Change in Costing Methods

The education system in South Africa is at a crossroads, and the clash of interests between proponents of traditional costing methods within government departments and linguists advocating change is well documented.  The crux of the matter resides in changes to costing methods.  I wish to add my voice to the debate by contrasting the existing costing method with that of an alternative method.

Government departments continue to support the use of mainly English as a medium of instruction, preferring the certainty of measurable expenditure.  Using mainly English as a language of education in a multilingual society is entrenched in, and validated by financial principals, whereby costs are calculated and funds are allocated according to balance sheets.  Costs can be calculated accurately, since universities and schools order existing textbooks, and teachers and learners are trained in an English-only environment.  A multilingual learning environment, on the other hand, brings financial unpredictability in terms of additional costs associated with teacher training, translation costs, the development of textbooks in other languages, and the costs of employing experts to further develop the status and corpus of indigenous languages to enable them to function on higher levels.

Although the costs associated with maintaining a single medium of instruction results in perfectly balanced financial statements, I wish to point out the hidden costs of such an approach.  Research has consistently proven that the cognitive development and conceptualization skills of early learners receiving firs tuition in English and not in their home languages - particularly in the more rural parts of the country where English is not commonly spoken -lag far behind their peers receiving home language tuition during the first few years, with English only being introduced at a later stage.  As a result, children from other linguistic backgrounds receiving only English tuition are less able to develop skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, needed for the mastery of subjects such as mathematics and science.  This, in turn, results in a high drop-out rate, the exclusion from higher education and ultimately from constructively contributing to the country's economy. Instead, they inevitably become dependent on the state.

I have discussed two opposing methods of calculating costs, and I propose a change in the methods currently employed by the Department of Education, since the cost of not allowing human capital to develop to its fullest potential far exceeds the importance of maintaining a perfect balance sheet.

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