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Between Coercion and Choice: English(es) and Multilingual Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Keywords: apartheid , language-in-education , English , South Africa , language planning

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The question of language-in-education policy and specifically the various roles played by English, Afrikaans, and South Africa's nine officially recognized African languages has long caused significant national controversy and is often cited as a precipitating cause for the 1976 Soweto uprising. Apartheid-era policy mandated primary instruction in the 'home' language regardless of parental preference, a legacy that continues to shape how parents and students perceive the range of language-in-education choices available in the 'new' democratic South Africa. This paper combines an examination of policy documents and statistical research treating the transition from racially proscribed education to the democratic era with an analysis of current national and academic debates on language-in-education policy to argue that avoiding the replication of apartheid-era power politics must be a central focus in addressing the desire of previously marginalized parents and students for greater access to effective English-language education.


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