Malcolm Venter

    The final version of the CAPS for English Home Language in the FET Phase has done away with a separate language paper in the formal examinations.  Instead this has been incorporated with the Literature Paper and reduced to a mere 50 marks.

    This has serious implications for English teaching. We all know that teachers teach to the final examination. This means effectively that language (comprehension, summary, language structure and usage) will be neglected- and especially language structure and usage, as the summary counts 10 and the comprehension and language usage section together totals to 40  – most probably 30 + 10.  Which teacher is going to spend much time on teaching  language structure for a mere 10 marks? This means that 10 marks will cover spelling, punctuation, formal grammar, correct grammar, critical awareness, register, direct and indirect speech, abbreviations, acronyms, active and passive mood, etc!

    This is a radical deviation from a long-standing tradition – something which should not be done lightly and without consultation, and something which, like the sudden introduction of OBE, will be regretted in time to come.

    Add to this the fact that the CAPS advocates that there should be no separate ‘language’ lessons – all should be taught incidentally through reading, writing, speaking and studying literature – and one realises that one has a recipe for disaster on one’s hands. Either these will not be taught because they are not included in the biweekly lesson plan, or they will be taught badly, in an ad hoc manner with no logical progression of knowledge. Furthermore, who wants to stop in the middle of a challenging poem and teach apostrophes or nouns or the subjunctive mood?  That would be the best way to get learners to loathe language teaching and would spoil the whole atmosphere of the literature lesson.  (This does not preclude referring to terms and concepts that might have been taught in a language lesson.)

    It will not help if it is argued that these things will be taught – and maybe examined – lower down. One cannot expect that, by Grade 9, learners will have grasped all that needs to be grasped – and at a deep level of understanding.

    If one then considers that those who matriculate under this system and go on to become language teachers will, in most cases, study only literature at a tertiary level, one is faced with the situation where language teachers are meant to teach language concepts with a Grade 9 level of knowledge. (This is already largely the case – and in future it will be even worse.)

    The decision is disturbing and should be reconsidered.

    Categories: Issue II