Teachers need to understand that English First Additional Language (EFAL) learners in South Africa hold positive attitudes about writing in English and want to succeed.
Starting from that understanding, teachers should build on the strong aspirations’ learners have and find ways to develop their writing competence.
This according to Ms Veshika van Dayer who graduated with a Master’s in Education degree cum laude for research that examined Grade 12 EFAL learners’ attitudes toward and competence in writing different text types in English.
‘Building on learners’ attitudes and developing their writing competence will result in EFAL learners moving into their chosen employment or embarking on their preferred further learning, rather than continuing to perpetuate the notions of despair that currently exist,’ said van Dayer.
She said EFAL learners had come under scrutiny for their bleak performance in international benchmark tests designed to assess literacy levels, with one of the aggravating factors identified as writing in English. Writing has been considered the most complex skill to master in the pursuit of proficiency in the language.
She believes her study offers interesting insights to guide curriculum and pedagogical decisions.
Van Dayer’s findings reveal that EFAL learners in South Africa are competent in writing different text types in English, and display positive attitudes toward developing their writing. Any negativity and poor competency in writing in English demonstrated by EFAL learners, are due to linguistic errors, a plight that does not seem impossible to overcome.
‘It appears South Africa is well on its way to producing EFAL speakers who are proficient in English,’ said van Dyer. ‘If the voices of the learners themselves are heard and acted upon by policy developers and writing instructors, the writing specification of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement
(CAPS) can be adjusted to promote more time towards writing in the classroom.’
‘Innovative teaching strategies should be used to eliminate the linguistic barriers which hinder the writing competence of EFAL learners. This can dispel stereotypical notions about the bleak literacy levels of South African EFAL speakers.’
One of the highlights of her study was the data collection process. ‘It was the first time my students were exposed to questionnaires and interviews, and the enthusiasm they displayed left me in awe. They felt a sense of importance and were so pleased I was so interested in their ideas and thoughts about writing.’
Van Dayer thanked her parents Ramesh and Pravitha Mangalparsad, other members of her family, friends, and her supervisor, Professor Ansurie Pillay. ‘Every one of my achievements is for them. They bring out the best in me.’
She plans to complete a PhD in Education and be involved in curriculum development in South Africa.