n South African Journal of Higher Education - 'Equity of access' and 'equity of outcomes' challenged by language policy, politics and practice in South African higher education : the myth of language equality in education : perspectives on higher education

Volume 18, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



The state institutionalised political effort to unravel the oppressive historical development of European languages, which earned these languages, particularly English, elitist positions in educational, political, economic, social, technological and religious public domains (Cele 2001), spans the current language policy of South Africa. In spite of the legitimacy of social redress policy, policy-bound, hurried attempts at redressing cultural injustices lived through language inequalities have led to the creation of policy pronouncements that oversimplified and unjustifiably underscored the role of English in education. The danger of that genre of policymaking framework is that it continues to blame the underprivileged for failing to take advantage of, and comply with, policy, exonerating the state from being pragmatically interventionist through planning and resourcing beyond policy glamorisation. This article (1) presents a critical reflection and commentary on the language policy of South Africa informed by practical realities of education and training in South Africa, and (2) critically analyses a path that indigenous languages should pursue in both the public and private domains. These two levels of analysis are based on two paradigms: (1) education and training for `globalised' economic emancipation and (2) education and training for public good. It is not the intention of this article to draw a clear dichotomy between these two paradigms, but to forge and infuse a parallel development dimension of core existence, particularly in the handling of language development implications encoded in the language policy. This article forges an insightful analysis of the South African language policy by contrasting policy intentions and implication with practical realities that are here to stay. It also seeks to explore and challenge the marginalisation of English in policy, and policy failure to decolonise South African English(es) for public good and economic emancipation of South African societies. The article concludes the argument with a call for a contextualised development of indigenous languages which is free of language clustering. It also asserts in conclusion that a balance between economic emancipation and public good should be created by accepting and Africanising English while developing all indigenous languages parallel to English.

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