Interaction between educator and learners
is widely considered a key variable of
effective instruction. In face-to-face teaching, the educator is able to facilitate learning directly and gauge the level of the learners' English proficiency. Televised instruction makes this virtually impossible, as learners are invisible and thus immediate intervention in learning or estimations of proficiency are much more difficult to achieve. The TeleTuks Schools community project aimed to offer academic support to matriculants via interactive television. Several hundred Grade 12 learners watched daily broadcasts and while technology permitted bi-directional audio contact with the studio presenter, viewers seldom phoned in to ask questions or make comments about the academic content being presented on screen. These infrequent responses were unexpected and called for explanation. An initial proposition suggested that learners lacked sufficient
proficiency in the medium of instruction – English – and thus refrained from participating. Further probing revealed that several non-linguistic factors rather than language proficiency silenced responsivity, yet it was deficient enough in several respects to merit additional investigation. This paper offers a language profile of Grade 12 learners who participated in the project and focuses specifically on the mismatch
between their perceived and actual oral proficiency and how this may be influencing
learning in general. Methods used for data gathering include analyses of oral and
written responses obtained during learner interviews and open-ended survey questions.
Recommendations are deemed applicable to any instructional context while avenues
for further exploration relate to the increasing allure of English as the referred
instructional medium in the South African education system.