An Investigation into the Correlation Between Afrikaans Mother Tongue Education and School Achievement

Author: Seymour Isaac Bothman (University of South Africa, South Africa)
Speaker: Seymour Isaac Bothman
Topic: Pedagogical Anthropology
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Currently the issue of mother tongue education in South African school communities is a highly contentious matter in the education sector. There is international and national research that indicates the important role that mother tongue education plays in the early school years (Alexander (1998); Alexander (1990); Heugh (2000); Makoni (1998); Baker (1988); Baker & Garcia (1996); Cummins (1984); Krashen (1996); Liddicoat (1991) and Skutnabb-Kangas & Cummins (1988). Despite mother tongue education being regarded as an important guarantee for academic success it
cannot be perceived as the only determining factor for the academic performances of learners.
The focus of the research is to investigate why mother tongue Afrikaans speakers from previously disadvantaged school communities struggle to achieve academic success. The investigation aims to determine the exact relationship between mother tongue education and variables in the education and learning practice. According to Webb (2006), Plüddeman (2006) & Taylor (2013) the arguments related to the medium of education are not properly calculated in school practice.
The goals of the research are:
a) To establish what the most important characteristics of successful schools are. b) To establish what the role of mother-tongue education is and to which degree it should be studied in an integrated way with other factors of school performance. c) To establish how mother-tongue education appears in different school contexts. d) To establish the school practices and teaching methods that will enhance academic performance. e) To produce purposeful recommendations according to the findings which can enhance school performance in this context.
The theoretical lens of the investigation is the starting point of Apple (1979), Bordieu (1984) Bernstein (1977), Bowles & Gintis (1976), en Willis (1977). They focus on determining the relationship between theories and how they are visible in school practice. The language theories of Vygotsky (1978) and Cummins (2008) was also studied to determine the nature and importance of mother tongue education and academic achievement in schools.
The transformative, mixed researcher’s task is to consider the historical, class and racial influences and relationships that exist between the researcher and participants. The same applies to the nature of the knowledge that is produced. Barnes (2019) argues that the use of a transformative, mixed research method can bring forth richer insights that only qualitative or quantitative research can bring forth. To collect the research instruments for the quantitative and qualitative research, questionnaires and interviews were used respectively. Questionnaires (Likert scale) were given to grade 11 learners from four schools in the Overberg Education District in the Western Cape and semi-structured interviews were conducted with the four school management teams.
A transformative, mixed research method (quantitative and qualitative investigations) were used to determine the effects of the interaction of mother tongue education and other factors in the four schools, as well as theoretical premises of the reproduction theorists such as Apple (1979), Bordieu (1984), Berstein (1977) as well as Bowles en Gintis (1976) that have taken hold in these schools.
From the study it emerges that the most important causes that lead to learners performing poorly are as follows: a lack of reading comprehension, a lack of teamwork, low morale amongst the teachers, overcrowded classrooms, the tardiness in submitting assessments as well as the poor quality of the assessments, and the tardiness in respect of latecomers. From the investigation it is evident that the contextual factors in which mother-tongue education takes place cannot be completely ignored. Those factors contribute to the fact that the schools cannot always perform as desired because those aspects determine to a large extent how the schools will perform and the interaction between mother tongue education and the other factors in disadvantaged schools cannot be disregarded.

Keywords: mother tongue education; academic achievement, school curriculum; socio-economic circumstances; social welfare circumstances; teaching and learning.