Less than 11% of South African learners choose STEM subjects in higher education, although STEM is compulsory in junior high school. One reason is the difficulties many school learners have with English as the language of teaching as most of them have a different mother tongue. In Flanders the STaalvaardig project which consists of an online professional development programme, operates in a context where about 20% of the learners’ mother tongue is different from the language of teaching. As a result, Flemish teachers have become more aware of their cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) which is needed for successful STEM education. Despite the ratio between English second language (ESL) learners and home language learners in South Africa (80:20) being a mirror image of the ratio in Flanders (20:80), the best practices of the STaalvaardig project in Flanders may hold affordances for a similar project within the South African context. The purpose of this paper is to identify such best practices and affordances. Online professional development has proven to be sustainable and stimulating in Flanders. The aim of a similar two-year project in South Africa which started in January 2020, is to improve technology teachers’ awareness and pedagogical knowledge about cognitive academic language in technology education. This will be done by adapting the existing STaalvaardig online environment to scaffold junior high school technology teachers’ CALP. The South African online programme will be piloted in five junior high schools where mainly ESL learners are being taught technology in English. The methodology will be design-based research. The findings indicate that the best practices associated with the STaalvaardig project may hold valuable affordances for a similar research-based project in South Africa in future, provided that the context is sufficiently taken into account. The successful implementation of such a project will be of crucial importance to support the teaching and learning of technology education in English in South Africa and to improve ESL as Language of learning and teaching (LOLT) in technology education.
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