The Subsidiarity-principle in language planning and policy in South African universities: a comparative analysis
Erasmus, Ulrike Wanda
MetadataShow full item record
Despite the Constitution granting official status to eleven languages, English dominates public life in South Africa. For one, the South African educational system, and higher education (HE) in particular, does not reflect the de jure national language policy. The Historically Afrikaans Universities (HAUs) are succumbing to anglicisation one after the other, and the rest of the 26 public universities in South Africa are struggling to promote the use of indigenous languages in HE. The lack of mother tongue education (MTE) and differences in levels of English proficiency and academic literacy perpetuate existing ethnolinguistic inequality, making the promotion of multilingualism imperative. As part of the goal of achieving true multilingual practices at tertiary institutions in South African HE, the broad aim of this study is to investigate the potential utility of the subsidiarity principle, as originally devised and applied in the European context and as often linked to decentralisation and linguistic autonomy. To achieve this aim, a theoretical exploration of the field of LPP and the principle of subsidiarity is conducted, and the potential for application of the subsidiarity principle in LPP is delineated. A comparative case-study is then performed by investigating the governmental structure, linguistic regime and educational system in Belgium, a country that fully embraces the concept of decentralisation (closely linked to so-called negative subsidiarity) and in which all official languages (Dutch, French and German) are represented in the public domain and in education. The central argument of this study is that the framework of subsidiarity in LPP is a valuable tool with which to guide the national project of developing and promoting the use of the indigenous languages, and that it can inform the current language debate at South African universities. This study argues that English-monolingualism in HE, which is in direct contravention with the Constitution, several national language-in-education policy documents, and institutional language policies, is not because of inadequate decentralisation over institutional LPP (or the flouting of negative subsidiarity). Rather, the failure to establish multilingual universities is a consequence of inadequate assistance from central government (or the flouting of positive subsidiarity), and is an indictment of central government’s failure to provide necessary support and oversight for the implementation of multilingual institutional language policies.
- Humanities