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Media Release

Tuesday, 16 April, 2002

New preschool will promote learning in three languages

Statement by André Gaum, Western Cape Education Minister

Hillcrest Primary School of Mowbray, Cape Town, has started a multilingual pre-school to encourage multilingualism among preprimary children and to prepare the ground for mother tongue education in Grades One to Three.

I welcomed the school's approach when I opened the preprimary school today (Tuesday, 16 April 2002). The preprimary school will set an example that I hope many others will follow.

While many of our preprimary schools are integrated, they do not necessarily encourage mother tongue education, or communication between children using all the languages represented in their classes.

We will follow the progress of this school with keen interest to see what we can learn from their experience.

In March, I appointed a Ministerial Task Team to develop a strategy for implementing home language instruction for the first seven years of schooling in the Western Cape, in so far and as soon as this is possible.

The team will also develop a strategy for expanding the compulsory teaching of third languages in primary schools. The team, led by Mr Ed Pratt, comprises experts in the field of language of instruction. They will commence their work this term.

The team includes Dr Neville Alexander of the Project for Research into Alternative Education in South Africa (Praesa) at the University of Cape Town.

Praesa is also working closely with Hillcrest Primary as it develops its approach to multilingual teaching and learning.

The preschool will provide concrete examples of how to apply multilingualism in practice in early childhood development, and will help to inform the strategy of the task team, in conjunction with other research.

The strategy being developed by the task team will go a long way towards ensuring effective education in the Western Cape, given the importance of mother tongue education in the cognitive development of primary school children.

It will also help to encourage children from different backgrounds to communicate with one another on equal footings, which will help to develop the kinds of relationships we need in a healthy, democratic society.

Praesa has compiled international research, which suggests that the most effective way for young children to learn is to make sure that they have a solid foundation in their mother tongue.

Researcher, Carole Bloch, of Praesa has commented: "This, plus exposure to other languages in appropriate and positive ways, is most likely to lead to children who have a strong sense of identity, who develop respect for one another, and who are able to communicate, read and write in more than one language."

The work of Hillcrest Preprimary will go a long way towards putting this research into practice in Cape Town.

Hillcrest Primary, founded in 1918, is an independent Christian school founded by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and receives a partial state subsidy.

In the primary school, 81 learners speak Xhosa, four speak Afrikaans, 36 speak English, and 17 speak other African languages. In the pre-school thus far, 12 speak Xhosa, one speaks Afrikaans, one speaks English, two speak Zulu, and one speaks Sotho.

Issued by:
The Communications Directorate
Western Cape Education Department
Private Bag X9114
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 467-2531
Fax: (021) 467-2363
Email: pattwell@pawc.wcape.gov.za
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