Original Research

English as an additional language: Professional development needs of early childhood practitioners in historically disadvantaged contexts

Carmen Milton, Sandra du Plessis, Hendry van der Heever
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 10, No 1 | a804 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v10i1.804 | © 2020 Carmen Milton, Hendry van der Heever, Sandra du Plessis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 August 2019 | Published: 14 October 2020

About the author(s)

Carmen Milton, Department Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa
Sandra du Plessis, Department Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa
Hendry van der Heever, Department of Public Health, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa


Background: Early childhood development (ECD) practitioners face tremendous challenges in supporting learners’ development in English as an additional language (EAL). The lack of a formal ECD curriculum in South Africa exacerbates this challenge for African learners from historically disadvantaged backgrounds as there is a lack of guidance on how to introduce EAL.

Aim: This study investigated factors impacting on ECD practitioners’ ability to facilitate EAL, determine the professional development needs of ECD practitioners at historically disadvantaged ECD centres in facilitating the acquisition of EAL and used the results to make recommendations to be considered when developing support initiatives to ECD practitioners in this context.

Setting: Ga-Rankuwa, a township north of Pretoria.

Methods: A descriptive survey design was employed to collect mainly quantitative data and a limited amount of qualitative data. The data were descriptively analysed.

Results: Prevalent factors that could impact ECD practitioners’ abilities to facilitate EAL included their English proficiency, qualifications and the language of learning and teaching used in the classroom. The participants communicated a need for assistance with (1) enhancing their knowledge on the acquisition of EAL, (2) materials to use in language lessons and (3) lesson planning.

Conclusion: There is an urgent need to develop support structures to assist historically disadvantaged ECD practitioners in facilitating the acquisition of EAL. The results of the study can serve as a starting point for planning workshops where ECD practitioners can be trained to develop suitable lesson plans and resources as well as appropriate techniques to enhance preschool learners’ acquisition of EAL.


English additional language; early childhood development practitioners; historically disadvantaged; early childhood development centres; professional development needs


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