Afrikaans as medium of instruction within a transformed higher education system in South Africa with special reference to Stellenbosch University

Le Cordeur, Michael (2013)

CITATION: Le Cordeur, M. 2013. Afrikaans as medium of instruction within a transformed higher education system in South Africa with special reference to Stellenbosch University. In Wolhuter, C.C. (ed.). SAERA 2013 Confernce proceedings: educational research in South Africa: practices and perspectives 25-30 January. Cape Town: Oxford University Press, p. 55-76.

The original publication is available at http://content.yudu.com/Library/A24wo7/OxfordUniversityPres/resources/149.htm

Conference Paper

A key element in curriculum delivery is how knowledge is conceived, constructed and transmitted. It could be argued therefore, that the language by which the curriculum is transmitted is at the heart of the curriculum process. This is evident in the changing landscape of the South African higher education system. It has been a major concern that large numbers of students are academically unsuccessful. This has especially been the case at Stellenbosch University (where I teach) where the percentage of black students compares unfavourably with that of other South African universities. This is in spite of the Language Policy for Higher Education which stipulates that language should not act as a barrier for access to universities. The role of language is therefore critical to higher education as it impacts on access and success, and affirms diversity, while the right of students to “instruction in the language of their choice, where it is reasonably practicable” is afforded by the Constitution (RSA 1996). In this paper I will reflect on language policies of four historically Afrikaans South African universities. Research suggests that there is a strong correlation between mother-tongue instruction and success in academic performance (Heugh, 1999; Webb,2010). Yet, in most South African universities, English is the default language of instruction whilst Afrikaans as a language of higher education is increasingly coming under pressure. I will argue that this is a basis for unfair discrimination, as many students are not first-language English speakers and that South African universities need to manage language diversity in a functional manner.

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