Mother-tongue education – THIS is the difference!

11 September 2017

Mother-tongue education results in better math and science results.

At the announcement of the top achievers in science and mathematics by the Minister of Basic Education in April this year, it appeared that the Western Cape came out tops in 2016’s National Senior Certificate examinations. Particularly in the category for achievement in mathematics and physical science, the Western Cape was head and shoulders above the rest of the country. According to Danie van Wyk from Fedsas, these schools all perform exceptionally because they are aware of the importance of mother-tongue education.

“A call for mother-tongue education is not only a heart’s desire. In addition to being a Human right, it gives you a head start and contributes to the economic development of communities.” - HC (Christo) Viljoen is a retired engineer and academic from Stellenbosch.

Conrad Strydom: Top achiever 2016.

Conrad Strydom from Hoërskool Hermanus (Hermanus High School) was named as the best matric learner for 2016. He was also the top achiever in maths. Conrad is studying at Stellenbosch University. His field of study is theoretical physics and for the long term he plans to set up his own research company.

Did you know?

South Africa’s results in mathematics and science – essential subjects for the wealth-creating careers are abysmal.

  • In the Global Information Technical Report 2014 of the WEF (World Economic Forum), South Africa’s quality of mathematics and science education is ranked last in 148 countries.
  • South Africa’s education system as a whole is ranked 146th, after Botswana, Kenia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho (inter alia). The WEF study bases its findings on how prepared an economy is to ultilise the benefits of information communication technology for promoting economic growth and prosperity.
  • South Africa’s performance in the internationally standardised TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study-) tests2 conducted locally by the HSRC (Human Sciences Research Council), is regularly ranked last in more than 50 participating countries. TIMSS studies were conducted in 1995, 1999, 2002, 2011 and 2015. Due to the poor performance of South African learners, the last two tests were done locally in Grade 9. Nevertheless, South Africa is still in the last place. Read more about the Timms results here.

The reasons for the poor performance of South African learners in the TIMSS tests have been thoroughly analysed, and include factors such as teacher training, resources available at school and home, home circumstances, text books and school manuals, but also the fact that most learners do not receive math and science education in their mother tongue.

After 1994, South Africa experienced a large-scale migration from mother-tongue education due to many social and political considerations, but especially because of a misconception that teaching through English for English second-language speakers would have significant benefits. This resulted in a significant increase in the number of first generation English “home language speakers”.

Several studies show unequivocally that two decades of this approach failed, especially with regard to teaching mathematics and natural science. Read more ...

Mathematics has its own “language” to master

This field of study has its own language and your mother tongue makes it so much easier to conceptualise difficult concepts and solve problems. Christo Viljoen explains here.

Mother-tongue education is important:

  • Language as a medium of communication is an expression of the speaker’s identity and as such is an integral part of his culture, thus enabling a person to participate effectively in the activities of his/her community.
  • Language is a medium of aesthetic activity in a community through which man’s exciting creative ability and originality manifest.
  • It is the medium within which traditions, insights, ideas and wisdom of generations are preserved and cherished.
  • It is a source of social empowerment and mobility to seek and utilise opportunities.
  • Mother tongue is a development tool.

*Source: Philip H Spies - Gelyke Kanse: Stigtingsrede, 2016 (“Equal opportunities”: Foundation address, 2016)

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