Outcomes-Based Education in the English Second Language Classroom in South Africa

Article excerpt

The re-birth of South Africa in 1994 has brought the implementation of effective educational policies. Simultaneously, the Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) approach has been introduced to advance the teaching and learning of the Learning areas in schools in South Africa. This article focuses on the learning of English as a Second Language (ESL) in Grade eight. The focus is furthermore on schools from the Black township areas, called "previously disadvantaged schools". The introduction of OBE in South Africa heralds an era of meaningful teaching. The use of OBE strives to root out the last vestiges of Apartheid education. With an OBE approach, teaching and learning activities have the aim of empowering learners to succeed in the real life after leaving school. One of the main aims of using a language, for example English, is to develop communicative competence. Communicative competence is the ability to linguistically apply the language correctly in authentic situations. English though is the first language of only 9% of South African citizens (Van der Merwe & Van Niekerk, 1994). The qualitative research method was employed for this study, using semi-structured interviews and observations as research tools. The research study on ESL teaching and learning for Grade eight classes has shown that deficiencies and ineffectiveness occur in most of the classrooms. The findings confirm that Grade eight ESL learners experience problems with ESL due to insufficient use of advanced strategies for teaching and learning by the educators. Key words: English Second Language, ESL Classrooms, and Outcomes-Based Education

Introduction

According to Kilfoil and Van der Walt (1997), the OBE approach promotes the effective use and integration of various teaching and learning strategies by the educator, as well as the learners. The use of the OBE approach in English Second Language (ESL) classrooms aims to develop learners' competency and the ability to use English in authentic situations, such as during formal and informal conversations. Heugh, Siergruhn and Pluddermann (1995) point out that educators and learners in the ESL classroom are involved in the communicative process when using strategies such as direct instruction, discussion, group work, co-operative learning, problem solving, learner research and performance activities effectively. Educators need to integrate these strategies in ESL teaching and learning. The language skills of writing, listening, reading and speaking are needed by ESL learners in order to complete the task-based activities that forms part of the OBE approach. Learners in the Grade eight ESL classroom are to be given the opportunity to be actively involved in task-based activities such as debates, discussions and problem solving.

According to Leamnson (1999), learners verbalise thoughts via inventive language. Inventive language is when the ESL educator aims to activate the language senses of the learners in order to enforce verbal thought. This may lead learners to engage in activities that aim to improve English language skills. Such activities help to convert "fuzzy associations" in the brain into "firm verbalised ideas" (Leamnson, 1999, p. 116). Through participation in the ESL learning activities, learners become actively involved in their own learning.

Killen (1998) points out that teaching and learning strategies describe the ways in which educators apply skills, techniques and styles. Educators need to apply a variety of teaching strategies to allow learners to demonstrate the learning they have mastered. One such strategy is where learners engage collaboratively in pairs or groups in order to enhance the acquisition of ESL. The ESL educator should guide the process while learners provide outputs such as dialogues, role-plays and games. Such activities provide learners with opportunities to speak, listen, write and read (Storti, 1990). For instance, grammar knowledge involves not only the learning of certain set rules, but also entails learning how to manipulate language devices well in conveying certain meanings. …