UCT discovers that English is a barrier to black students

The University of Cape Town’s College of Accounting, concerned by high drop-out rates, has developed English, Xhosa, and Zulu videos to teach financial and accounting concepts to second-language black students.

Adding up numbers, it seems, is much easier in your home language.

The videos are between four and 10 minutes long and are available free on the learnaccounting.uct.ac.za website.

They allow students to watch a lecture in Zulu or Xhosa while reading a script to help them learn the main financial terms in English.

College Associate Professor Jacqui Kew said: “For many students there is a double translation process that should happen. They need to understand accounting concepts at the same time as interpreting nuances in English.”

Kew said most black accounting students did not pass all subjects in their first year. This forced them to extend a four-year degree to five years, which increased the financial pressure on them.

Lecturers from Walter Sisulu University present the Zulu and Xhosa videos.

Get Smarter, an online education company, produced the videos, which can be downloaded and watched on cellphones.

The company used graphics, animation and actors, including a ballerina, to explain concepts in an engaging way.

Kew said: “Poor black students face many barriers at university, including language difficulties.”

She said only 24% of chartered accountants were black and language difficulties led to many accounting students dropping out of university.

The Finance and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority funded the making of the instructional videos.

The college hopes to extend the range to include Sotho.