Language and Student Performance in Junior Secondary Science Examinations: The Case of Second Language Learners in Botswana
Teaching and testing in science in junior secondary schools in Botswana, takes place in English which is a second language for the majority of Batswana (Citizens of Botswana are called Batswana [sing. Motswana] and the national language is Setswana.) students and a third language for many. The understanding of textual material in science has been shown to be problematic for first language speakers, which means that difficulties in comprehension are likely to be even greater for second language readers. This study set out to test the hypothesis that improving the readability of junior certificate science examination questions would improve student achievement. Results show that changing certain readability factors, such as sentence length, simplified vocabulary and the removal of obscure information, brought about an improvement in achievement. The conclusion considers the implications of the study for the writers of examinations and other texts in science.
Key wordsassessment Botswana language policy medium of instruction science education
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