Mother Tongue Teaching in EC

In an effort to improve the standard of education, the Eastern Cape is the first province
in the country to move towards implementing mother tongue-based teaching, learning
and assessment in the foundation phases.

Already 74 primary schools in the Cofimvaba district have adopted the model, which is envisaged to be rolled out in the other 22 education districts in the province.

This week language experts, subject advisers, education officials, members of parliament and officials from the office of premier Noxolo Kiviet met for a two-day workshop at the Stirling Education Leadership Institute in East London to craft a standardized dictionary to be used for maths, science and technology at schools.

Xhosa textbooks, other than the normal English-worded material, will be provided to pupils. Children in the foundation phases (Grades 1 to 3) in the district are also to write their Annual National Assessment (ANA) exams this year in Xhosa.

Last year, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga released the country’s ANA results for foundation and intermediate phases (Grades 4 to 6) in the country.

Literacy and numeracy tests were conducted at a total of 164 schools in the Eastern Cape – and the results proved poor.

Grade 3 pupils scored 39% in literacy and 40% in maths, while Grade 6 pupils scored lower, managing only 29% in both subjects. Eastern Cape education department language policy manager Naledi Mbudeshale, who is driving the project, said the move by the district would improve the ANA results.

“I know that there are some fears that children will not know English and that these children will not have a bright future and there will not be a space for them at higher institutions of learning but these are untrue and unfounded,”
said Mbudeshale.

“These children are going to be taught English, but they will learn other subjects in their mothertongue. English will be just a resource subject.”

Mbudeshale said the Cofimvaba district had offered to teach the children in Xhosa because children were battling to understand their subjects in English. The bilingual approach would still be implemented, but Xhosa would be used as the first language instead of English.

She plans to present a report on the matter to education MEC Mandla Makupula and acting superintendent-general Mthunywa Ngonzo. It would then be handed to the Bhisho legislature.

Mbudeshale said publishers would be consulted to write books
based on standardised concepts. The department’s deputy director-
general of institutional operations management, Sithembele Zibi said the move would improve the standard of education. “It’s time to reclaim our status. In the past we were ahead compared to other provinces. We used to offer education to children coming from other provinces. Now we are behind,” said Zibi. “We have a challenge of shortages of teachers and those who are skilled in these subjects. Maybe this is the way to go and will ultimately lead to the improvement of matric results.”

The project comes as the ANC in the Eastern Cape attempts to push for children to be taught in their mother tongue and vernacular languages across the country.

The province has already had its policy proposal to have Xhosa speaking children in the Eastern Cape taught in their mother tongue accepted at the party’s national policy conference last month.

ANC provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane confirmed that there were
plans to discuss the implementation of mother tongue education to the
other provinces at the party’s elective conference in Mangaung in
December.

Qoboshiyane said about 90% of the subjects were currently taught in
English and children whose first language is not English were battling
to understand lessons.

He said the proposal had received a lot of support from academics and
researchers from universities in the province. “What we were
advocating [at the recent conference] was the establishment of an
African Language Institute.

“This was accepted by the plenary of the policy conference so we can
have more educators of language[s] we are talking about.

“We said these steps must be taken to ensure that the second phase of
our transition respects our mother tongue. There was a total
acceptance of our proposal” said Qoboshiyane.

The following report first appeared in the Saturday Dispatch (14/07/2012), written by its education reporter – Msindisi Fengu.

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