Intermediate Phase Mathematics teachers’ linguistic proficiency in the Language of Learning and Teaching: The Eastern Cape Province

Michael Lucien Le Cordeur, Lindiwe Tshuma


The South African Language in Education Policy (LiEP) stipulates the use of English or Afrikaans as a language of instruction in the upper primary school, after mother-tongue instruction in the lower primary school. Educational research confirms that English is used as the official Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT) by 90% of the learners in public schools in the country. These learners are multilingual, thus, they are also English Language Learners (ELLs). The aim of the article is to analyse the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE) Intermediate Phase (IP) mathematics teachers’ language proficiency in English, the prescribed LoLT. This article is generally informed by Cummins’s work and particularly informed by the socio-–psycho-linguistics theory. A standardised teacher English language proficiency assessment piloted in five South African universities was administered on 55 Intermediate Phase (IP) mathematics teachers purposefully selected from 16 education districts in the ECDoE. Data were quantitatively and qualitatively analysed. Results show that teachers’ language ability in English, is very low and the IP teachers who are not proficient in the language of instruction are likely to compromise the quality of mathematics instruction.  Since study participants are qualified practicing teachers, this article concludes that the onus is on teacher education institutions to linguistically prepare IP mathematics teachers adequately.


Mathematics, reading, mother tongue education, Eastern Cape.

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

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