Does limited English proficiency impact on schooling success for African learners? : a case study of a secondary school in Durban.
With the move towards multicultural education in South Africa, previously "whites only" schools now face the challenge of educating learners from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. This study examined the extent to which limited English language proficiency impacts on schooling success for learners with Limited English Proficiency (L.E.P.). The study explored how these L.E.P. learners experienced the curriculum at a particular secondary school in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, and the extent to which this school responded to the challenges of diversity in its learner population. The study used a qualitative research methodology. The sample comprised 24 learners from Grade 10. The data collection techniques used were the focussed group interview, and document analysis of school documents. The findings indicate that the language issue is complex and cannot be explored as an isolated variable. Various other mediating factors interact to impact on schooling success for learners with limited English language proficiency. (Some of these factors are race; class; culture; school ethos; norms and value; the school curriculum; and the socio-economic background of learners). The results also reveal that, although the school policy and ethos at the school reflects a commitment to racial integration and a positive response to cultural diversity among its learners, assimilationist practices still prevail. Attempts to integrate elements of 'other' cultural wordviews have been largely token representation of the diverse cultures. The curriculum continues to reflect the dominant culture with little meaningful affirmation of learners' diverse cultural and linguistic roots. Limited English Proficiency (L.E.P.) learners often experience alienation and marginalisation from the curriculum and the culture of the school. Simply assimilating Limited English Proficiency learners into the curriculum as it is does not guarantee the equalisation of educational opportunities for all learners. Much restructuring of the curriculum is necessary to fulfil the goals of multicultural education.
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