Education and schools > Language policy in schools
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Language policy in schools

The goals of the language policy of the Department of Basic Education are to:

  • Undo the neglect of the historically disadvantaged languages in basic school education
  • Promote full participation in society and the economy through equal and meaningful access to education
  • Follow the language policy that most supports general growth amongst learners
  • Avoid the disadvantages that result from different kinds of mismatches between home languages and languages of learning and teaching

The policy addresses two aspects: language as a subject, and the language of learning and teaching.

Individual rights in relation to language are protected as follows:

  1. The learner must choose the language of teaching when applying for admission to a particular school.
  2. Where a school uses the language of learning and teaching that has been chosen by the learner, and where there is a place available in the relevant grade, the school must admit the learner.
  3. If there is no school in a school district that offers the preferred language of the learner then the learner can request the provincial education department to make provision to be taught in his or her chosen language. The provincial

education department must make copies of the request available to all schools in the relevant school district. The language policy states that it should be possible to provide education in a particular language of learning and teaching if at least 40 learners in Grades 1 to 6 or 35 learners in Grades 7 to 12 in a particular Grade request it in a particular school.

The governing body of the school must say how the school will promote multi- lingualism (different languages) in the school. This might include having more than one language of learning and teaching, offering additional language subjects, or other language programmes.

In 2015 the Gauteng High Court found that the SGBs determine language and that the department cannot force it to change in a particular school if the SGB opposes it. This judgment is being used by some schools to keep their schools Afrikaans, even when they have space for many more learners, and the department is prepared to pay for more teachers to create a dual medium school. Gauteng government will take the matter to the Constitutional Court for a final decision.