Mother tongue teaching work – Motshekga


Mother tongue teaching enables learners to get to know the subject material on a deeper level and this in turn empowers them to explore the world around them with greater understanding and enthusiasm.

This is what Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, said on Thursday at a conference of the Department of Basic Education on language policy.

The conference – which focuses on the extension of mother tongue teaching to gr. 6 – was held at Kempton Park.

According to Motshekga, research worldwide confirms that learners learn and perform best academically when they are taught in their mother tongue.

“It improves their cognitive abilities, promotes better teacher-learner relationships and increases their overall academic performance. In addition, mother tongue teaching helps learners to maintain their linguistic heritage and identity and thereby enrich their lives and communities,” says the minister.

She says multilingualism in classrooms is not just a language policy issue, but “an opportunity to empower learners, enrich their minds and cultivate a feeling that they belong somewhere”.

“While English and Afrikaans have long been used as medium of instruction, we must recognize the importance of incorporating African languages ​​as learning and teaching languages. These languages ​​contain a wealth of values, knowledge and skills that can accelerate the development of our nation and continent.

“In our diverse and culturally rich nation, language is not only a means of communication, but a reflection of our identity, heritage and shared humanity.”

In her speech, the minister highlighted the Eastern Cape Department of Education’s Mother Tongue-Based Bilingual Education (MTBBE) project, which has been running since 2012 from Gr. 4 for mathematics, natural science and technology.

A total of 2,015 schools in all 12 districts in the province are actively participating in the project. This enables learners in these schools to learn all content subjects up to and including gr. 8 in their mother tongue.

According to Motshekga, the results of the MTBBE project are remarkable: they show that children who receive mother tongue education perform well academically.

“Research has shown that MTBBE learners in gr. 5 outperformed their non-MTBBE peers in mathematics, with the former learners achieving an average of 53% compared to the latter’s average of 40%. The MTBBE learners’ average in natural science and technology was 70%, compared to the non-MTBBE learner’s 50% average.”

“This strategy is an ideal example of how language can be harnessed to empower our learners and improve their educational experience.”

English remains important

Motshekga says that while the department emphasizes the promotion of African languages ​​in the basic education system, the significant role that English plays in today’s interconnected world must still be recognised.

“It is clear that the English language has developed into a global means of communication that transcends borders and cultures. According to the British Council, approximately 1.75 billion people, a quarter of the world’s population, speak English. It is taught as a subject in primary schools across China and serves as the working language of the entire European Union (EU). Furthermore, English occupies a prominent position as one of the six official languages ​​of the United Nations (UN), which emphasizes its importance in international diplomacy.

“It is the most studied language worldwide, followed by French. In Africa, 54 countries are recognized by the UN, with 24 having English as an official language, while many others offer English as part of their educational curriculum.”

In Southern Africa, English has emerged as the dominant medium of instruction and as a language it extends far beyond just a means of communication.

“It became the lingua franca, displacing French in diplomacy and German in scientific circles. Moreover, it is decisive in world trade,” says the minister.

In South Africa, after Zulu, English is the second most spoken language outside the household, followed by Xhosa. In the school system, English plays a leading role as a language of learning and teaching.

“Out of approximately 23,719 public schools in South Africa, only 2,484 schools use Afrikaans as the language of instruction in a single, dual or parallel medium. Therefore, the development of English language skills is essential to raise overall standards of teaching and learning.

“As we navigate the complexities of our multilingual landscape, we must recognize the dual significance of promoting African languages ​​while maintaining and improving English language proficiency.

“Through this balanced approach, we can prepare our learners to thrive in a world that is increasingly interconnected and diverse.”