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‘Language may not limit access to learning opportunities’ – SU management
Author: Korporatiewe Bemarking
Published: 12/11/2015


"Language should be used in a way that is oriented towards engagement with knowledge in a diverse society and to ensure equitable access to learning and teaching opportunities for all students. Since English is the common language in South Africa, all learning should be facilitated in at least English to ensure no exclusion due to language. The University remains committed to the further development of Afrikaans and isiXhosa as academic languages."

These are some of the principles included as points of departure in a statement (copy below) on language implementation issued by the Stellenbosch University Management today (Thursday 12 November 2015). The statement outlines some principles and sets the tone for the way forward, and forms part of an on-going consultation and communication process with the broad campus community and other stakeholders.

The statement is a synthesis of Management's insights gained since May this year from lived experiences and input from the student community on the Language Policy and language implementation. It was discussed at a meeting called with Senate, after discussions with the Students' Representative Council and Deans of faculties earlier this week.

The status of the RMT statement is that of a discussion document. The Statute of the University prescribes that Council determines the Language Policy with the concurrence of Senate. For any proposed changes to the current Language Policy, proposals will have to be tabled at a formal Senate meeting before being submitted to Council. It is unlikely that such a process can still be completed in 2015.

Some points of departure in the statement include the objective to use language in a way that is oriented towards engagement with knowledge in a diverse society and to ensure equitable access to learning and teaching opportunities for all students. Since English is the common language in South Africa, all learning should be facilitated in at least English to ensure no exclusion due to language. This does not imply the abandonment of Afrikaans as language of learning and teaching at Stellenbosch University. The University remains committed to the further development of Afrikaans and isiXhosa as academic languages.

This year was the first implementation opportunity after the Language Policy and Plan was adapted in November 2014 to give equal status to Afrikaans and English as languages of tuition. The objective with these changes was to ensure equitable access to Stellenbosch University for all South Africans, as set out in our vision of inclusivity described in the Institutional Intent and Strategy. The points of departure expressed in the statement is based on the lessons learnt this year and students' practical classroom experiences after consultation with various student groups, including but not limited to the SRc, Open Stellenbosch, SASCO and the Student Parliament. 

For 2016 the implementation of parallel-medium teaching (separate English and Afrikaans classes) for modules with large enrolment numbers as envisioned in the current Language Plan, will be drastically accelerated. At today's Senate discussion departments were reminded of the prevailing guideline in the Language Plan that due consideration should be given to support mechanisms for those students who are not sufficiently proficient in either English or Afrikaans, especially in smaller class groups where parallel medium teaching is not feasible. 

Statement by the Rector's Management Team on the Language Policy and the implementation of language at the institution

12 November 2015

The Rector's Management Team (RMT) has been in discussion with various student groups over the past months on, among others, Stellenbosch University's Language Policy, the Language Plan and language implementation. Based on feedback related to classroom experiences and input from Open Stellenbosch, the SRC, SASCO, and the Student Parliament, language task teams have since been considering various options for, among others, best practice in language implementation in 2016. The following principles, as points of departure related to the Language Policy and language implementation, are supported by the Rector's Management Team. In this regard, we would like to acknowledge the distinctive contribution of the Open Stellenbosch Collective in the most recent discussions to ensure that language implementation does not form a barrier in the way of access to learning opportunities at Stellenbosch University or the successful completion of academic programmes. 

At Stellenbosch University we intend using language in a way that is oriented towards engagement with knowledge in a diverse society and to ensure equitable access to learning and teaching opportunities for all students.

Since English is the common language[1] in South Africa, all learning at Stellenbosch University will be facilitated in English, and substantial academic support will be provided in other South African languages, according to students' needs. At the same time, by means of its Language Policy and Language Plan, the University is committed to the creation of spaces within which English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa and other languages can flourish. In particular, the University remains committed to the further development of Afrikaans and isiXhosa as academic languages.

For modules with large enrolment numbers, which are divided for pedagogical reasons or because of the size limits of available lecture venues, the University shall keep on expanding parallel-medium instruction in lectures. In smaller class groups all information will be conveyed in English. Additional support in Afrikaans and isiXhosa will be provided in the lecture and/or during the auxiliary, facilitated learning opportunities to assist students' understanding of the academic material. This will depend on the capabilities of the lecturers and teaching assistants. The lecturers will continue to provide presentation material and facilitate assessment in both English and Afrikaans.  As is presently the case, students can answer tests, exams and  assignments in English or Afrikaans.

In residences and other living environments, students should use English as the common language in house meetings and other official functions. Other languages can be used additionally, and mechanisms like interpretation can be employed.

The primary language of communication and administration at Stellenbosch University will be English, with Afrikaans and isiXhosa as additional languages.  The additional languages may not be used to exclude anyone from full participation at the University. This implies that all communication at Stellenbosch University will be in at least English, including meetings, official documents, and services at reception desks and the call centre, etc.

The Rector's Management team will put the above principles as points of departure to the SU Council at its meeting of 30 November 2015. These principles, as points of departure, will be communicated and consulted with Senate, and widely in the broader student and staff communities of the university, as well as with other SU stakeholders. A revised Language Policy and Language Plan, based upon the points of departure articulated in this document, should clearly embrace language diversity at Stellenbosch University and ensure accessibility for staff and students. In the meantime, the points of departure of this document will be applied as from January 2016. Students and staff must have avenues to complain in cases of non-adherence, without the risk of being victimised.

[1] A language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose home languages are different.




Jon LowJon Low2015-11-13T02:04:57ZOnly your mother-tongue is not an impediment to your learning. Any second language, regardless of whether that happens to be English or Afrikaans or isiXhosa anything, will be an obstacle that mother-tongue speakers who are learning will automatically avoid. Most people in the Stellenbosch area -- regardless of skin-colour -- have Afrikaans as their mother-tongue. That MUST be accepted as an unassailable fact in any debate around medium of tuition.
Jannie KirstenJannie Kirsten2015-11-13T07:55:42ZAfrikaans is the main language in the Stellenbosch municipal area, but Stellenbosch University does neither just feed from the Stellenbosch area, nor only serve the Stellenbosch area. I agree that mother tongue education is the best way forward, but it is a huge undertaking that needs to be pushed from the Grade R level in the schooling system. It is simply not a quick, simple solution. The Senate, IF and Council still have a lot of work to do, but there doesn't seem to be much of a choice.
AngieAngie2015-11-13T08:36:16ZThis is a step in the right direction, thank you guys. If this was the case when I was in Stellenbocsh, I would have gotten my degree there, but the language policy made it impossible for me to sucesfully study what I wanted at this institution.
LyntLynt2015-11-13T09:45:14ZSounds reasonable to me.
Adv. John PersensAdv. John Persens2015-11-13T09:52:39ZThe doors of learning has finally opened at Stellenbosch Prof and Open Stellenbosch I salute You.Stellenboshc University is national asset and must cater for all South Africans and not just those in Stellenbosch or the Winelands. Most coloured students and residents from the Western Cape would welcome this decision. I might be a 1 st language Afrikaaps speaker born and bred on the gang infested streets of Mannenberg, but I most definitely do not want teaching and learning in Afrikaans. Viva comrades at open Stellenbosch Viva to Prof de Villiers and his management team Adv.John Persens
Mnr C Victor R HoneyMnr C Victor R Honey2015-11-13T10:13:11ZHierdie verandering van taalbeleid sal sekerlik geen probleem vir stedelike Afrikaanssprekendes wees nie, Maar wat van die meer landelike Afrikaanssprekendes? Sal daar voldoende goeie, bruikbare ondersteuning vir hulle wees? Was die 50/50 beleid nie haalbaar genoeg nie?
Peter SeconnePeter Seconne2015-11-13T10:18:32ZPreviously white only public institutions have largely been allowed to function like private schools,so transformation feels like oppression
E BritzE Britz2015-11-13T11:03:15ZOnaanvaarbaar! Meeste mense praat Afrikaans in die Kaap nou moet hulle, hulle taal opgee in n universiteit wat in die Kaap is. Die bestuur is ruggraadloos!
duaneduane2015-11-13T18:23:50ZMy forefathers fought long and hard with the British to establish afrikaans as a medium of instruction. Disgraceful if you ask me especially given the fact that there are 2 English universities within 60km of stellenbosch
Sam BrownSam Brown2015-11-13T21:38:13ZI just feel so sad that Stellenbosch is signing away a part of their heritage. I have always been so in love with the culture and history of Stellenbosch and would hate to see that be forgotten or destroyed. This image needs to be preserved, and it's heritage and culture celebrated.
NeliswaNeliswa2015-11-14T00:19:39ZA step in the right direction. This public university has the responsibility to educate South Africans from all backrounds, to play an important role in Nation Building. With 11 official languages, using english as the main language is the most practical, inclusive and effective solution. All us 'other' non-english speakers have to compromise so, so can afrikaans speakers. This is the New South Africa.
FundiswaFundiswa2015-11-14T17:39:11ZThanx Stellenbosch management you have made my day. My daughter is now a proud future Matie!!!!!
adriaanadriaan2015-11-14T19:19:42ZThis is no more than repeat of 1976. Forcing English this time onto non-english speakers. All languages in the constitution are equal. Open Stellenbosch is just a different form of Far Right. No tollerance for any one else. As liberal and tolerant Afrikaner I believed we would all allow each other a place to live and strive in. SA. Unfortunatly racist and neo-rightwing groups like OS dont want that.
D. B. ReedD. B. Reed2015-11-15T17:18:10ZThe policy statement by the University says that English is the Common Language in SA. But isn't Afrikaans also? A previous post said that Coloureds would welcome this decision. I wonder. Most Coloureds speak Afrikaans as a first language. This change in policy policy will make it harder for them to study at US, not easier!
Ben LBen L2015-11-19T10:21:16ZSelecting English as primary language with Afrikaans and isiXhosa as additional languages is an excellent decision, because: 1) It enables all students who are not able to study in Afrikaans to attend the University of Stellenbosch. According to Wikipedia (Demographics of South Africa), about 14%-15% of the 10-19 year old age group are White and Coloured. Even if 75% of these two groups would prefer studying in Afrikaans, they would still only constitute 10% of the population of that age group, meaning that 90% of the potential candidates are disadvantaged if they are unable to study in English. This is by its very nature divisive, and such a policy would keep on being perceived as unjust as long as it remains. It is far better to eliminate every obstacle to building a rainbow nation than to spend energy in creating or upholding roadblocks to achieving it. 2) A good command of English is essential to obtain a position in virtually every company in SA, and therefore there are also benefits to people who prefer studying in Afrikaans who may now end up studying in English 3) When I studied at University, many textbooks were only available in English. This resulted in the fact that one had to learn subject specific terminology in both Afrikaans and English, and more importantly, remember the Afrikaans terminology when you were writing exams! This was obviously not too onerous, but not much of an advantage either. I expect that this is still the case today.
GerhardGerhard2015-11-19T12:10:26ZDie bogendoemde taalbeleid lyk heel in orde. Ek sal daarmee kan leef. Soos Duane genoem het - daar is wel universiteite in die Wes-Kaap wat meer Engels georiënteerd is. Dus sal ek graag wil sien dat die Afrikaanse kultuur by Stellenbosch beskerm moet word. Dinge kan meer Engels word, maar moet asseblief net nie wegdoen met die Afrikaans nie. Dit sal 'n fout wees.