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English (Home language)

The work of the English Department underpins the school's entire compensatory education programme. The impeccable results achieved by our students in the Grade 12 examinations, as well as the very high course pass rates of past students now at universities and technikons, can be ascribed directly to the success of the English Department in building the capacity of students to become thoroughly competent in all the uses of English.

Teaching English at St Barnabas College is a challenging and fascinating task. The majority of the school's students do not speak English at home, and many of them are the victims of an education system in complete disarray. Nevertheless, all students write the higher grade, English first language examinations at the end of Grade 12. Equipping students with the skills necessary to succeed in these rigorous examinations involves a programme of accelerated learning, which the school's teachers have to design themselves, as the methodologies and materials of both conventional first-language and second-language programmes cannot be used. Teachers at St Barnabas College regularly attend, host and present workshops in their respective disciplines to ensure that the best concepts govern their methodologies and materials.

The compensatory programme aims initially to develop students in such a way that they are able to use English as a means of communication, so that they may be integrated into the English speaking environment of the school and the broader South African society. This is achieved through an interaction of reading, writing, talking, listening and experience. Students are stimulated in as many ways as possible, so that they can talk and write in meaningful ways. At the junior level, language is thus seen as a form of functional communication; extensive use is made of the concept of "language acquisition" through intensive exposure. Extensive reading, discussion and reflection in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere results almost invariably in a natural acquisition of idiom and grammar by the end of Grade 9.

While critical abilities are stimulated and the more technical aspects of language and literature studies are addressed to some extent even in the seventh grade, these aspects of the curriculum are given more attention in the senior years, and in the final two years the content of courses is in line with the rigorous demands of a first-language approach.

From the outset, there is an emphasis on equipping students with the necessary skills to read a wide variety of texts sensitively and critically, to express themselves efficiently in writing, to be able to appreciate and discuss intelligently the works of literature that they read, and to express their ideas confidently and fluently in speech.

The ultimate goal of the English Department is to produce learners who will be critical participants in a world which is increasingly influenced by the media, and who will have all the skills necessary for success at tertiary level and as citizens of a democratic nation.