FAR FROM THE CITY LIGHTS: ENGLISH READING PERFORMANCE OF ESL LEARNERS IN DIFFERENT TYPES OF RURAL PRIMARY SCHOOL

Eleanor Lemmer, Tintswalo Manyike

Abstract


In this paper, the findings of a research study, in which the English reading performances of Grade 7 English Second Language (ESL) learners in four different types of rural primary school which use English as the language of learning and teaching (LoLT) were observed, are examined and how poor scores can be partly explained by the social context of learners and schools is explored. Although the Language in Education Policy in South Africa seeks to distribute and maintain the linguistic capital of the official languages through its support of multilingualism, the predominant preference for English as the LoLT in schooling disadvantages most ESL learners and perpetuates inequality in learner outcomes. This situation is exacerbated in certain school contexts such as those in rural settings. Bourdieu’s theory of linguistic capital and Coleman’s distinction between school social capital and home social capital are used as theoretical frameworks to the empirical inquiry undertaken in this study. The findings indicate a difference in the grammar and comprehension scores of learners in the respective participating schools as well as a sharp difference in the performance of learners in the different types of school involved. This suggests the current use of English as the LoLT does not mean that linguistic capital is equally distributed throughout schools. School type can thus act as an agent of cultural reproduction which influences learner outcomes.


Keywords


Linguistic capital; social capital theories; English as LoLT; rural schools; standardised testing; English reading performance; ESL Grade 7 learners

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5785/28-1-117

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ISSN 2224-0012 (online); ISSN 0259-2312 (print)

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