Factors affecting language policy choices in the multilingual context of Namibia
English as the official language and medium of instruction
Keywords:language education policy, medium of instruction, Namibia, multilingual education, translanguaging
As most African countries, Namibia is multilingual, but the linguistic diversity is not fully appreciated nor supported in the language education policy. Nationalist one nation – one language ideologies and policy makers' desire to remove Afrikaans from its former power position and replacing it with English have affected the choices of the official language and the medium of instruction policies. The current language education policy has contributed to low academic achievements and high school dropout rates. This article discusses the development of the language education policy in independent Namibia within the critical language policy framework. The language education policy is re-evaluated from a historical perspective in order to understand the current situation and the recent developments. The method is historical-structural analysis of institutional texts. The focus is on the choice of the official language and the medium of instruction policy. The covert policy is analysed in light of educational statistics and examination results. The analysis reveals that the language education policy has remained almost the same during the years of independence, and the efforts of extending mother tongue instruction to senior primary have not been successful. Despite the twofold emphasis of the overt policy of promoting the local languages and making the citizens proficient in English, the covert policy is more English-oriented. Multilingual teaching practices and pedagogies, including translanguaging, are discussed as a feasible option to promote more flexible multilingual education and to strengthen the learners' multilingual identities.