What role does the language of instruction play for a successful education? : A case study of the impact of language choice in a Namibian school.

University essay from Växjö universitet/Institutionen för humaniora

Abstract: Namibia is a country where the official language has been English since independence in 1990. There are different national languages in the country and a majority of the people do not have English as a mother tongue. Nevertheless, the language of instruction from fourth grade and onwards is indeed English. Consequently, for the majority of the population the education is in their second language. What this essay explores is the role English as a second language has as a medium of instruction and the implications it may have. It is a minor field study that was carried out with the help of a scholarship from SIDA (Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation) and it took place in a school in Northern Namibia, April and May 2007. It is a qualitative study that explores the use of English among teachers and students as well as the transition from mother tongue instruction to English instruction and the implications that this can have for the quality of education. The reality of the Namibian students that have to study and perform in a second language is questioned and discussed from pedagogical and linguistic points of view. The results show that most pupils do not speak English before starting fourth grade. Furthermore, the sudden transition from mother tongue to English instruction creates some descent in the participation of the pupils and possibly in the learning, not only of the new language but also of the content subjects. As far as the teachers concern, there are positive but ambiguous opinions among them concerning English as a medium of instruction.

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