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Language as a means of holistic learner development

The issue of learner attainment in languages, as well as the use of languages as a vehicle of learning, is currently in the spotlight.  The DBE is doubling its efforts in flagging the importance of languages, as well as the role that languages have on the holistic development of the learner’s academic performance.

Chief Education Specialist for Languages, Mr Mmboniseni Nematangari, explained that, “in the light of Summative Assessment, the sector is doing well because learning is facilitated through a fixed programme for formal assessment tasks for each subject. This programme stipulates the number of formal assessment tasks for each subject per term, per grade and that all schools comply with the programme prescripts as required. The challenges with School Based Assessment (SBA) is on the formative/informal assessment (assessment for learning) since there is no uniform standard. Schools do formative assessment activities differently as there is no standardised programme in place. This leaves teachers with no solid mechanisms to measure effective learning and teaching in their classrooms. As a result we cannot account for effective curriculum coverage.

The DBE is busy developing the norms for reading and writing for both the GET and the FET bands. The reading and writing norms will, amongst other things, prescribe the number of written activities or tasks that learners should do per week, per term and per annum. For extended reading, it will norm the number of books (titles) to be read by learners per week, per term and per annum. We will also norm the reading timetable to account for optimal utilisation of time allocated for reading in all schools. It is envisioned that these efforts will stimulate a reading culture during school hours and at home. We are also in the process of developing a guide on teaching and assessing reading comprehension so that learning gaps identified by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) can be addressed.”

Mr Bulara Monyaki, Chief Education Specialist for Languages, added that the DBE hosted a National Reading Workshop in Pretoria from 18 to 19 April 2018, with the purpose of developing a National Framework in an attempt to strengthen the teaching of reading in African Languages. In response to the unsatisfactory performance of our learners in the PIRLS, the Workshop succeeded in yielding a draft framework for reading, and for approaches to reading in African Languages.

The Department has also made strides in its efforts to support and improve learner performance. “Whilst resources such as the SBA exemplar booklets for FET have already reached schools, revision booklets for languages will reach schools soon. The study guides for Creative Writing and Critical Language Awareness should also reach schools in the near future. These, and other measures undertaken by the various provinces, should improve English First Additional Language (EFAL) in schools.”

Mr Monyaki also offers a word of advice on what schools should do to improve the Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT). According to him, “the improvement of LoLT is the responsibility of every teacher, not only the English teacher. Learners have to be taught that content knowledge about various subjects can only be assimilated through language. Learners need to understand and develop their grasp of the language for them to be able to decode the discipline. If learners are assisted to see the language in the subject, their grasp of the language, and subsequently of the content will improve”.

Mr Monyaki announced that the DBE has recently developed the English Across the Curriculum (EAC) Toolkit. This comprises of exemplar lesson plans and recorded lessons demonstrating how the language aspect in each subject could be taught without deviating from the content subject taught. This will undoubtedly assist with learning and teaching of the English language in the classroom.


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