BILINGUAL BUT ILLITERATE: THE CASE OF EKUPHUMLENI
Goucher College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:Imagine possessing the ability to speak two or three languages, yet unable to comprehend written language in your mother tongue, first additional language, or second additional language. This is the plight of the students living in South Africa's Ekuphumleni Township. Originally designated an emergency camp for the purpose of creating the resort town of Kenton-On-Sea in the Eastern Cape of South Africa during the Apartheid era, Ekuphumleni Township became a permanent residential area with the formation of the new South African government in 1994. The children in the township attend Ikamvalesizwe Combined School, a grade R through grade 12 educational institution which has been operational since the early 1990s. Though instructed in Xhosa during the foundation phase and in English during the intermediate phase, results from the Diagnostic Assessmenrt of Reading revealed that students in grades 5, 6, and 7 at Ikamvalesizwe are bilingual but illiterate.
Xhosa is the mother tongue of the children who attend Ikamvalesizwe. Educated in their mother tongue from grade R through grade 3, these learners are expected to make a huge transition in grade 4 when English, not Xhosa, becomes the primary medium of instruction. Introduced to English in grade 2, these learners are expected to possess a command of the English language by grade 12 since all exit exams are administered in English. Analysis of student performance on the Diagnostic Assessment of Reading (DAR) which assesses word recognition, oral reading, silent reading comprehension, spelling, and word meaning revealed that Ikamvalesizwe students in grades 5, 6, and 7 are performing at least 3 years below grade level in at least 3 areas assessesd by the DAR. If command of the English language is the expectation for students exiting grade 12, DAR data from students in the middle grades at Ikamvalesizwe suggests that English should be inttroduced earlier or that Ikamvalesizwe learners should be instructed in Xhosa and English as early as possible.