Medium of instruction as determinant of student throughput at the Vaal University of Technology
Erasmus, Magdalena Rynette
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This research study deals mainly with the influence of the medium of instruction on throughput at the Vaal University of Technology. The underlying hypothesis driving this research, is that learners at the Vaal University of Technology will tend to underachieve during their period of study, largely because the medium of instruction and assessment is not their first language, but a second or even a third language. The assertion is that learners on tertiary level can only perform academically well if they have gained a certain level of competency in their mother tongue, to ease the difficult process of acquiring the second language English, which is the main medium of instruction at the VUT. For most human beings language is the medium through which knowledge is transferred or negotiated. The success of this interaction is determined by the effectiveness of communication. Thus it would be fair to say, that if the means of communication is inappropriate, there will be little or no language transfer. Further, it seems logical that before any other considerations are made with regard to teaching and learning, the instrument which enables this interaction should first be in place. The research aims are: to determine the influence of a second language as medium of instruction on academic performance, to establish the nature of the support system which might facilitate the advancement of learners not prepared for the academic demands of university, to determine what can be done to address the problem and provide possible recommendations for improved academic performance. In order to attain the abovementioned research aims, a literature review and an empirical investigation were undertaken. The literature study discussed the role which the medium of instruction has played in the history of South African Education. The South African Language Policy, before and after 1994, was then reviewed. Parent and learner choice in respect of the choice of medium of instruction was then considered. The findings of the empirical study have shown that the medium of instruction has a remarkable influence on learners' proficiency and eventual performance in their content subjects. The empirical research was conducted by using a questionnaire in order to obtain data on relevant variables as indicated by the literature study, as well as identify barriers perceived by students that hamper their academic progress. Descriptive statistics, such as frequencies, were used to summarize the data. Marks from the compulsory language test at the institution were also taken into account in order to establish learners' English language proficiency. This data, together with students' marks, were interpreted in the empirical analysis. The target population for this study consisted of L1 and L2 students who registered in 2004 and will have completed their studies in 2006, as well as students having completed in 2007. The population consisted of both female and male students from the Faculty of Visual Arts and Design. In the last chapter, Chapter 6, conclusions from the literature review and empirical investigation were drawn. Recommendations for further research were provided which stressed the need for developing an appropriate training course for L2MI (Second Language Medium of Instruction) content subject teachers. Effective training in L2MI is one of the most important factors in improving the level of academic literacy in South African learners.
- ETD@Vaal Triangle Campus