Learner achievement as evaluated by the Progress in Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2011 within primary schools at the Grade 4 level is markedly differentiated by the language of learning and teaching of the school – more specifically by whether learners are taught in English, Afrikaans or an African language with socio-economic and contextual factors having an interactive effect alongside language in education issues on learner achievement.
This is the argument in Dr Nelladee McLeod Palane’s presentation entitled “Language and the National Senior Certificate”. The paper was presented at the 12th Southern Africa Association for Educational Assessment (SAAEA) conference that was held at the Capital Hotel in Menlyn, Pretoria from the 13th to 16 May 2018. Among the objectives of the SAAEA are to encourage and to facilitate dialogue among member states and institutions concerning education assessment systems.
Dr McLeod Palane, the language coordinator at the Centre for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) argued that many learners whose home language is not English or Afrikaans enter Grade 12 ill-equipped to cope with the demands of writing a national examination in their second additional language. She further argued that the level of language competence attained by learners progressing through the South African system affects overall achievement in the National Senior Certificate. Moreover, the lower level of achievement attained by lower socio-economic status learners is perpetuated by a hidden dynamic within the curriculum requirements – that of the learner divide between those who learn English at a Home Language level and those who learn English at a First Additional level.