South Africa: New language policies in schools come up against costs, feasibility and the fate of Afrikaans

A review of basic education legislation will change the way language policies are applied in schools. A bill pushing for multilingualism has not been universally welcomed.

Amendments to two Education Acts of Parliament will change the way public school language policies are set.

The Basic Education (Bela) Amendment Act Bill seeks to amend the South African Schools Act 1996 (SASA) and the Educators Employment Act 1998 (EEA).

The Bela bill took five years to develop, with a draft presented to parliament in 2017.

It intends to reconcile SASA and EEA with changes in the educational landscape and improve the quality of basic education.

While the bill is a review of all laws governing basic education, it has drawn attention to the implications for language policies and the control the government will have over them. Currently, the control rests with the governing bodies of the school.

Unlike higher education, which has undergone two reviews and published its Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education in 2020, this is the first time that the Department of Basic Education has reviewed the language policy in schools since the 1997 policy on language in education.

Catching up with higher education, the clauses of the Bela bill push…

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