The language of education policy: implementation, practice and learning outcomes in Zambia, Namibia and Norway

Author(s): Mostert, Louise; Wikan, Gerd; Banda, Dennis

Organisation(s): University of Namibia; Hedmark University College (Norway); University of Zambia

Date: 2012

Pages: 39 p.

Serie: Oppdragsrapport

Series Volume: 2


In this document are presented the findings of a pilot study conducted in Zambia, Namibia and Norway during August and September 2011. The aim was to enhance the information basis and therefore the authors opted to do an explorative case study. The study focused on a few multilingual schools in each country. The intention was to broadly explore the language of instruction situation and possible challenges in each of the sampled schools. More specific the main objective was an exploration of the different language policies of education: Implementation, practice and learning outcomes in Zambia, Namibia and Norway. The language policy differs substantially between the three countries. In Zambia the language of instruction is English from grade 1. However, since the new education act in 1996 the language for initial literacy is one of seven official Zambian languages. The latter is offered only for initial literacy during the daily literacy hour. The rest of the subjects in schools are taught in English throughout the education system. In Norway there is a different language policy for immigrant minorities and for indigenous population, the Sami people. The latter has Sami as language of instruction and as language for initial literacy in primary and lower secondary schools. For immigrant minorities Norwegian is the language of instruction and also the language of initial literacy. However, they are entitled to special tuition and some mother tongue instruction, bilingual subject instruction or both. In Namibia the language of instruction and language of initial literacy is mother tongue at the lower primary level. English is the official language; and it is introduced as a subject in lower primary. Grade 4 is seen as a transitional year after which English is the medium of instruction for all subjects. Even though the language policies differ some of the challenges are the same. The main problems are that learners cannot read, talk or comprehend the official language on an acceptable level and many learners are functionally illiterate. Two fundamental questions might be asked: Is it the language policy that is wrong or is it the implementation of the language policy that is imperfect?

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