Choice of language in education: do we know what South Africans want?

SOURCE: Language and Education
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2018
TITLE AUTHOR(S): S.L.Gordon, J.Harvey
KEYWORDS: EDUCATION, LANGUAGE IN EDUCATION POLICY, MOTHER-TONGUE EDUCATION
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD), Education and Skills Development (ESD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 10680

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Abstract

A key factor in providing quality education is the main language of instruction (M-LoI). This creates a challenging situation for education policymakers in post-colonial multilingual countries such as South Africa. Language-in-education policies must valorise indigenous languages and redress their exclusion in past education systems while ensuring access to any economic opportunities afforded by colonial languages. Public attitudes have a bearing on individuals' interactions with language policy as well as the education system as a whole. This article examines attitudes towards the M-LoI in education. Data from the South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS) for the period 2003-2016 were used. We hypothesised that preferences for M-LoI would be associated with support for other forms of societal racial transformation in South Africa. However, a majority of the general population favoured English as the M-LoI in education and M-LoI preferences were not related to the degree of support for other forms of racial transformation. The limitations of the SASAS dataset and current method are then described and possibilities for new research presented. The article concludes by discussing how post-colonial education policies and implementation can nurture multilingualism and promote the valorising of indigenous languages.