The paper discussed Basil Bernstein’s language deprivation theory which presupposes that working class children have limited language competences as a result of their social and economic background. First, it established the anomaly in the use of some key terms in the theory such as deficit/deprivation, ‘elaborated’ and ‘restricted’ codes which are prejudicial and not truly reflective of what Bernstein actually meant. Then, it emerged that the education system, especially in the Zimbabwean ESL situation generally alienates children from financially challenged backgrounds. In the system, what came out as the most injurious are the examination system and the instructional methods used. Finally, the paper recommended a total overhaul of the whole system, starting from teachers’ training where more emphasis should be on cooperative and/or communicative language learning rather than ‘commandist’ linguistic instruction that is individualistic, resulting in the production of half-baked mimetic language graduates whose language codes remain ‘restricted’ even after ‘passing’ their L2 examinations.
Key words: Deficit theory, restricted codes, elaborated codes, language web, implicit.
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