Language Policy in the primary schools of the Western Cape | Western Cape Education Department

Language Policy in the primary schools of the Western Cape

Dié dokument is ook in Afrikaans beskikbaar:  Taalbeleid vir primêre skole in die Wes-kaap

Abbreviations, Definitions and Explanations

In this Report words and expressions have the meaning assigned to them below:

EMDC Education Management and Development Centre.
FAL First additional language.
HEI Higher education institution (university or technikon).
LiEP Language in Education Policy of the national Department of Education.
LSM Learner support materials.
L1 First or primary language, usually home language.
NG(E)O Non-government (education) organisation.
OBE Outcomes-based education.
SAL Second additional language.
SGB School governing body.
WCED Western Cape Education Department.


Language of learning and teaching (Lolt) refers to what used to be called the medium of instruction. Besides being more appropriate in the context of the new approach to schooling, the new term places the emphasis on the language in which the child learns, usually the home language.

Language of teaching (Lot) is self-explanatory. Unlike the Lolt, the Lot does not imply a language that is common to educator and learner.

Mother-tongue-based bilingual education (MTE) is, in the South African context, a more persuasive and more easily comprehensible rendering of the meaning of "additive multilingualism". It includes the following definitional features:

(a) using the mother-tongue = home language(s) or L1 of the child/learner as a formative Lolt from Day 1 in Grade R or Grade 1 up to and including the last day of the school year in Grade 6;
(b) introducing the first additional language (FAL) as a subject as soon as possible in the foundation phase, including Grade R;
(c) assuming that a dual-medium approach is preferred by the parents or guardians, gradually using the FAL as a supportive Lolt as and when the children have adequate competence; and
(d) ideally, using L1 + FAL as complementary Lolts at a 50% - 50% level by the end of Grade 6. Normally, however, other permutations of this dual-medium model can be expected to prevail because of teachers’ limited language proficiency and subject knowledge as well as other constraints of a material or managerial nature.

Note:  In the context of the Western Cape, any reference to bilingualism and to a third language relates to Afrikaans, English and Xhosa and to combinations thereof.

The Implementation of Mother-Tongue Based Bilingual Education in the Primary Schools of the Western Cape and the Introduction of a Third Language

Executive Summary

The Task Team (TT) places at the head of the Report two central recommendations, from which all other recommendations and implications derive. These are formulated in order, among other things, to suggest desirable amendments to the wording of the original brief given to the TT. The amendments appear in the form of an expansion of the concept of mother-tongue education to mother-tongue based bilingual education, and a shifting of the 7-year range from Grades 1 – 7 to Grades R – 6 to coincide with the end of the primary school phase. Accordingly, the following two recommendations are made:

1. Central Recommendations

1.1 To implement the policy of mother-tongue based bilingual education in Grades R – 6 as from 2004-2005 in all primary schools of the Western Cape Province.
1.2 To institute incentives to guide all children towards electing to take (offer) the third official language of the Province as their second additional language (SAL).


2. Derived Recommendations

A set of derived or secondary recommendations has been formulated to change a policy plan into a plan of implementation These recommendations are not secondary in the sense of being subordinate to the central recommendations described above, but spring from these primary formulations. The proposals are intended to breathe life into an ideal by giving it practical expression. The ‘drivers’ that will bring about meaningful change and improvement for all constituents in the school sector have been identified as personnel, resources and attitudes. The following recommendations are made:


2.1 To immediately devise and implement with HEI’s and appropriate NGEO’s a comprehensive range of courses for the professional education, development and re-orientation of (language) educators. These courses will vary in duration and focus, and will cover one or more aspects of language knowledge, proficiency and pedagogy.
2.2 To devise and negotiate a deployment strategy which will arrest and reverse the growing mismatch between learners and educators in terms of primary language and LoLT, and which will enable schools to fulfil the obligations inherent in the central recommendations.
2.3 To provide for the special needs of deaf learners by including an elementary knowledge of Sign Language as a requirement in programmes for the professional education and development of all educators. As a starting point, all educators should be acquainted with the First 200 Basic Signs contained in materials issued by the Worcester Institute for the Deaf.


School Resources


To allocate or secure funding for a heavy initial investment (say, 5-10 years) in the production and procurement of high-quality learning support materials in each of the 3 regional languages, and bilingual learning materials in the English-Afrikaans, English-Xhosa and Afrikaans-Xhosa combinations.

The scale of the investment will be determined by an audit of needs throughout the primary school sector.

2.5 To devise a provisioning strategy that will redress the current imbalances between the languages, particularly the paucity of high-quality Xhosa-language readers and other literacy materials.
2.6 To initiate, in partnership with the 5 national Publishing Houses, relevant NGO’s and local HEI’s, programmes of training in writing and translating of textbooks and other learning materials; and to identify and support educators as participants in such programmes.
2.7 To encourage all schools to develop a basic library ‘facility’, by drafting guidelines on the selection of books and the allocation of school funds for the acquisition of readers and other sources of information, bearing in mind the onerous requirements of OBE and bilingual education.


Attitudes and Perceptions


To embark upon an immediate, intensive and continuous programme to raise awareness on the motivation for, and benefits of, mother-tongue-based bilingual education specifically, and also additive multilingualism.

To achieve its objectives the programme needs to be multi-pronged and multi-layered, and should reach all stakeholders in all communities.

2.9 To introduce a system of incentives or inducements that will encourage schools to adopt language policies in keeping with the objectives of the LiEP and of the central recommendations described above; and that will encourage educators to improve their proficiency and classroom practice in all 3 languages.


3. Implied or Latent Recommendations

The following proposals flow from a set of guiding principles adopted by the Task Team prior to embarking upon this project, and subsequently confirmed by the research findings:


To launch an investigation into the implications of extending the proposed language policy to Grades 7 – 12, in order to create continuity and coherence throughout the school system; and

to take appropriate steps, through consultations, to synchronise the provincial schools language policy with that of local HEI’s

3.2 To immediately appoint a specialist agency, academic researchers and the WCED’s internal units to carry out a full cost analysis of the recommendations contained in this report, and to secure approval of the costs prior to implementation of the plan.
3.3 To appoint language specialists and translators, with lexicographers in attendance, to translate this report into Afrikaans and Xhosa prior to its general release.