Report on Latin in High Schools

Matriculation examinations in Latin: Altogether four examining bodies set Matriculation examinations for Latin in 2004, i.e. Gauteng, Independent Examinations Board (IEB), Kwazulu-Natal and Western Cape. Two more bought into these exams, i.e. North-West Province bought from Gauteng and Free State from Western Cape. All bodies, except IEB, now follow the same annually-adapted setwork prescriptions, so that reduction to a single exam will be possible at a moment’s notice. The standard of all these examinations is satisfactory, and I think most universities now accept such candidates, if they have been successful, into the second year of their Latin programmes.

Unfortunately these many exams catered for altogether probably only about one hundred candidates. Furthermore, the present core syllabus, adopted and adapted by all examining bodies, is also set to change, to fall in with the new National Curriculum 2006. The last examination of the present system is scheduled for 2008.

New syllabus for Latin at high school: A CASA subcommittee chaired by Mrs Carina Malan of Stellenbosch laboured very hard at adapting the new standard National Curriculum Statement for all languages with its stringent Outcomes-based requirement to fit the exigencies of Latin learning and teaching as we know it, only at the end to have the adapted system rejected by the National Education Department. The NED’s requirements for all language teaching and learning include all aspects of listening, speaking, reading and writing in the target langage, including conversations, writing of reports, e-mails and short text messages. This should offer an exciting challenge to the few Latin teachers remaining. The work of the Committee has now reached the stage where materials must be developed, and Mrs Malan, who has recently retired, has passed the chairmanship of this stage of the development of the Latin curriculum on to teachers in the field, under the chairmanship of Mrs Elma van Wyk of Potchefstroom Gymnasium.

The challenge will be to adapt the requirements of the present five-year syllabus to the proposed new three-year cycle. Yet it is to be welcomed that Latin is still provided for in the new dispensation. Whether the subject will survive the exigencies of shrinking space on school time-tables, the high teacher-pupil ratio requirements and the rival claims of “more useful” subjects with the concomitant decline in candidates, is a matter for speculation.

Proposal: There exists a secondary document entitled “Support for Latin Teachers and Learners”, developed the Working committee of CASA at Stellenbosch, but rejected by the NED for inclusion as part of the Latin curriculum description, giving Latin teachers advice on how to adapt the stringent exigencies of the new syllabus to the practical requirements of classroom practice. It also features an adaptation by me of the language requirements of the present syllabus, and guidelines on how to teach Latin to speakers of non-Indo-European home languages. I propose that this document be upgraded where necessary and published on the CASA website and that teachers be apprised of its existence.


JM Claassen, Umalusi Moderator for Latin, Member of CASA Subcommittee for Schools’ Latin.

Stellenbosch, June 2005