Multiple levels and aspects of language competency in English and Intermediate Phase mathematics teachers: An analysis of case of the Eastern Cape Province

Tshuma, Lindiwe (2017-12)

Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Education. Dept. of Curriculum Studies

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2017

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : The South African Language in Education Policy (LiEP) stipulates the use of English or Afrikaans as a language of instruction in the upper primary school, after mother-tongue instruction in the lower primary school. This study is undertaken within the context of many educational research studies which confirm that English is used as the official language of learning and teaching (LoLT) by 90% of the learners in public schools in the country. These learners are multilingual; in other words, they are also English-language learners (ELLs). The aim of the study is to analyse the relationships between IP teachers’ language competencies and mathematics instruction at primary school level. This study is generally informed by Cummins’s (2000) work and particularly informed by Gawned's socio-psycho-linguistics theory. The study, which is situated within the interpretivistconstructivist paradigm, is a multi-methods study incorporating language proficiency and mathematics word problem assessments, questionnaires, interviews and classroom observations involving 55 Intermediate Phase (IP) teachers purposefully selected from 16 educational districts in the Eastern Cape Province and 10 IP mathematics teacher educators from different teacher education institutions in the country. Data were quantitatively and qualitatively analysed. Findings from the study reveal that teacher language competency in English, the language they are supposed to teach in, is significantly low and that IP teachers who are not proficient in the language of instruction compromise the quality of mathematics instruction. The data suggest that while some teachers make an effort to teach in English and promote learner discourse in the prescribed language of instruction, the practice was not consistent. Inconsistencies varied from teachers attempting to use the stipulated language of instruction with the aid of teaching and learning support material written in English to those who predominantly taught in isiXhosa throughout the lesson in classrooms devoid of text. Overall results of this study illustrate that the lack of consistency stems from the fact that the majority of teacher education institutions do not require or develop mastery in the language of instruction, and provide minimal or no guidance towards systemic use of translanguaging and code switching. Since the participants in this study are qualified practising teachers, this study concludes that the onus is on teacher education institutions to adequately prepare IP mathematics teachers linguistically. It is not enough to assume that teacher language competency in the language of instruction is up to standard simply because a teacher is qualified to teach. In addition, teacher education curricula should provide knowledge on ELLs, so that teachers are better equipped to serve these learners. It is anticipated that this study will contribute significantly to the current debate on language use in education and stimulate awareness among teacher education curriculum developers, so that teachers’ mastery of the language of instruction is prioritised for the delivery of meaningful content in under-resourced classrooms in South Africa. The study highlights teacher competency in the language of instruction as one of the most significant predictors of mathematics performance; this is particularly significant since the country’s indigenous languages are yet to be fully developed to support mathematics instruction. This study does not seek to enshrine English at the expense of other official languages in South Africa, but endeavours to cater for the ELLs who are in the education system today and are supposed to be taught and assessed in English, as stipulated by the current LiEP. Even if policies change and promote mother-tongue instruction throughout the entire ordinary education system, proficiency in English will remain a prerequisite for ELLs to access the global village.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Volgens die Suid-Afrikaanse Taal in Onderrigbeleid (TiOB) is Engels of Afrikaans die Taal van Onderrig in die senior primêre skool of die Intermediêre fase (IF) nadat die leerders moedertaalonderrig in die junior primêre skool ontvang het. Hierdie studie is onderneem teen die agtergrond van talle ander opvoedige navorsing wat bevestig dat Engels die amptelike Taal van Onderrig en Leer (TvOL) is van 90% van alle leerders in openbare skole in Suid-Afrika. Hierdie leerders is meertalig; met ander woorde afgesien van hul moedertaal, is hulle ook Engelse Taalleerders (ETLs). Die doel van hierdie studie is om die verband tussen die IFonderwyser se taalvaardighede en wiskunde-onderrig in die primêre skool te ondersoek. Die studie is breedweg gebaseer op Cummins (2000) se werk ten opsigte van die sosio-psigolinguistiese teorie. Die studie, vind plaas binne die raamwerk van die interpretivistiesekonstruktivistiese paradigma, ‘n multi-metode-ondersoek wat insluit taalvaardighede en wiskundige woordsomme-assesserings, vraelyste, onderhoude en klaskamerwaarnemings by 55 onderwysers in die intermediêre fase (IF) doelmatig geselekteer van 16 onderwysdistrikte in die Oos-Kaap asook 10 IF-wiskunde-onderwysdosente van verskillende onderywsinrigtings in die land. Data is kwantitatief sowel as kwalitatief geanaliseer. Die bevindings van die studie onthul dat onderwysers se taalvermoë in Engels, die taal waarin hulle onderrig moet gee, is beduidend laag en dat IF-onderwysers wat nie vaardig in die taal van onderrig is nie, ‘n negatiewe impak het op die kwaliteit van wiskunde-onderrig. Die data dui aan dat alhoewel sommige onderwysers ‘n poging aanwend om in Engels te onderrig en leerderdiskoers in die voorgeskrewe taal van onderrig aan te moedig, word dit in die praktyk nie konsekwent toegepas nie. Inkonsekwenthede wissel van onderwysers wat probeer om die amptelike taal van onderrig te gebruik met behulp van Engelse leer- en onderrig ondersteuningsmateriaal, tot diegene wat hoofsaaklik en regdeur die les in isiXhosa klasgee in klaskamers wat teksarm is. Die finale resultate van hierdie studie illustreer dat die gebrek aan konsekwentheid die gevolg is van die meerderheid van onderwysinstansies wat nie die bemeestering van die taal van onderrig as ‘n vereiste stel nie; en slegs minimale en selfs geen leiding gee oor die sistemiese gebruik van transtaligheid en kodewisseling. Ofskoon die deelnemers aan hierdie studie gekwalifiseerde onderwysers is, kom die studie tot die slotsom dat die onus berus by onderwysinstansies om IF-onderwysers linguisties voldoende op te lei. Dit is nie goed genoeg om net te aanvaar onderwysers se taalbevoegdheid in die taal van onderrig is op standaard net omdat hulle gekwalifiseerde onderwysers is nie. Voorts behoort die kurrikulum tydens onderwysopleiding inligting te bevat omtrent ETLs, sodat onderwysers beter toegerus is om hierdie leerders te onderrig. Daar word gehoop dat hierdie studie ‘n beduidende bydrae sal maak tot die heersende debat oor taalgebruik in die onderwys en dat dit bewusmaking sal stimuleer by kurrikulumadviseurs sodat onderwysers se bekwaamheid in die taal van onderrig ‘n prioriteit sal word ten einde die suksesvolle aflewering van die kurrikuluminhoud te verseker in minder-bevoorregte klaskamers in Suid-Afrika. Hierdie studie beklemtoon dat die taalvaardigheid van onderwysers is een van die belangrikste aanduiders van prestasie in wiskunde. Dit is veral belangrik aangesien ons land se inheemse tale nog nie ten volle ontwikkel is om wiskunde-onderrig te ondersteun nie. Hierdie studie is nie ‘n poging om Engels ten koste van die inheemse tale in Suid-Afrika te bevorder nie, maar poog slegs om voorsiening te maak vir die ETLs wat tans in die onderwyssisteem is en veronderstel is om in Engels onderrig te word soos voorgeskryf deur die TiOB. Selfs al sou beleid verander om moedertaalonderrig te bevorder deur die hele onderwyssisteem, sal vaardigheid in Engels steeds ‘n voorvereiste wees sodat ETLs toegang tot die globale wêreld kan kry.

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