Policy, practice, purpose: the text-based approach in contemporary South African EFAL classrooms

  • Ntombi Mohlabi-Tlaka University of South Africa
  • Lizette de Jager
  • Alta Engelbrecht
Keywords: Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement, communicative competence, First Additional Language, objective, teaching practice, text-based approach


Curriculum implementation ought to be considered the main driving force for achieving the envisaged teaching and learning objectives. However, a major gap seems to exist between curriculum stipulations and actual classroom practice in many disadvantaged South African public schools. The CAPS prescribes both text-based and communicative approaches for English FAL and provides a description of the text-based approach, including several teaching guidelines. The authors believe that this form of prescriptiveness is advantageous as similar operational standards are given across the board. This article presents an account of a doctoral study that explored text-based teaching for communicative competence in Grade 4 in three public schools that offer English to learners whose mother tongue is not English. The study, which adhered to research ethical standards, intended to narrow the existing gap by interrogating curriculum knowledge and practice of the prescribed EFAL approach within a specific context. While the research did not intend to investigate the departmental language intervention strategy implemented during the period, empirical evidence revealed that the execution of the text-based approach was fundamentally influenced by the strategy. Whereas the participants acclaimed the text-based approach, they had limited knowledge and understanding of curriculum matters and the prescribed approach. Due to contextual limitations, the results were not to be generalised. Recommendations for future research on policy development and implementation were put forward.

Author Biographies

Ntombi Mohlabi-Tlaka, University of South Africa
Ntombi Mohlabi-Tlaka holds a NRF supported PhD in Humanities Education (UP). Her thesis, The contribution of a text-based approach to English education for communicative competence, interrogated curriculum implementation, bringing critical matters that affect EFAL teaching to the fore. The thesis received a Research Indaba 2016 award sponsored by Bookmark for exceptional completed PhD. She is currently a lecturer at Unisa in the Department of English Studies.
Lizette de Jager
Lizette J. de Jager holds a PhD in Curriculum and Instructional Design and Development (UP). In her thesis, Misunderstanding in second language instructional communication, she explored the nature and consequences of misunderstandings identified in authentic lesson presentations of pre-service teachers who used English L2 as the medium of instruction, for which she received the award for best scholarly engagement at PhD level at the Research Indaba of the Faculty of Education (2012). She is currently a lecturer in English Literature and Grammar, and English Methodology in the Department of Humanities Education at the University of Pretoria.
Alta Engelbrecht
Alta Engelbrecht holds a PhD (UP) in curriculum studies and is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria. She mainly works in the focus area of power, reform, change and continuity in education. She has published extensively in the fields of stereotyping and textbooks. She currently teaches Afrikaans methodology to undergraduate students. Four PhD and two M.Ed. students have graduated under her supervision.