Government and private sector on the adoption of MTbBE in South African schools


Staff Reporter

During the second day of the recent Department of Basic Education Language and Literacy Workshop, key education stakeholders consisting of researchers, literacy and numeracy experts, national and provincial education officials and government entities applauded the DBE for considering MTbBE as a platform to strengthen social cohesion in the schooling system. 

The participants engaged in a robust discussion during five workstreams as part of the Workshop. According to the participants, the Basic Education Sector is on the right track to strengthen learning and teaching in General Education and Training and Further Education and Training. Some participants urged the sector to ensure proper teacher development and learning materials were in place for the full-scale implementation of the MTbBE. 

The workstreams recorded the following inputs shared by participants during the workshop:

Workstream 1: 

The best way to teach literacy in African Languages is to focus on African logic, which includes African knowledge systems such as stories, rhymes, games, songs and riddles. 

The sector should consider a multi-stakeholder transformation task team to drive activities intended to strengthen MTbBE.  There must be a special allocation of funds and other resources to enable the teaching of African languages, especially African story books instead of translated stories. 

The methodology of teaching reading should be debated to identify the right methodology. The sector should ensure that the implementation of MTbBE is aligned with the existing School Based Assessment.

Workstream 2: 

MTbBE and Mother Tongue Education should be interpreted differently. MTbBE uses more than one language for teaching, learning, and assessment. It is the intentional and deliberate use of multiple languages for teaching, learning, writing and assessment. 

This allows learners to trans-language for meaning. Mother Tongue Education is associated with using the child’s mother tongue as a Language of Learning, Teaching and Assessment. 

The implementation of bi/multilingualism is informed by legislation, including the demographics and to meet the needs of the diverse society. (Sign and braille languages). The Sector must allow natural progression from ECD to grade R-7 whilst creating opportunities for learners to access education in their mother tongue starting from ECD onwards. 

As a sector, we must strengthen teacher development programmes to enhance the teaching of African Languages. We must enforce teacher collaboration to implement appropriate concepts throughout the phases. It is also critical to consider engaging various stakeholders, especially parents, to support the implementation of MTbBE. Another critical aspect that should be taken into consideration is the strengthening of collaboration with HEI through the establishment of work streams. HEIs must take responsibility for producing competent teachers.

Workstream 3: 

One of the principles of bilingual assessment is to weigh the two languages, commencing with a greater weighting of the mother tongue and gradually phasing in the second language so that a 50:50 split is reached in Grade 7. 

Translanguaging should be considered as the pedagogical approach to learning. Assessments should be linked to teaching, and learners should be allowed to respond to assessment questions in any of the two languages. 

There should be a policy amendment to accommodate translanguaged responses in assessment. The sector will have to profile learners and teachers to be able to apply for MTbBE. 

The distinction between mother tongue, LOLT and language of assessment is critical. A task team might be required to look at policy implications and policy review.

Workstream 4: 

The sector should consider a Framework for national teacher development on implementing MTbBE, which can be contextualised provincially. The workstream looks forward to auditing current practices in schools regarding Translanguaging. 

An audit of language offerings in HEIs (fully developed language units with lecturers or communicative language) will be critical in this undertaking. 

The DBE should develop MTbBE resources collaboratively through the involvement of Higher Education and PANSALB. A survey should also be conducted to obtain teachers’ perspectives on MTbBE.

Workstream 5: 

The critical overarching principle for private funding is that the Government must take the lead regarding planning and funding. The extent to which funds can be raised depends on the extent to which a clear and robust plan exists. This is particularly true for civil society. 

There is a need to go out and look for materials and reach out to these parties. Model 2 is a public/private partnership in which materials are developed together with a state development process in which the Government is responsible for the end-to-end development of materials. 

A collaborative approach between the Government and the Private Sector will be essential in making Mother Bilingual Education successful.

A complete, consolidated report will be available in the next few weeks. The inputs shared by various participants during the Workshop are envisaged to play a crucial role in transforming South Africa’s education landscape.


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