Original Articles

First brushstrokes: initial comparative results on the Additive Bilingual Education Project (ABLE)


The ABLE project was started in 2003 at a school of mainly first language speakers of isiXhosa in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape, South Africa with the purpose of (i) assessing the long term effect of additive (late-exit transitional) bilingual curriculum delivery on language proficiency in isiXhosa and English, on the cognitive development and on the academic achievement of a group of rural isiXhosa-speaking learners, by comparing this group with learners in similar rural contexts who have experienced forms of subtractive bilingual education; (ii) describing what form additive bilingual curriculum delivery takes in practice in South Africa; and (iii) describing the effect this model has on teachers and learners, on the school itself and on the wider community connected to the school. This article presents the results of the first round of the quantitative comparative data. The results of a group of 11 learners in the experimental school are compared to the results of a group of 16 learners who are in a school where they are receiving instruction through the medium of only English since grade R. Evidence of the benefits of an additive model of curriculum delivery is starting to emerge. Limitations of the study are discussed.

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