Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Can Code Switching Enhance Learners' Academic Achievement?

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Can Code Switching Enhance Learners' Academic Achievement?

Article excerpt


There has been a high failure rate of Grade 10 leamersin the year end examinations in the Caprivi Education Region of Namibia over a number of years. The objective of this study was to investigate whether the use of mother tongue in English medium classrooms enhanced learners' academic achievement.The study investigated 12 teachers at 12 schools in the Caprivi Education Region. The study found that teachers perceived Code Switching as enhancing academic achievement because it enhanced learners' learning of the English language, improved the way learners answered questions, and that it enhanced teaching and learning of English as a second language. It is believed that learners would be actively involved in their learning, understand the subject matter better and the difficult English concepts would be better interpreted by learners in the language that they fully understand.

Keywords: code switching, medium of instmction, academic achievement, participatory democracy, language proficiency

1. Introduction and Background

Fantini (1985), Genishi (1981) and Huerta (1980) argue that Code Switching should not be seen as a handicap, but rather as an opportunity for children's language development. McClune and Wentz (1975) and Poplack (1981) maintain that Code Switching is good for negotiations between participants about the nature and the form of the interaction, which, in most cases, are explicitly revealed by conversation cues, social roles and norms, setting, topic of discussion and perceived status of the interactants. Zentella's (1978) study revealed that children code switched in both oral discourse and written form in order to communicate in an effective way and that parents' Code Switching could be used as a stimulus for further development of children's home language in the home context. Aguirre (1988), Hudelson (1983) and Olmedo-Williams (1983) found Code Switching to be an effective teaching and communicative technique which could be used among bilingual learners. Ahmad and Jusoff (2009) results revealed that learners had a positive perception about their teachers' Code Switching in English Language Teaching.

After independence in 1990, the Namibian educational system advocated participatory democracy in schools, not only in the classrooms, but also outside the classrooms. The new educational system focused on encouraging and recording achievement rather than failure. It advanced the teaching of English as a subject and the use of English as medium of instmction (Ministry of Education and Culture, 1992). The change in the education system meant a change in the language of instmction in schools from Afrikaans medium of instmction in 1990. It must be noted here that prior to independence the majority part of the country used Afrikaans as medium of instmction, while others (Caprivi and Owamboland) used English.

In support of the change in medium of instmction, the Ministry of Education (2007) states that "the overall aim of the teaching of English as a Second Language in Namibian schools is the development of the learners' communicative skills for meaningful instmction in a multi-lingual and multi-cultural society" (p. 3). Specific historical circumstances have led to these distinctive educational choices and second language provisions in the Namibian schools.

Tthe majority of Namibian learners enter junior secondary schools where English is the only medium of instruction with a huge difference between the English vocabularies they know and the English vocabularies they need to master the content subjects in junior secondary schools, this therefore poses a challenge to both teachers and learners. English only classrooms demand from learners to use a special kind of language for learning purposes. Cummins (2000, p. 67) asserts that, "in the context of schooling, discussions to greater or lesser degrees depend on language proficiency or adequacy of an individual's proficiency. …

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