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1 Dustin Aguilar World Englishes 4/8/2013 English Education in South Africa English in Politics The English education policies

in South Africa are tied directly to the political climate of this newly re-established country. An understanding of English in the classrooms of South Africa in 2013 requires a great amount of scaffolding in the realm of politics and governmental policies from Apartheid and post-Apartheid South Africa. As of 1994, when the country made radical governmental reforms, the Rainbow Nation (as it is now refer to by its own government) acknowledges eleven official national languages, more than any other nation in the world, with the exception of India, which names 18 languages among its official languages. The difference, however, is that while India recognizes different languages for official use in different areas, South Africas 11 official tongues are recognized as such from Johannesburg to Cape Town, across the entire country. This allows the government to reflect the nations diversity, but it poses a dramatic challenge in educational policies (Barnard 2010). The new government is founded on a prioritization of equality and the rectification of past civil injustices. One such injustice was that of unequal education. Section 6(2) of the countrys new constitution states that institutions of education must take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of [African languages]. Furthermore, Section 29(2) states that all citizens have the right to education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable. On paper, these policies promise not only equal value placed on native African languages, but also equal education in those languages. As only 8.2% of the population claims English as a first language (Barnard 2010), the ideal place of English in most schools is that of a second language. Students would learn English after becoming fluent

2 and academically capable in their mother tongue. The reality, however, is that many of the countrys old apartheid-based education attitudes and models are still unofficially in practice. As English is now only 1 of eleven official languages, presumably South African citizens could expect it to be treated as such in education, but the current policies reflect notions of pre-reform South Africa (Dalvit et al. 2009). This paper gives a historical sketch of English education and attitudes through the apartheid era, it explains the current policies in lieu of the recent governmental reforms, and it addresses the problems with the current system and the proposed solutions to English education in South Africa. Educational Policy During Apartheid The policies of English Education under apartheid were not unlike the rest of the governmental policies, stilted toward favoring whites. English education was not reserved entirely for whites, but blacks and other non-whites were educated under a separate set of policies known as Bantu Education wherein English was used to some degree, but the quality of the education was intentionally meagermeant only to teach Africans to be hewers of wood and drawers of water (Bantu Education). The policy in the nation was to use language to oppress the majority African groups and to keep the groups divided (Dalvit et al. 2009). Whites, during the apartheid era were in the minority of the population and saw it necessary not to facilitate the possible unification of the oppressed groups. Coloureds, Indians, and other non-whites were not so much the concern as were the African blacks who made up the overwhelming majority. The U.S. Library of Congress reports that the 1991 South African census was conducted under such hostile conditions that government workers had to make population estimates from aerial photographs of black-dominated regions that were not safe to enter. They estimated that the black population comprised 76.4 percent of the population, compared to the mere 12.6 percent of whites (Byrnes 1996). The majority population however was divided along language boundaries, and the apartheid government instituted Bantu Education or Mother Tongue education to keep the majority from realizing its numerical dominance (Dalvit 2009).

Bantu Education The purpose of Bantu education was to train the uneducated masses for manual labor (Barnard 2010). In 1950, South African government passed the Population Registration Act (No. 30), which provided the means by which the country would be separated under apartheid. The act called for the classification of people into three categories: white, coloured, or native, which was later changed to Bantu, the name of the language family of most of South Africas tongues. In 1959 Indians and other non-whites were classified as Asian but had previously been unregistered, as they were not recognized as permanent citizens (Byrnes 1996). In 1953, the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act (No. 49) called for separate amenities like toilets, parks, beaches, etc. for whites and non-whites, and the Bantu Education Act (No. 47) of the same year set up specific guidelines for the separate education of the Bantu people. White education, which was in English and Afrikaans, was under the Ministry of Education, but Bantu education was allocated to the Ministry of Native Affairs (Byrnes 1996). The government made little if any effort to make such a policy seem culturally motivated, as Hendrik F. Verwoerd, Minister of Native affairs and the very person responsible for overseeing Bantu Education, said that natives would be educated in accordance with their opportunities in life, which he pronounced would not exceed certain forms of labour (Byrnes 1996). English was not taught as a commodity for the future in Bantu schools but as a way to keep the people oppressed and able to communicate with their oppressors. The educational quality as a whole was low and under-funded. Along with segregation, the act also removed government subsidies to churchbased schools, resulting in the closure of many schools and the selling of the schools to the government. While white students attended full class days five days per week, the Bantu schools saw two sets of students per day, a morning and an afternoon set. Both sets could only attend for three hours per day (Bantu Education). Afrikaans, the language of the National Party, was viewed as the language of the oppressor, and that attitude incited a riot resulting in fatalities in 1976. After Bantu Education issued a ruling that half of the subjects in middle and high school classes would be taught only in Afrikaans, a

4 group of protestors demonstrated in Soweto, a black district. Police opened fire killing two students and subsequently igniting riots that spread to more than 100 urban and rural areas. Black resistance had been mounting over the previous decade, but it was the close contact that Bantu Education had on the oppressed blacks that sparked the riots (Soweto Student Uprising). Over the next several years, English and Afrikaans maintained their dominance as the official languages. Today, nearly four decades after the Soweto uprising, a new constitution has been drafted insuring the equality of education and rights for all citizens of South Africa, but some educators point out an alarming similarity between the former Bantu formula that imposed Afrikaans on Bantu speaking students and the current policy which does the same thing with English. Today, unlike with Afrikaans, English has a popular appeal even among blacks, which has lead to the development of what some educational researchers have described as a new educational system with an apartheid mind-set (Barnard 2010). Political Conditions During Policy Reform As with nearly every policy in todays South Africa, the educational policies are steeped in post-apartheid, reconciliation philosophy. The reformation of the countrys policies came about during a government-wide turnover. Under great political pressure from other countries around the world, South Africa officially began dismantling apartheid in 1990, releasing political activists who had been imprisoned and starting a chain of events that would lead South Africa toward civil rights and reconciliation. By 1994, blacks had won the right to vote, and the countrys first truly democratic election saw Nelson Mandela elected president (Byrnes 1996). Dalvit et al. (2009) points out the necessary but somewhat ironic phenomenon that the diverse black population unofficially established English as the lingua franca, not because they considered it neutral to their cause but because they considered it equally unassailable by all speakers of an African language, and, of course, it was not Afrikaans. While some militant black-consciousness leaders especially those in the PanAfricanist Congress (PAC) wanted to overturn the government and expel all white

5 leadership, Mandela and his party sought reconciliation (Byrnes 1996). As part of the efforts toward reconciliation, South Africa elected its 11 official languages to include all of the diverse people groups in the nation, and the new administration immediately did away with Bantu Education and was forced, therefore, to adopt new educational policies quickly. Barnard (2010) explains the switch from Bantu Education to the new Englishcentric model: One of the first things that had to change after 1994 was the education policy. Equal education needed to be given to all in the new democratic country. Following the negative connotations of mother-tongue education in Bantu Education, the enormous costs and time needed to translate the syllabuses and develop the African languages to academic standards and lastly, the pressure to change the education system as soon as possible, it was inevitable that English as a language of learning and teaching would be utilized as a quick and costeffective solution. The decision to move most of the educational policies toward English-centered models was timely and the administration was successful in the implementation of reforms that have lead to a successful and continually improving nation. The overall attitude toward the Mandela administration is a positive one, but nearly twenty years later, some researchers and educators say the reformed education policy is in need of further reform. Current English Education in South Africa Schlebusch (2004) explains that the new English education policy is an Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) model from which students will develop competency and the ability to use English in authentic situations. The system is intended to utilize direct instruction, discussion, group work, co-operative learning, problem solving, learner research, and performance activities. Furthermore, the OBE model uses task-based activities that will enhance students writing, listening, reading and speaking. The goal is to produce students who can function in casual and formal English environments.

6 The model seeks to have students use inventive language, a term given to the type of mental activation that enforces verbal thought. Inventive language is thought to help students move fuzzy associations to a firm verbalized idea. Ways in which ESL teachers in the South African classroom seek to achieve this is by having students engage in collaborative group activities producing dialogue, participating in role-plays, and playing games. Teachers are also encouraged to use radio programs to help engage the learner in discussion and listening activities. Schlebusch (2004) also points out that the new constitution dictates that all learners should be fluent in at least two of the eleven official languages. Under this philosophy, learners are schooled in a first languages, whatever home language the people natively speak in the region, and they are schooled in a second language using the OBE method, usually English. Current Problems The current problems with South Africas education system are many. While the outset of the new policy sounds reasonablethat students will be educated in a home language as well as a second languageIt is implemented via a system that appears virtually unchanged since 1979 (Dalvit et al. 2009). Dalvit continues to say that most African students are educated only up to grade four in their home language, at which point the medium of education switches entirely to a mandatory second language, which in nearly every case is English. Basically the new curriculum utilizes a Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE) approach, which is similar to the process by which a Spanishspeaking child in the United States would be transitioned from Spanish to full-English education. Ideally, for second language acquisition, the students would need six to eight years of optimal education conditions. Most students, he claims, are not making the switch in the right conditions. The major problems lie in the less than optimal conditions in most of the previously underprivileged schools in the country. One problem is the lack of qualified educators in the black schools (Schlebusch 2004). Most of the teachers, who are expected to teach entirely in English, received only cursory English education themselves under Bantu Education. Expecting such under-qualified teachers to provide optimal English

7 instruction is not reasonable (Dalvit 2009). Ironically, as some researchers point out, the switch to English as the medium of education creates a similar scenario to that created by the switch to Afrikaans in Bantu Education. Black students who might otherwise have performed well in school became incompetent in all of their subjects and unable to participate or perform in their classes after the switch (Soweto Student Uprising). Similarly, students who receive inadequate English education under the new system are incompetent and not confident in their school subjects when the medium switches to English. The students are simply not properly trained in English when the switch takes place (Dalvit 2009). Further more, the remarkably low pass rates are most likely linked to the early switch to English that students are not ready for. Currently only 27% of South Africa educated students are able to pass the examinations required to graduate, and an even smaller percentage scores high enough to be admitted to universities, causing some to argue that the current system produces little more than the Bantu Education system of the apartheid era (Barnard 2010). In her thesis, Sarah Monyai (2010) gives detailed examples of the inadequacies of the English education system in the English tasks of students in primary schools. In an example assignment students were supposed to write the following words the teacher dictated to them: lad, had, bad, mad, pad, dad, sad, is, the, and this. The student was not able to write any of the words correctly, writing _; ant; pha; mph; _; pta; sh; nra; nea; nat; hat; idr, and _. She writes that the student exhibited an inability to spell, deficiencies in hand writing, an inability to distinguish initial sounds in some cases, and an inability to distinguish word-final sounds. Grade 2 learners exhibited similarly deficient skills. In a comprehension assignment wherein the students were instructed to read a paragraph and answer questions, the students were not only unable to answer the questions correctly, but were unable to produce any information from the story that was not already given in the questions. The following examples show the common trend in answering the questions: 1. Where did Spot run to with the meat? Spot ran to the with the meat.

8 2. What did Spot see in the water? What did Spot meat The first example shows that the student was able to produce the correct form for a declarative statement, and the student used the correct past tense morphology on the verb, but the student was unable to answer the question. Instead the student copied the words from the question to provide words as an answer regardless of correctness. In example 2 the student was unable to produce a declarative statement, and he or she copied words from the question and the previous question regardless of semantic sense. Dalvit et al. (2009) and Monyai (2010) along with other researchers agree that there is a drastic problem with the current system. Dalvit et al. (2009) says that the precarious ESL situation in South Africa results in students who are neither communicatively capable in their first language nor in their second. The reason for this, he concludes, is that students first language is not nurtured to a high enough degree by the time the second is imposed. He says that as students develop their cognitive/academic language proficiency (CALP), the first and second languages rely on each other, but with the early introduction of English as a second language, the students end up with a deficiency in both as they move into the stages when CALP is developed. Barnard (2010) says that learners need at least 12 years starting at birth to develop a proper foundation for their mother tongue, and they need six to eight years to develop a second language. The Future of English in South Africa The attitude among concerned educators is that the system should be reorganized to be bilingual. Delvit et al. (2009) points out and dismantles three main myths about language learning that have affected the English Policy in South Africa. First, they address the myth that monolingual education is more beneficial for the student than bilingual education, citing that such an idea is a rooted in an old philosophy idealizing a one nation, one language mentality. This mentality does not work in the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual South Africa. Furthermore, they point out that most classrooms already utilize code-switching even though teachers feel that they should not. Formalizing bilingual education will only realize what is already the students experience.

9 Following with the first myth, code-switching is associated with poor performance on the part of the teachers and the students. Delvit et al. agree that this stigmatization of codeswitching in class fosters racism and ultimately results in poor education for the students in a language for which they are not yet equipped. The second myth is that the healthiest learning environment is one wherein the switch to English is made early. This tendency is promoted by African parents who prefer schools that teach English as a first language. Delvit et al. suggest that this phenomenon is a result of years of oppression under which only whites were allowed to have proper English-as-a-first-language education. Now that all can take advantage of such education, parents enroll their children in such schools without realizing that their children would benefit more from a late-transitional bilingual school. The final myth is that using English as the only language of teaching improves English proficiency. However, research has shown that students who are not taught entirely in English perform at higher levels than their English-only counterparts. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, the teachers who are expected to carry out English only education, are not properly trained in English. Delvit et al. (2009) and other researchers continue to point out the flaws with the current system and make suggestions for the future. The attitude toward English is still strong, however Barnard (2010) points out a decline in the number of African parents who say they want their children educated in English only schools. This does not reflect a decline in the attitude toward English but perhaps the rise in attitude toward the other native languages, which Delvit et al. (2009) hope to see. Likewise, with the rise in attitude toward the other native languages, many educators hope to see a rise in the acceptability of bilingual education in classrooms through high school. People still consider English the means to achieve a higher standard of living. It is still considered the language of freedom and enterprise. Recently, Hollywood movies like Blood Diamond (2006), Safe House (2012), District 9 (2009), and Invictus (2009) have introduced a post-apartheid South Africa to American media, and world-wide events like the 1994 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup have greatly bolstered the English speaking tourism industry. All of which suggests that the Rainbow Nation will be a nation where English continues to grow in influence and national use, but with the

10 present educational and political conditions, English education will have to be reformed.

Works Cited


Bantu Education. South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid Building Democracy. Michigan State University, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <>. Barnard, Alida. English in South Africa: A Double Edged Sword (2). Teaching English Today 1.1 (2010): n. pag. English Academy of Southern Africa. Web. 20 Jan. 2013. Byrnes, Rita M. ed. South Africa: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1996. Dalvit, L., S. Murray, and A. Terzoli. "Deconstructing Language Myths: Which Languages of Learning and Teaching in South Africa?" Journal of Education46 (2009): 33-56. Web. Marjorie, Lilly. "Language Policy and Oppression in South Africa." Cultural Survival Quarterly 6.1 (2010): n. pag. 8 Feb. 2010. Web. 7 Mar. 2013. Monyai, Sarah C. "Meeting the Challenges of Black English-Language South African Learners in Ex-Model C Primary Schools." Thesis. UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA, 2010. Print. Schlebusch, Gawie, and Motsamai Thobedi. "Outcomes-Based Education in the English Second Language Classroom in South Africa." The Qualitative Report9.1 (2004): 35-48. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <>. Soweto Student Uprising. South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid Building Democracy. Michigan State University, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <>.