Eastern Cape matrics to test writing exams in mother tongue

Until now, matrics have only been able to answer exam questions in English and Afrikaans
Until now, matrics have only been able to answer exam questions in English and Afrikaans

Finally, matriculants will be writing exams in their mother tongue. 

For many children around the world access to education, the labour market, legal help, and health services depends on becoming fluent in a second language.

Mother tongue education has long been an issue in South Africa, with only a few recent attempts at introducing it across SA, despite research showing that children learn better in their mother tongue.

In 2012 the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDOE) introduced a mother tongue-based bilingual curriculum, where grade 4 learners from Cofimvaba in 70 schools studied mathematics and science were offered in IsiXhosa, as part of the promotion of the previously marginalised African languages.

Later, in 2015, the same strategy was implemented across the province from grade 4 in some schools. These same students are now in their final year, and writing their matric exams in 2020. 

Improved performance

These pilot projects are continuing now, it seems, as the office of the Superintendent General in the Eastern Cape Department of Education announced in circular no. 10 of 2020 that "The improved performance results demonstrated by learners who participated in the bilingual examination the program, as they write mathematics and science bilingually, forms a scientific reason that extending bilingual examinations to grade 12 will yield an opportunity that is often missed when learners are challenged with questions they do not understand in final examinations."

This pilot project will, however, not be extended beyond the preparatory/ trial examinations and only targets grade 12 learners in quintile 1 - 3 schools. 

Here is how this pilot project will work:

The selected subject will be bilingual

According to the above-mentioned circular the selected subjects are Mathematics paper one and paper two; History paper one and paper two; and Life sciences paper one and two.

The language choice 

Until now, matrics have only been able to answer exam questions in English and Afrikaans. During this trial, they can choose between IsiXhosa and English, and SeSotho and English.

The ECDOE stipulates that when it comes to the language choice, students writing these examinations will have to stick to their language choice throughout the examinations.

Students will be allowed to read in both languages, for instance in IsiXhosa and English, but the learner must choose which language they will use to write the examinations.

Marking of scripts

When it comes to the marking, a plan to guide schools on marking the scripts in bilingual examinations in the selected subjects will be drafted by the districts.

In an instance where a teacher is unable to mark, the district and the neighbouring schools may arrange for marking and moderation. 

The ECDOE was unavailable for comment.

Let us know of your thoughts and what your reservations are when it comes to this pilot project.


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