/ 5 July 2013

Enriching public discourse about teaching and teachers

The 2006 forensic report prepared for Zuma's trial that never saw the light of day ... now made available in the public interest.
The outcome of the ANC’s long-awaited KwaZulu-Natal conference was a win for the Thuma Mina crowd. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The Teachers Upfront dialogues are the result of a partnership of the University of the Witwatersrand’s school of education, the University of Johannesburg’s education faculty, Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, the Bridge education network and the Mail & Guardian.

The purpose of this strategic partnership is to enrich public discourse about teaching and teachers, as well as to provide practitioners with ways of thinking about and engaging with teaching and learning in the classroom.

Six dialogues were held in the second series of Teachers Upfront and focused on language in education.

Full articles of each of the seminars are contained in this booklet and short summaries of their areas of focus are listed below: Academic literacy and language competence in higher education This dialogue considered the extent to which the poor language skills of some school leavers impact on their achievements in higher education and training. Speakers considered the challenges and the strategies required to improve students’ language competence and to develop academic literacy.

Language and learning across the curriculum
How poor language competence leads to poor learner achievement in gateway subjects such as maths, science and other subjects was the focus of the second dialogue. Speakers addressed what strategies show evidence of helping to address this.

Beyond words: using language versus communicating
It is commonly accepted that effective communication in education needs a mastery of language and other forms of communications, such as graphic and symbolic communications. This dialogue considered how a range of communication skills can help in a context of poor English and multilingualism.

Reading and writing: who needs it?
Speakers at this dialogue discussed the extent to which insufficient reading and writing are fundamental to poor language, literacy and achievement levels as well as what is being done to address this.

Language policy andpractice at the foundation phase level: root cause of the problem?
The focus of this dialogue was on the relationship between poor learner performance in the foundation phase and beyond and the switching between the language of the mother tongue and English. Speakers presented on what is really happening and what can be done to address this.

Multilingualism and biliteracy development
The final dialogue looked at how literacy can be developed in multiple languages and how multilingualism can be turned into a classroom asset. Speakers agreed that poor English ability is not the same as poor language ability and that literacy is the crux of education.

“Translanguaging”, where there are no boundaries between languages known and used by the speaker, was presented as a strategy for teachers of multilingual classrooms. In this way, multilingualism could be used as a resource in the classroom.

If you’d like to find out more about this initiative, join Bridge’s online network at:
Follow @BridgeProjectSA on Twitter for live dialogue updates.
The next Teachers Upfront series started on July 24 at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg.
Email: [email protected] for more information.

Barbara Dale-Jones is chief operations officer at the Bridge education network. Lethabo-Thabo Royds is a former employee of the same organisation.