The impact of language of instructuion and gender on the acquisition of English as a second language

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The language policy of schools in Namibia states that learners should receive instruction in their mother tongue during the first three years of their primary school education (Ministry of Education and Culture, 1993).The multilingual nature of Namibia results in the notion of mother tongue medium of instruction not to be implemented effectively. Therefore some schools have English as medium of instruction from grade one (Wolfaardt, 2004) and this could result in the neglect of the mother tongue
It is important to investigate the influence that the neglect of mother tongue medium of instruction will have on the learners' proficiency in the second language. This study was conducted to find out if there is a difference in English Second Language performance in grade five of those Afrikaans speaking learners who received mother tongue instruction during the first three years of formal education as opposed to those that received instruction through English. The areas in which there are differences in the two groups' performance were also investigated. The Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) report (2004)suggested that the ability of grade six learners to read is very low in Namibia and these results are a reason for concern. The assumption might be that the neglect of mother tongue instruction can partly be the reason for these poor grade six results. Currently, there is a decline in the performance of English as a Second Language results in grade twelve (Ministry of Basic Education Sport and Culture, 2008) and this might partly be as a result of a language deficiency that has occurred in the primary school. Therefore recommendations need to be made and implemented that are research based for the rectification of this problem
Furthermore, there are various biological and social factors that constitute for differences in performance between males and females. These differences can also influence the academic performance of learners, especially their rate of academic success. According to Swann (1992), girls tend to have a greater verbal ability than boys. This verbal ability includes word fluency, grammar, spelling, vocabulary and reading. The researcher also investigated the difference in language performance for boys and girls
In this study a Quantitative approach was employed. The research is based on a Causal-Comparative design. The researcher tested proficiency through a number of tests: a vocabulary test, a syntax test and an oral communication test that was an interview with each participant. The sample included two schools: in Windhoek that offered a two language curriculum. A total of 70 learners were part of the study of which 35 learners were taken from each school. The learners at each school were further divided into, learners that had Afrikaans as a medium of instruction from grade one to three and learners that started with English as medium of instruction from grade one. The schools were selected through purposive sampling. A pilot study was conducted before the actual study
In the final study, the findings for the language groups were not statistically significant, however, the English medium of instruction participants performed better than the Afrikaans medium of instruction participants in all three tests. The findings for the vocabulary test for girls and boys were not statistically significant, but the findings for the syntax and oral communication tests were statistically significant. Clear trends were demonstrated in the study but further research is needed before any solid conclusions can be made about the influence of the neglect of mother tongue instruction
A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Education(Literacy and Learning)
Bilingualism in children, Education bilingual