Grade 4 pupils to learn in their mother tongue from 2025

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said her department is ready to roll out mother tongue-based bilingual education in grade 4 in 2025.

Motshekga was speaking to education stakeholders in Bloemfontein, Free State, on Tuesday about the benefits of children learning in their mother tongue.

She said mother-tongue teaching and learning result in sustained and positive learning outcomes, adding that the marks of English and Afrikaans pupils in the basic education system, particularly in mathematics and science, prove this.

National assessment

Senior education officials from the national and provincial departments, including Free State education MEC Makalo Mohale, also attended the meeting.

Motshekga said the current policy is that children will learn in their mother tongue up to grade 3 and then switch to English as the language of teaching and learning is not working.

“Even our research has proven that this is not working. The results are also confirming. Language in education is a big issue,” she said, adding that discussions on mother tongue-based education started in 2010, just a year after she was appointed basic education minister.

Dr Mark Chetty, the director for national assessment at the Department of Basic Education, said all pupils in schools that are implementing mother tongue-based bilingual education will participate in a standardised grade 4 national assessment in 2025.

Good learning outcomes

“The national assessment will replace the end-of-year grade 4 examination in November. The initial scope will be testing math, natural science, and technology content, and skills in African languages. It will count for 20% of the promotion mark,” said Chetty.

Deputy director-general for transformation projects, Dr Naledi Mbude-Mehana, said exposure and access to mother tongue-based teaching and learning, especially in subjects such as math and science, result in good learning outcomes.

She also said that the results of children in grades R to 3 show that the biggest number of passes is made up of pupils that pass with distinction.

In grade R, 55% of children pass with distinction, 48% in grade 1, 38.9% in grade 2, and 30.8% in grade 3.

The results drop from grade 4 to grade 6 when English is introduced as a language of teaching and learning, with only 16.8% of grade 4 passing with distinction, 12.5% in grade 5, and 11.2% in grade 6.

Universities called out

“We have doctors who cannot diagnose patients because they don’t understand the language of patients,” she said.

Mbude-Mehana also called out universities for being part of the problem, saying there is not a single university out of the 26 in the country that offers a Bachelor of Education in the foundation phase in vernacular.

“Bed is only done in English or Afrikaans. Teachers in the foundation phase enter the system with no training in teaching in the vernacular. Teachers must translate for themselves,” she said.

“We know that it is only English and Afrikaans teachers in the foundation phase who are taught in their mother tongue from birth to university.”

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  1. Start English from grade 1 as it is done for most Afrikaans school. Don’t wait to introduce it at grade 4, simple 🤷


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