Multilingualism in Namibian Education

My PhD study is about language-in-education policy and multilingual education in Namibian basic education. Though Namibia has only one official language, English, it is linguistically diverse and multilingual. According to the official language policy in schools, the language of instruction during the first three years (Grades 1-3) is the home language of the pupil. From Grade 4 onward, the language of instruction changes into English. The policy has not proved to be entirely successful, as the dropout rates are relatively high, and the learning outcomes could be better. The language of instruction is not the only to blame, but it has its disadvantages, as English is a foreign language for most of the Namibian learners.

In my study, I intend to obtain data about the teaching methods of Grade 4 teachers as well as the attitudes of teachers toward multilingual education through observations and interviews. Some multilingual practices, such as code switching or code mixing in class, have been earlier considered negative. According to the latest views in the field, though, learners benefit from multilingual approaches that make use of their entire linguistic repertoire. Namibian learners need to be proficient in both the official language and their home language. A more multilingual approach to teaching, allowing a flexible use of several languages alongside English, would value and develop both languages and thus fulfil better the twofold aims of the language policy of promoting the local languages and cultures and of making all the citizens proficient in the official language.

I came to Namibia in the beginning of January 2020 for a data collection period. After the collection and analysis of the data, it will be possible to design a training module, in collaboration with Namibian educationalists, for teachers who work in multilingual environments. I am also affiliated with the UNAM Department of Education and work together with their personnel.