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Language proficiency and academic performance : the case study for secondary school in KwaZulu-Natal.

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I have been fortunate in my teaching career to have taught young learners from Grade 1 to Grade 12 in English home language. This has led me to the realisation that English home language learners have a considerable advantage over their second language counterparts in acquiring education in general. Language proficiency in the language of learning and teaching is essential for academic success. Many secondary school learners lack the required academic proficiency in English, the language of learning and teaching. The English language proficiency of isiZulu-speaking Grade 8 learners at a Durban secondary school was evaluated in order to suggest ways in which these learners could be helped to maximise their academic success. This school was chosen on the basis of poor matric results. The study used a mixed-method research methodology. A sample of Grade 8 learners was selected, and their language proficiency levels were determined. The data collection techniques used were the focus group interview to generate pupils’ response to problems and barriers to learning, as well as document analysis of school documents. The findings indicated that the learners were generally not capable of handling the requirements of the Grade 8 curriculum. The language issue is complex and cannot be explained as an isolated variable as there are a variety of other mediating factors that interact to impact on the academic performance of learners with limited English language proficiency. It was recommended that the learners be guided to make optimal use of facilities, such as libraries. This could enhance the learner’s language development.


Thesis (M.Ed.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2009.


English language--Study and teaching--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Education., Language and education.