Updated Session Description
*** Anyone who wants to register for the LAC course can use this link: https://courses.limina.co.za/register/ ***
Original Session Description
In South Africa, up to 75% of learners (Department of Basic Education, 2017) either never or only sometimes speak English at home, yet attend schools where English is the Language of Learning and Teaching (LOLT). The country’s teachers identified teaching in multilingual contexts as one of their greatest needs for professional development (OECD, 2019). A Language Across the Curriculum (LAC) Course was subsequently identified as a national and provincial strategic goal. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and the author collaborated to create the LAC course for teachers across the province. In 2019 the course was included in UNESCO’s Open Education for a Better World Project and thus became part of a global solution. The goal of the LAC course was to provide teachers with the pedagogical tools to teach language skills in their subject areas. In many South African schools learners receive home-language education up to Grade 3 while gaining what Cummins (1979, 2008) refers to as basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) in English. When they reach Grade 4 however, the BICS they gained in English is rarely sufficient to prepare them to develop the cognitive academic language in the many new subjects introduced to them. As a result, learners start falling behind in Grade 4 and constantly battle a moving target as they progress. Despite many interventions since 1994 and challenges to the status quo, the same battle has been raging for generations of learners. An alternative approach employing caring pedagogies and designing diverse communities of inclusion within subject-specific teaching was employed when designing the LAC course.
In this reflective session I present our team’s work in developing the LAC course as an OER. The WCED’s head office team worked closely with the author to each create a module in the LAC course. The goal was for each module to prepare teachers in different subject areas to teach language skills to learners and develop cognitive academic language proficiencies in an online format. A draft iteration was presented at the UNESCO Open Education for a Better World Conference in Slovenia, July 2019 receiving very positive reviews. On the 14 March 2020 the course launches across the Western Cape as part of the provincial Reading Strategy to reach approximately 36 000 teachers in 5 years.
A caring pedagogies approach and the inclusion of subject teachers may hold the key to transforming this complex and generational problem. Previously the language teachers were primarily responsible for teaching language skills, while subject teachers remained mostly on the periphery. In this approach, their inclusion in the academic language development of all learners is significantly enhanced which necessitates the development of their knowledge, competencies and skills at teaching language skills to learners. In turn, a caring pedagogies approach is modelled in the course which, having experienced this first-hand, teachers can practice in their classrooms.
The reflection session will encompass the journey in developing the course, it’s various iterations and implementation, as well as the impact of the caring pedagogies and inclusion approach on the team.
Cummins, J. (1979). Cognitive/Academic Language Proficiency, Linguistic Interdependence, the Optimum Age Question and Some Other Matters. Working Papers on Bilingualism. (No. 19). Toronto. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED184334.pdf
Cummins, J. (2008). BICS and CALP: Empirical and theoretical status of the distinction. In B. Street & N. H. Hornberger (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Education. New York: Springer Science and Business Media. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-30424-3
Department of Basic Education. (2017). The SACMEQ IV Project in South Africa: A Stufy of the Conditions of Schooling and the Quality. Retrieved from http://www.sacmeq.org/sites/default/files/sacmeq/publications/sacmeq_iv_project_in_south_africa_report.pdf
OECD. (2019). TALIS 2018 South Africa Country Note: Teachers and School Principals as lifelong learners.