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South African Journal of Childhood Education

On-line version ISSN 2223-7682
Print version ISSN 2223-7674


VAN STADEN, Surette; BOSKER, Roel  and  BERGBAUER, Annika. Differences in achievement between home language and language of learning in South Africa: Evidence from prePIRLS 2011. SAJCE [online]. 2016, vol.6, n.1, pp.1-10. ISSN 2223-7682.

This study utilised regression methods to explain Grade 4 reading literacy achievement taking into account discrepancies between the language of the test and home language for learners who participated in the South African preProgress in International Reading Literacy Study (prePIRLS) 2011. Grade 4 learners were tested across all 11 official languages. The language of testing did not always coincide with the learner's home language; therefore, prePIRLS 2011 test results reveal achievement for learners who in many cases did the test in a second or third language. Results from the current analyses show that testing in African languages predicts significantly lower results as compared to English, but that exponentially worse results by as much as 0.29 points lower of a standard deviation can be expected when the African language of the test did not coincide with the learners' home language. Findings from the current study provide evidence that African children stand to be disadvantaged the most when a strong mother tongue base has not been developed and when education for children between Grade 1 and 3 is only available through a medium of instruction other than the mother tongue. Evidence that exposure to a language that at least shares linguistic similarities to the home language could have a positive effect.

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