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

Keywords: Public school, private school, oral proficiency, education


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.

Author Biographies

Lina Vukosi
Lina Vukosi is a lecturer at TUT and she is currently working on her doctoral study. Her field of interest is teaching at school and language matters. She is the main author of the study as the work was published from her Master’s.
Corle Gertruida Smith, TUT
Department of Applied languagesTUT
Eunice Rautenbach
Eunice Rautenbach lectured at TUT and is currently self-employed; she is interested in linguistics and qualitative research. She was the co-supervisor of the study.
Gary Collins
Gary Collins is interested in English and technology and is the HOD of the Department of Applied Languages at TUT.