Schools

Jansen is wrong about English as a primary tuition language, says FF Plus

Sapa

Free State University rector Jonathan Jansen is wrong if he pleads that all school education in South Africa should be in English, says the FF Plus.

Jonathan Jansen. (Gallo)

Jansen is wrong if he pleads that all school education in South Africa should be in English, FF Plus leader Pieter Mulder said on Wednesday.

"He [Jansen] confuses proper education principles with his own hidden nation building recipe."

Mulder was reacting to media reports on Jansen saying teaching in English from school to university level could be the solution to South Africa's education problems.

Delivering the Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture last month, Jansen said many parents already preferred English as teaching language because they knew the country's economy was organised on English terms.

"Therefore, the chances of success are much greater."

Mulder said English as a learning subject should be compulsory for all South African children up to university level.

"This is different from making English the only language of instruction in education."

Mulder said research globally showed mother tongue education was best for knowledge transfer. Jansen's argument for English as the best language for reconciliation and nation building was also wrong.

"An important aspect of a person's being and dignity is acknowledging his mother tongue," said Mulder.

The Christian Democratic Party said Jansen's suggestion was not scientifically sound and in conflict with the Constitution.

AfriForum said the necessity for single-medium schools in pupils' mother tongue was acknowledged internationally.

The civil rights group's deputy chief executive Alana Bailey said quality education would only be accomplished by, among others, better teacher training and stopping the destabilising influence of some education unions.

'Distorted'
Meanwhile, Jansen said on Wednesday that his careful argument on language in education has been distorted to create a media hype.

"It still amazes me how a careful argument about language inclusivity can be seriously distorted for maximum media hype," Jansen said on his Twitter account in reply to a report about a speech in September.

Afrikaans newspapers Beeld and the Die Volksblad published front page articles on Jansen's opinion that exclusive white Afrikaans schools and universities held a danger for race relations in South Africa.

Jansen's comments were made while delivering the Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture of the English Academy of South Africa on September 18.

In his speech, Jansen said English and not Afrikaans could be the taal van versoening – language of reconciliation – for South Africa.

He said English could also be the one major solution for the crisis in education.

Learning gains
"Instruct every teacher and every child in English from the first day of school rather than add the burden of poor instruction in the mother-tongue in the foundation years to the trauma of transition to English later on."

Jansen said for many parents English was already the language of choice in schools.

The reason for this was that indigenous languages were poorly taught.

He said learning in a mother tongue was no guarantee of improved learning gains in school.

The Kovsie rector said English could be the foundation for a common language. He said he understood that the symbolism of supporting indigenous languages had a political value beyond his pragmatic reasoning.

Language differences were of themselves not contentious, but the mobilisation of languages for political purposes constituted the problem.

Optimal opportunities
For this reason Afrikaans-dominant white schools and universities represented a serious threat to race relations in South Africa, he said.

"You simply cannot prepare young people for dealing with the scars of our violent past without creating optimal opportunities in the educational environment for living and learning together."

Jansen said English had levelled the playing fields in the historically Afrikaans universities for common engagement between students.

The Kovsie rector confirmed his opinion on English as a reconciliation language in a tweet on Wednesday.

"I also believe that there is no way in which young people across divisions can heal past rifts without a common language; that is English," Jansen's tweet read. – Sapa

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