Language planning and education policy in Botswana

Lydia Nyati-Ramahobo, University of Pennsylvania


Setswana is spoken by about 90% of the population either as mothertongue or as a second language in Botswana. It is the language of national unity and cultural identity in a country situated in a politically and economically unstable region. However, a decline in morale in the teaching and learning of Setswana at all levels has been observed over the past decade. Many language teachers have opted to teach English rather than Setswana and students' performance in Setswana has consistently deteriorated over time. This study investigated the status of Setswana in education as perceived by policy makers in the Ministry of Education, teachers in two primary schools, and in society as observed in six social domains and through interviews with members of the National Setswana Language Council(a language planning body). The study sought to understand the relationship between the formulation of the language policy and its implementation in education and in society. It also explored the relationship between education and society as reflected by the implementation process of the language policy. Four theoretical frameworks are presented to guide the interpretation of the findings of the study and ways in which language planning theory, bilingual education theory and the holistic approach to literacy can inform language policy decisions in Botswana are explored. The decline in morale in the teaching and learning of Setswana in schools is attributed to its low status in society. Lack of efforts to train manpower in Setswana reflects the low value attached to it by educators, as a national language, a subject and as a career. Educators' wishes, hopes and aspirations for Setswana are influenced by what is valued in society. What is valued in society is prescribed by the political system and it is the political will that can change the situation.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Language arts|Linguistics

Recommended Citation

Nyati-Ramahobo, Lydia, "Language planning and education policy in Botswana" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9125729.