Language and literacy for educational policy realisation

Broeder, Peter, Plueddemann, Peter

Babylon, Tilburg University, the Netherlands, Praesa, Capetown University, South Africa


For most learners in South Africa, use of the home language is a necessary (if insufficient) condition for success at school, particularly in low-literacy contexts that are often synonymous with poverty. We contend that in South Africa, academic performance at school and economic development depend in no small measure on the extended use of African languages at school, on new literacy orientations, and on local ‘ownership’ of school language policy.

In this paper we report on the rationale for and results of a SANPAD-funded research and development project into language and literacy for language policy realisation in an educational district in Cape Town. The study comes against the background of the large-scale economically driven in-migration into the Western Cape of Xhosa-speaking people from the Eastern Cape, the valorisation of English in schools at the expense of home languages by people who speak an African language (including Afrikaans) first, low literacy levels in Xhosa-dominant schools, and the absence of a culture of reading amongst learners and teachers alike.

The main aim of the study is to develop a model of language policy realisation ‘from above’ and ‘from below’ at district level that is theory-driven and simultaneously informed by local particularities of school language policy, demography, social-class stratification and language attitudes. It aims to do so by developing a linguistic profile of primary schools; by documenting teachers’ language proficiencies and reading habits; by improving reading and writing in selected primary schools and in the process fostering a new South African linguistic citizenship; and by promoting multilingualism through informed language planning at school and district level.

Session: Paper session
Planning/Policy 3
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 14