An implementation analysis of the language policy in basic education in selected schools in eThekwini Municipality.
Khumalo, Siphamandla Warren.
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The Department of Basic Education (DBE) in its 2013 budget speech announced that from 2014, a new policy will come into effect mandating the learning of an African language in all schools. The advent of the language policy in basic education meant that every school in South Africa will teach an obligatory vernacular to its pupils irrespective of race, culture or ethnicity. This research is predicated on the role of low-level (street-level bureaucrats) government workers (teachers) in the implementation of this policy. The study explored the preparedness and capacity of teachers to implement the vernacular policy; possible constraints to the implementation of the policy, and the extent to which the use of discretion and autonomy by teachers impact the implementation of the policy. The study did not focus on the material capability of the schools, but explored the behavioural aspects of teachers towards the language policy and its connotations. Qualitative research method was used for the study. The study comprised sixteen (16) participants that were conveniently selected from four schools (two from rural areas and two from urban areas) in the eThekwini municipality. The research found that the timing of the proposed compulsory vernacular was fundamentally untimely and premature. However some respondents were willing to implement the policy as they felt it was the right thing to do. On the issue of discretion/autonomy, the study found that teachers’ discretion was only dependent on the extent to which the policy is subtle in its guidelines. This meant that the policy was likely to be implemented on the basis of contextual factors rather than strict policy specifications. The study therefore recommends that the DBE must ensure that stricter policy guidelines are followed during all implementation phases.
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