n Education as Change - Evaluation of a South African university's language policy

Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1682-3206
  • E-ISSN: 1947-9417
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There are strong calls for the use of the first language and for a multilingual approach to language in higher education in South Africa. There are a variety of reasons why it is a highly complex exercise to devise and implement a language policy at an institutional level, especially if it is based on unitary notions of language and groups of people. A policy emphasizing the value of multilingualism and endorsing the value of Afrikaans as default language of learning and teaching was implemented at Stellenbosch University in 2004. This article reports on a formative evaluation study of the experience of its first-year. The research design was multileveled, focusing on responses of lecturers, administrative staff, first year students and faculty learning and teaching committee members. The study made use mainly of the survey approach. The analysis of the results showed a varied response to the policy, with strong endorsement for the use of Afrikaans, especially amongst the first-year students. The various responses were shown to vary strongly according to biographical indicators for respondents. The case study questions the dominance of linguistic rights and the human right of participation in educational processes. The research considers whether it is reasonable to expect one policy to be able to deliver to a wide spectrum of interest groups, with a widely varying set of priorities. It presents a principled approach to multilingualism as a useful approach for the future.

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