Sol Plaatje University Education Head Tackles Tricky Language Debate

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    Research by the Head of Education at Sol Plaatje University has revealed that teachers are facing a complicated situation of whether to use English and/or other languages in teaching maths and science.

    Dr Audrey Msimanga study drew on recent curriculum developments, policy, and language factors in the classrooms, and was conducted from 2014 to 2018 in different phases in the East Gauteng District.

    The data showed that out of 144 pre-service teachers, 70 did not agree with permitting home language in the classroom, 58 said they would allow it, and the remaining 16 had no opinion.

    In the case of student teachers in their fourth year in educational studies, only 20 out of 74 preferred to be taught in their home language while 54 preferred the co-switching medium of instruction and teaching.

    Msimanga said her research presented two schools of thought:
    • Learners do well if they are taught in their mother tongue as a foundation
    in their early learning
    • Learners must gain an understanding of English early in their education
    life so that they do not struggle at a later stage.

    To highlight this, she said in the Northern Cape’s Namakwa District, where the vernacular of the province – Afrikaans – is the predominant medium of instruction, the district recorded the highest pass rate percentage of 83,7% in the province.

    It was also the fifth top performing district in the country.

    The aim of her paper ‘Talking Science: Teaching and Learning Science in South Africa,’ is to create further understanding of the nature and role of classroom talk in the teaching and learning of science, Msimanga said. 

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