Theory and practice in second language syllabus design

Johann L. Van der Wait


The syllabus is an essential factor in the achievement of communicative competence in
second language teaching. Various proposals for syllabus design have been made, ranging
from product to process syllabuses. Their theoretical bases and the practical constraints
which influence them are discussed. The product syllabus is a formal statement of the end
product, and has been criticized mainly because it cannot account for communicative
competence in the syllabus design itself and because it may encourage a step-by-step
teaching procedure. The process syllabus attempts to address learning procedures and is
concerned with learning experiences and the negotiation of meaning. This approach is also
not without its critics. But practical factors such as administrative requirements, teacher
capacity and learner differences constrain the syllabus design. It is concluded that a process
syllabus which specifies the classroom activities in much more detail than has been the case
so far, and which contains product elements to accommodate some of the constraints, is likely
to realize the aim of communicative competence.
Die sill ab us is 'n belangrike element in die bereiking van kommunikatiewe vaardigheid in
tweedetaalonderrig. Verskeie voorstelle vir die ontwerp van sillabusse is reeds gedoen, en
strek vanafproduk- tot prosessillabusse. Die teoretiese basis van hierdie sillabusse sowel as
die praktiese beperkinge wat hulle bei"nvloed, word bespreek. Die produksillabus is' nformele
verklaring van die eindproduk, en word vera/ gekritiseer omdat dit nie rekenskap kan
gee van kommunikatiewe vaardigheid in die sillabusontwerp self nie, en omdat dit aanleiding
kan gee tot' n stap-vir-stap onderrigbenadering. Die prosessillabus poog om die leerproses
in ag te neem en leerervarings te spesifiseer, en beklemtoon die onderhandeling van betekenis.
Hierdie benadering is ook nie sonder sy kritici nie. Maar praktiesefaktore soos administratiewe
vereistes, onderwyserbevoegdheid en verskille tussen leerders, het' n beperkende
invloed op die ontwerp van die sillabus. Die gevolgtrekking word gemaak dat 'n prosessillabus
wat die klaskameraktiwiteite in baie meer detail spesifiseer as wat tot nou toe die
geval was, en wat produkelemente bevat om sommige van die praktiese beperkings te akkommodeer,
die doelstelling van kommunikatiese vaardigheid waarskynlik die beste kan realiseer.

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

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