Research in Language Education in South Africa: Problems & Prospects


  • TV Manyike
  • EM Lemmer


Language in education plays a key role in effective teaching and learning worldwide and learner proficiency in medium of instruction largely determines academic success. Sound research in language in education is crucial to inform language policy and practice which promotes social justice and learning for all. This is pertinent to South Africa, a linguistically diverse country whose history of language in education has been shaped by political interests as well as pedagogical considerations. This paper presents a review of key research in language in education conducted in South Africa over the last four decades with a view to distinguishing trends. The first section deals with major research in language education conducted during the apartheid period. The latter was characterised by a turbulent socio-political landscape and pressing educational dilemmas created by the apartheid government which enforced English (and, in certain instances, Afrikaans) as medium instruction in black education in a racially segregated and unequal schooling system. The second section concerns critiques of the implementation of transformative language policy and legislation introduced post-1994 and designed to promote multilingualism in a unitary desegregated schooling system. The final section highlights four large-scale research projects designed to assess post-apartheid language in education practice in South African schooling. It is concluded that forty years of research in language in education shows little variance in the challenges that affect learners and teachers in South African schools despite sweeping changes in language in education policy. Recommendations are suggested that could improve practice.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n8p251


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How to Cite

Manyike, T., & Lemmer, E. (2014). Research in Language Education in South Africa: Problems & Prospects. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 5(8), 251. Retrieved from