Analysis of the socio-political and economic dynamics of the language policy in South Africa: perspectives from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Mthombeni, Zama Mabel.
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The promotion of multilingual education can be regarded as a force that is driving change in teaching and learning in South Africa’s higher education institutions. This research situates itself amidst the increasing tensions about multilingual policy implementation in South African higher education institutions. South Africa’s democratic constitution has been revised, which directly compelled change in the education legislation, forcing many universities to undergo a process of altering their language policies. The South African government has, at least on paper, taken recognition of the unquestionable fact that African languages must be advanced as languages of learning and teaching in all educational institutions for the empowerment of the African people. Thus far, multilingual education is not mainstream in South African higher education institution and on the overall, little has changed in terms of language-in-education issues in the country. However, there have been some efforts in the higher educational sphere to develop indigenous African languages as languages of learning. The University of KwaZulu-Natal has implemented a bilingual language policy, which stipulates that isiZulu will be a compulsory subject for undergraduate’s students from 2014 onward. The issue remains controversial. From one perspective, indorsing the African languages in tertiary education supports what Alexander (2001) calls democratic responsibility of the post-apartheid university. From another perspective, this language policy is perceived as reverting to apartheid style Bantu Education practices and as fostering ethnic identities and tribalism rather than supporting a development of a broader and more inclusive South African identity. This research therefore is an analysis of the socio-economic and political implications of the University of KwaZulu-Natal bilingual language policy. In discussing the political implications, the study looks at the policy implementation process undertaken in determining the policy and at the positive and negative viewpoints arising regarding the language policy. To understand the social implications, the study looks at the impact of having a bilingual language policy and lastly, it discusses the economic implications of utilizing bilingual approach to education at the tertiary level.