The effectiveness of senior students as tutor assistants in the English special project for academic development at UWC
Since the inception of the University in 1960 under the Apartheid regime and up until a few years ago Afrikaans had dominated both as educational and as communication medium. However, political change - at the University and in South Africa - has brought about a change in language patterns. According to the HSRC Work Committee on Languages and Language Instruction (1981), a high percentage (40%) of Afrikaans-speaking people classified as coloured and living in the Cape Peninsula choose English as the medium of instruction and also regard it as the most important language to be learnt at schools (also 40%). As a result of this, and the enrolment of a large percentage of Xhosa speaking students, who generally prefer English to Afrikaans as an educational medium, English has become the language most commonly used both inside and outside the classroom. The homogeneity of preference has, however, not been matched by mastery of the language. For approximately 70% of all first-year students English is a second or even a third language. Though University entry is based on at least ten years of the study of English, standards of proficiency differ quite considerably as a result of inequalities in education. Because students need to improve their level of English proficiency I investigated the effectiveness of using senior students as tutor assistants in an academic development programme, the English Special Project, at UWC. This study aims at revealing that the tutor assistantships in the English Special Project can alleviate problems that occur with annual increases in student numbers under certain conditions. These are that: 1 prospective tutor assistants undergo proper tutor assistant training; 2 tutor assistants are committed to the course of academic development; 3 tutor assistants have the time available that is necessary for the task. In Chapter 1 give an insight into what this study is about, the reasons for conducting it and what my personal involvement with the ESP has been. In Chapter 2 I review some of the overseas and local literature on TA systems. In Chapter 3 I describe a case-study to evaluate the success of the TA system in the ESP with reference to academic development. I emphasize the intensive, individual care of and attention to first-year students. In an attempt to address the problem, the effectiveness of senior students as tutor assistants to assist in tutorial sessions is described. In Chapter 4 I discuss the value of TA intervention in the ESP at personal and social levels. Chapter 5 contains the general conclusions and my recommendations to improve the ESP.