South Africa’s Quest for Democratic Education through a Language in Education Policy Perspective


The purpose of this paper is to examine how South Africa sought to foster democracy in education through the Language in Education Policy (LiEP) document in the post-apartheid South African education system. The paper begins with a reflective account of the background to democratic education in South Africa in the immediate post 1994 era and proceeds to examine the literature on the nature of democracy, democratic education and how the LiEP was used in the new democratic government’s endeavour to foster a democratic education system in the country by elevating indigenous languages to an hypothetical same level as English and Afrikaans, which had been the dominant language of classroom instruction prior to 1994. In doing so, the paper offers a critical discussion of the LiEP itself in terms of its applicability to the South African education system. It thus explores the view that democratic education is an educational ideal in which democracy is both a goal and a method of instruction. In the paper we argue that it brings democratic values to education and can include self-determination within a community of equals, as well as such values as justice, respect and trust for all races and ethnic groups inhabiting the country (Carr & Hartnett, 1996). In relation to the Language in Education Policy, the paper discusses how its introduction in the education system was designed to foster democracy in the curriculum by offering as its goal, learners an option to access education in the languages of their choice wherever that is reasonably possible (LiEP, 1997). This implied exalting the indigenous languages and knowledge.

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Mutekwe, E. and Sedibe, M. (2015) South Africa’s Quest for Democratic Education through a Language in Education Policy Perspective. Creative Education, 6, 1076-1085. doi: 10.4236/ce.2015.610106.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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