The Mandarin Chinese second additional language curriculum for South African schools: Considerations and possibilities
Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Education. Dept. Curriculum Studies
Thesis (MEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2017
ENGLISH ABSTRACT : The focus of this study was the Mandarin Chinese curriculum for South African schools. The study undertook to analyse the curriculum in order to highlight considerations and possibilities for action. China is a big country boasting the world’s largest population and second largest economy. Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1998, South Africa and China have been working on strengthening mutual political and economic ties. In March 2014 Sino-South African cooperation in the field of education gained momentum with the signing of an agreement which included the introduction of Mandarin Chinese into South African schools. This resulted in the release of the first curriculum for Mandarin Chinese in South Africa, published by the Department of Basic Education that same year, the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) Grades 4-12: Mandarin Second Additional Language. This study set out to analyse the new curriculum by first sketching and understanding the context into which it entered, namely the South African educational landscape, and secondly by exploring the unique characteristics of the Mandarin Chinese language. Framed within the interpretive research paradigm, content analysis was chosen as the appropriate research method. The study analysed and compared the structure of the South African curriculum with that of the Australian curriculum using conventional content analysis. The analysis was further enriched and nuanced by using the Chinese language-specific as well as the South African educational landscape affordances derived from the literature survey as tools for directed content analysis. The study found that the new South African Mandarin Chinese curriculum conceptualises the initial teaching of Mandarin Chinese as second additional language as if Mandarin Chinese is related to English by using the English generic curriculum as template to ‘version’ the Mandarin curriculum. It further frames the curriculum against South Africa’s unique historical background as well as the policy-practice gap evident in South African curricula. The study also found that the South African curriculum and the Australian curriculum include some common but also unique elements in the following areas: the level of involvement of relevant role players as they collaborate in language education, with Australia stating this as a high priority; the development of a curriculum that allows for the unique character of Mandarin Chinese, as is done in the Australian curriculum; a more structured allowance for learner diversity, along the lines of the three pathways in the Australian curriculum, where learners’ previous exposure to Chinese is taken into consideration; and the inclusion of cultural elements in the curriculum, with the Australian curriculum strong in this area. This study is an attempt to contribute towards policy making as well as curriculum development as they relate to the teaching of Mandarin Chinese in South Africa. With regard to policy making the Mandarin Chinese curriculum suffers from many of the problems that other South African second additional language curricula experience. The study identifies the need to develop a Chinese language-specific curriculum to allow for the unique character of a language that is not remotely related to English. It is also necessary for curriculum advisers to promote Mandarin Chinese and iron out policy-practice gaps. As shown by the Australian curriculum, the South African curriculum needs to allow for learner diversity and smooth learner progression in the curriculum. With regard to curriculum development as it relates to the South African Mandarin Chinese curriculum, the study identifies the need to adjust the curriculum in terms of the expected proficiency for vocabulary to be achieved by learners and by focusing on listening and speaking and modifying the text-based approach at Intermediate Phase level. The need to present a clear Pinyin-character policy and to incorporate aspects of Chinese culture into the South African Mandarin Chinese curriculum was also identified.
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