZulu teachers. In Limpopo there are three dominant indigenous languages, namely, Tshivenda, Xitsonga and Sepedi. Limpopo provided African languages teachers to all former Model C schools. Schools in Polokwane have Sepedi, Xitsonga and Tshivenda teachers. This is despite the fact that Xitsonga and Tshivenda learners are in minority – an average of 20 learners per grade, which is almost half of the required number by the PPN.
This option is ideal in cosmopolitan area wherein all languages are found. Obviously there would be dominant languages side by side with minority languages. Township schools in Gauteng are designed to accommodate different African languages. One township has primary or high schools wherein it is commonly known that a combination of languages X, Y and Z are offered in schools 1, 2 and 3. In Ivory Park Extension 2, Eqisweni Secondary Schools offers IsiZulu, Sepedi, Xitsonga and Tshivenda; whereas Umqele Secondary School offers IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, Setswana and Sepedi. Learners can choose a school that offers their language preference.
The above model can be replicated in other eg. former Model C schools. It is recommended that the provincial head of department, together with district heads, circuit managers, school principals and SGBs explore ways and means of spreading all official languages within a district or circuit, thereby affording learners from diverse linguistic backgrounds an option of taking languages of their choice. This model will ensure that all official languages enjoy the same parity of esteem accorded to them by the Constitution.
The Department, as part of the consultative process, is meeting with all the relevant stakeholders that have vested interest in language matters.
This bold initiative will go a long way in making South Africa a multilingual country while also improving learner achievement by enabling learners to learn through their home language beyond Grade 3.