RETHINKING THE ROLE OF LANGUAGE IN EDUCATION

James Banji FADOKUN Ph.D(1),


(1) Governance of Non-State System.PLANE/FCDO.
Corresponding Author

Abstract


Nigeria is a linguistically diverse country, with over 500 languages spoken nationwide. The official language is English, and it is also the language of instruction in most schools. However, majority of pupils whose first language is not English do not have access to education in a language that they neither speak nor understand. This therefore creates a barrier to learning and affects the ability to learn effectively. As language plays a crucial role in learning, there is increasing evidence to rethink its role in education. Mother tongue language-based education is a crucial factor for inclusion and quality learning, and it also improves learning outcomes and academic performance. This is critical at primary level to avoid knowledge gaps, increase the speed of learning and comprehension. There have been efforts to promote mother tongue education in Nigeria. In 2004, the government launched the National Policy on Education, which states that "the medium of instruction in the primary school shall be initially the mother tongue or the language of the immediate community." The NPE stipulated the introduction of English as a subject in primary schools to ensure that learners are bilingual. This was followed by the National Language Policy in 2022 which makes mother tongue a compulsory medium of instruction for primary schools. The policy stipulated that mother tongue is exclusively for the first six years of education, while it will be combined with English Language from Junior Secondary School. However, the implementation of mother tongue education in Nigeria faces several challenges, including a lack of trained teachers who can teach in local languages, inadequate teaching and learning materials in local languages, and limited support from parents and communities. Additionally, there are concerns about the standardization of local languages and the potential impact of mother tongue education on the acquisition of English language skills. Nonetheless, there is growing recognition of the importance of mother tongue education in Nigeria, and efforts are being made to overcome the challenges and promote its implementation. This paper will look at research conducted in Nigeria on language practices in primary classrooms and consequences on learning outcomes, and how stakeholders including Partnership for Learning for All in Nigerian Education (PLANE) is supporting the government to drive the implementation of National Language Policy.

Keywords


National Policy on Education, PLANE, USAID, Teacher Development Programme

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