The issue of the language of education at schools and universities is obviously a very timely and topical one given the increasing shift towards the use of English not only as the main medium of education, but even the exclusive official language used in instruction and administration in an increasing number of South African schools and universities.
Former SA President Nelson Mandela’s pride at the equality he foresaw for South Africa’s languages in the new Constitution seems… well quite frankly, lost from sight somehow in recent years. There is no equality if education is only in the medium of one official language. There is no equality if one official language is privileged, and all others are cast aside.
Using the same official language for all is not equality when it is clearly not the language of everything but not of everyone.
I was asked to speak to use on the impact of the language of education at schools and universities : I will of course do that, but from a rather legal point of view, particularly from the viewpoint of the prohibition of discrimination and the right of education in international human rights, as well as the practices and policies in many parts of the world, and what it means as to the impact language has on education.
Quality education means education that reflects the language(s) of the local community, within a globalised world.
A globalised world does not mean we should all speak exclusively the same international language.
The future is multilingual.