Namibia: Language policy in education - in practice

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The Education Corner

New Era (Windhoek)
24 September 2007
Posted to the web 24 September 2007

By Toivo Mvula

The Language Policy was developed to guide Namibian schools on how national languages should be taught in schools, to promote the cultural identity of learners through the use of their mother tongue as a medium of instruction in Grades 1-3 and to ensure that English is taught as the medium of instruction from Grade 4 and upwards.

What does the Language Policy state?

The Language Policy states that schools should teach learners in Grade One to Grade Three in their mother-tongue. Grade Four is to be regarded as a transitional year where schools start to switch from mother tongue as a medium of instruction to English as a medium of instruction.

What does this mean?

This means that, as from Grade Four, the mother-tongue becomes a subject and learners will be taught in English; i.e. other subjects will be taught in English.

Is the policy being fully implemented?

No. Although the policy states that learners should be taught in their mother tongue from Grade 1 to Grade 3, this has not happened and is not being done all over the country. Many schools also do not offer Namibian indigenous languages as subjects from Grade 4 until Grade 12.

Why is a mother tongue important?

Research has shown that being taught in one’s mother tongue at an early age helps you to make sense of what you are being taught in order to help you to conceptualise better and acquire writing and reading skills which are best acquired in the early years of schooling.

Teaching mother tongue in schools also helps to promote the language and cultural identity of learners.

What about English?

English is the official language of Namibia. The Language Policy states that English should be compulsory from Grade One to Grade Twelve.

- From Grade 1 - 3 = as a subject.

- From Grade 4 - 12 = as a subject and as the medium of instruction.

The Policy also states that, ideally, learners should study at least two languages as subjects from Grade 1 to Grade 12 and one of them must be English.

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