Multilingual materials and assessments
A major challenge for learning has been the lack of availability of materials in languages other than English and Afrikaans beyond grade 3. As with classroom methodology, there is a wide range of approaches to learning materials that can support bilingual or multilingual education. For example, bilingual textbooks have been successfully developed in Rwanda.
The same textbook can be available in more than one language. The two languages can be in parallel (all the text is available in two languages) in one textbook. Or a more flexible approach can be used where different aspects of the text, such as glossaries, are available in different languages.
An example of this is iSayensi Yethu (Our Science), which has been developed in English and isiXhosa. Subject-specific dictionaries can also be excellent learning resources, for example one developed at the University of Cape Town and one developed by the Human Sciences Research Council of SA.
Final school-leaving exams have been available only in English and Afrikaans, with the exception the isiXhosa exam pilot in the Eastern Cape in 2020. Bilingual assessments in English and an African language have been trialled and proven to be successful in the Western Cape and in Zimbabwe. Again, a diversity of approaches is preferable.
Successful implementation depends on preparing teachers for bilingual education. The pioneering bilingual university teacher education programmes at the University of Fort Hare and Nelson Mandela University have started this work, which can be expanded to other universities. Practising teachers will need appropriate materials as well as in-service education that builds on their existing bilingual practices.
Bilingual education is possible for all children. With a multipronged approach to implementation, as outlined here, bilingual models will contribute to the goal of decolonising the country’s schooling system.
Authors: Robyn Tyler, senior research fellow at the University of the Western Cape; Brian Ramadiro, deputy director, University of Fort Hare; Carolyn McKinney, associate professor in language education, member Bua-Lit collective, University of Cape Town; and Dr Xolisa Guzula, UCT lecturer, applied language and literacy studies.
— This article was first published by The Conversation