Expressive english language skills in the inclusive intermediate phase classroom.
Mbili, Thamekile Patricia.
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The 1994 democratic election brought significant changes to South Africa, and one of the main areas of focus was transformation in education. Inclusive education was adopted as the foundational policy for ensuring that all learners, regardless of race, socio-economic background, gender, or level of ability, could be successfully educated within an inclusive education system. However, the implementation of this policy has not been successful, and learners still experience overwhelming barriers to learning. One of these barriers is a language barrier. The language of learning and teaching (predominantly English) is not the home language of the majority of South African learners. Learners often find it difficult to express themselves in English, and to understand English at the appropriate level, and so the language of learning and teaching has become a significant barrier to successful teaching and learning. This study therefore sought to understand the experiences of the educators who teach learners whose home language is different from the language of learning and teaching. A qualitative approach informed by a critical research paradigm was adopted for this study. A purposive sampling strategy was used to select seven participants from the target population: English FAL educators with three or more years of teaching experience in the intermediate phase. Three data collection instruments were used to gather information from the participants: questionnaires, one-on-one structured interviews, and classroom observations. The data was analyzed using thematic analysis, and the interpretation of the results was informed by Ubuntu philosophy. The results indicated that educators in the intermediate phase experience significant challenges in trying to overcome the barriers to learning created by using English, a first additional language, as the language of learning and teaching. These challenges are related to a lack of training in the practical implementation of inclusive education; the lack of adequate expressive English language skills of the intermediate phase learners; frustration and disengagement on the part of learners; overcrowded classrooms and a lack of resources; and a lack of support from parents and the wider educational community. The study recommends that educators receive professional development and training in the implementation of inclusive education; that all stakeholders (parents, learners, educators, government officials and school governing bodies) collaborate in addressing the language barrier; that English should be introduced as the language of learning and teaching in the foundation phase; that overcrowding in classrooms be addressed; and that input from educators should inform policies related to language and inclusion.