The impact of English as medium of instruction on the academic performance of second language learners in the Further Education and Traning band at schools in KwaZulu-Natal
Dorasamy, Rajendren Sabapathy
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This study, in adopting a phenomenological approach, provides an overview of the contextual realities surrounding language choice and usage as it impacts on the academic performance of English second language learners. There have been concerns that the majority of learners with indigenous mother tongues can be seen to fare badly in a post liberation educational system in which English or Afrikaans is still used as medium of instruction. The focus of this study was therefore the impact of English as the medium of instruction on the academic performance of English second language learners. Using a mixed method approach, through a case study, data from questionnaires, interviews and observations were analysed using various statistical packages and the findings were reported on. It was established that it was not so much the language per se which had a negative impact on the academic performance of English second language learners: it was rather the efficacy of usage of the chosen language and other periphery issues in the formal environment, such as lack of interactions with target language speakers, code-switching, and teacher competence, which resulted in the poor academic performance of English second language learners. Furthermore, it was also established that the informal environment, consisting of learners’ culture and traditions, family educational qualifications, absenteeism and appropriate resources at home and community libraries, which also had a negative impact on academic performance. It was therefore recommended that, amongst other things, the Language in Education Policy be amended to provide for more opportunities for learner interaction with the target language. Furthermore, given that the efficacy of education is contingent upon the competence of the teachers, relevant skills and competencies among teachers should be developed to enhance their performance in class. It was also found that code-switching was counterproductive to learning the target language, thus holding back ESL learners’ acquisition of content knowledge. As such, code-switching should be used very restrictively, if at all, in the Further Education and Training phase. It was also recommended that necessary lexicons and registers of the indigenous languages be developed sufficiently so that these are worthy of use as media of instruction, without necessarily being seen as a replacement of English as medium of instruction. There should also be greater involvement of all stakeholders in the choice of and availability of resources which are relevant to the context of learners. Other issues requiring intervention from a broader stakeholder involvement include iii interdepartmental integration to alleviate poverty, and provision of transport so that learners might report regularly and timeously to school, thus reducing absenteeism. The solution to improving learner academic performance requires concerted and co-ordinated inter-governmental, community and other stakeholders’ effort and the necessary will of the government to ensure that learners receive quality education.