An analysis of learners' spoken English in public and private schools

Lina Vukosi, Corle Gertruida Smith, Eunice Rautenbach, Gary Collins


This study explored the various aspects of Grade 12 English as a first additional language (EFAL) learners’ oral proficiency and compared the different aspects of poor oral achievement in selected public and private schools in Gauteng, South Africa. Furthermore, it investigated reasons for the difference in the level of English oral proficiency of the learners in these schools. The difference in the level of English language proficiency was found to be linked to several sociolinguistic factors and environments that exert an influence on the teaching and learning environment.

The South African learning environment is characterised by multicultural learners who attain English as a FAL. Public schools are state-governed schools and private schools are independent, often found in the CBD and owned by private stakeholders. The private schools are not necessarily elitist or wealthier than public schools in Gauteng which is a densely populated area. Learners’ oral proficiency was compared to determine which environment was perceived to facilitate the desired advanced level of English oral proficiency.

The main question was: Which areas related to the oral English Language proficiency of Grade 12 FET English FAL learners need to be addressed and how does this differ between learners from private and public schools? This study dealt with the learner responses of stakeholders and FET Grade 12 learners in Gauteng in former model-C public schools in Soshanguve and private schools in the CBD of Tshwane. A mixed-methods research approach was followed in order to highlight specific areas and to uncover discrepancies pertaining to poor oral English language proficiency. This is followed by qualitative, semi-structured interview responses to clarify the central focus of the study. The findings also confirmed that a limited vocabulary, due to inadequate exposure to English at home was considered the primary cause of the problem.


Public school, private school, oral proficiency, education

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

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