School language change led by internal change agents : interrogating the sustainability of school language change initiatives.
Govender, Krishnen Mogamberry.
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Amid the dearth of implementation of South Africa’s post-apartheid Language-in-education policy which encourages multilingualism and recognizes the value of instruction in the home language of learners, internal change agents initiating language change in their schools were identified in a Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) project on multilingual education. With limited policy support these change agents had sought ways of transforming language policy and practices at their schools to address the linguistic diversity of their learners. The initiative taken by these change agents to transform language policy and practice in their schools was the point of departure for the study. While the HSRC project focused broadly on the factors enabling and disabling multilingual education with a view to exploring strategies to encourage greater implementation of multilingual education, the study interrogated the work of the change agents with particular focus on the sustainability of their language change initiatives. The change agents were two school principals, a Level 1 educator (classroom practitioner) and a School Governing Body chairperson, operating in four public primary schools (one in each school) in KwaZulu-Natal. The experiences of sustaining school language change of these change agents were interrogated to elicit how and why they were able to sustain or not sustain the school language change that they had initiated in their schools. The insights drawn from this interrogation were used to deepen understanding of the process of school language change that encourages multilingual education. The data used in this study was gathered from in-depth interviews with the change agents and significant others (educators/school managers) in their schools, documentation (school language policies and notices to parents) and a Focus Group Discussion in which the change agents engaged in reflecting on their experiences of driving school language change and commenting on the process of sustaining school language change. The findings from the study revealed that all but two of the change agents were marginally successful in sustaining language change in their schools. The study revealed that school language change was a complex process involving the interplay of various factors and the existence of such factors enabled but did not guarantee the sustainability of school language change. The non-existence of some or any of the factors necessary for school language change thwarted the attempts of the change agents to sustain language change in their schools. Using the experiences of each of the change agents and the collective experience of all four change agents contextualized in qualitatively-oriented case study research and using features of grounded theory research to develop theory from case studies, the study developed a theoretical framework explicating the process of school language change led by internal agents of language change. It is suggested that the framework which seeks to deepen understanding of the complexities of the school language change process can be used as a guide to planning language change but cautions against using it as a blue print for school language change.