Language policy rethink

2013-08-07 00:00

THE compulsory teaching of an African language to all grades R and 1 pupils in public schools from next year has been reviewed.

Instead, a pilot project will replace the original plan and will involve only 10 schools per district in every province, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said yesterday.

Earlier this year the department received a report on the incremental introduction of African languages in schools, after the policy was discussed and approved by the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) two years ago.

The report recommended that from 2014 all public schools should introduce African languages from in grades R and 1.

Following a recent meeting of the CEM, however, a decision was taken to dilute the plan so as not to create a huge disruption in next year’s school curriculum.

“The CEM resolved to broadly support the proposal that provincial education departments would pilot the initiative in 2014,” Motshekga said.

The Basic Education Department’s spokesperson, Hope Mokgatlhe, said the provincial heads of departments would choose the schools.

The pilot phase would assist the department in assessing the proposal’s successes and challenges so that it could be better equipped for 2015, when it would be rolled out to all public schools in the country.

The department had generally received positive feedback about introducing an African language, but there were some who were sceptical.

“This is a new thing and has never been done before. So, generally people get nervous. But we will never know if we don’t try it,” she added.

Governing Body Foundation CEO Tim Gordon said he was very encouraged and pleased about the minister’s announcement.

Gordon said they believed in principle that young people should learn each others’ language.

But he said he felt the proposal was pushed too quickly, which was a worry.

The pilot phase will help address issues on full curriculum, textbooks and workbooks and finding adequate teachers. Gordon said he suspected that there would be little resistance from those schools that were chosen for the pilot.

Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools CEO Paul Colditz said 10 schools per district was a lot, especially in provinces like the Eastern Cape where they have 23 districts.

Ten schools per province would have been better.

Colditz said he still foresaw problems in implementing the proposal in 2015.

The challenges included financial implications, possibly lengthening of a typical school day and finding additional teaching staff.

Basil Manuel, president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation (Naptosa), the second biggest teachers’ union in the country, welcomed the department’s move.

While Naptosa supported the introduction of an additional African language, there were still some grey areas such as finding teachers with the proper skills and more time in the school day.

“Hopefully this will help in ironing out the kinks.”

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union could not be reached by the time of going to press.

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