From policy to practice : A Study of the Implementation of the Language-in-Education Policy (LiEP) in three South African Primary Schools
Appears in the following Collection
- Institutt for pedagogikk 
AbstractThere is a general consensus among educators and researchers looking into the state of education in Africa that the primary language of the students is the language through which education should take place. As each formerly colonised territory in Africa has achieved independence, policies for the newly independent states have been formulated. The last four decades have shown us that very often the articulation of policy, particularly language policy, has more to do with a sense of political expediency than reasons of economic or educational development (Alexander, 1989, 1992). Multilingual language policies which recognize linguistic pluralism as resources for nation-building are increasingly becoming commonplace.
Many of these policies envision implementation through bilingual education, which open up new possibilities for oppressed language groups (both indigenous and immigrant languages groups) and their speakers. However, Akinnaso (1993) points out that there is often a mismatch between policy and the plan for implementation, particularly with regard to language policy in education. Thus the implementation plan has little potential for achieving the goals of the policy. The situation in South Africa is one in which multilingualism is both supported and contested, despite the progressive commitment to equality of language rights in the country’s constitution (Alexander, 1992).
The new Constitution of 1993 in post-apartheid South Africa embraces language as a basic human right and multilingualism as a national resource, introducing nine major African languages (Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Sepedi, Sotho, Tswana, Swati, Venda, and Tsonga) as official languages alongside English and Afrikaans, along with the dismantling of the apartheid educational system. To transform the previous apartheid education system into a diversifying one, where the "rainbow" of identities and languages are accepted, and to construct a national identity that is multilingual and multicultural constitute ideological paradoxes which are a challenge to implement (Hornberger, 1991). For Hornberger (1991) multilingual language policies are essentially about opening up ideological and implementational space in the environment for as many languages as possible, and in particular, endangered languages if they are to evolve and flourish rather than dwindle and disappear. In this investigation I analyze the effectiveness of the South African multilingual language policy in promoting additive and functional multilingualism and in opening up the ideological and implementational space needed for the survival of the previously oppressed African languages.