Michael Tsavbeeh Kpagh
Department of French
College of Education, Katsina-Ala
The purpose of this study was to examine the attitude of parents to mother tongue instruction in view of the Nigerian language policy derived from the National Policy of Education which requires instruction to be given in the mother tongue in the lower basic primary (1-3). The theoretical and conceptual framework which informed and guided this study emerged from bilingualism and its two forms which are additive and subtractive models. This study is thus a survey which made use of interviews and questionnaires for data collection from parents. A total of 250 parents were randomly selected from the eleven council wards in Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State. The data gathered were analysed and presented in tables and percentages. Findings seem to indicate the following: First, parents in Tiv speaking areas are not ready to allow teachers to use Tiv language as a medium of instruction in the lower basic primary. It was also found that parents preferred English as the language of instruction at the lower basic primary school level. The study recommended among others the immediate introduction of Tiv Language medium in the primary schools in all the Tiv speaking areas in Nigeria.
Keywords: Bilingualism, medium of instruction, mother tongue, parents.
The importance of mother tongue to the development of a nation cannot be overstressed because language is central to accessing literacy. According to Obanya (2004), human development through education, to reinforce the individual’s capacity to perform the essentially human function is what makes language the major object and subject in Education. Mother tongue as a medium of instruction is therefore crucial for increased participation in a world that has been transformed into a global village.
Mother tongue medium of instruction no doubt lays a conceptual base for the learning of other languages. Ezeude (2006) opines that the use of mother tongue medium of instruction has to be strengthened in view of its benefits to the learning of a second language since a poor background in the child’s mother tongue can constitute a barrier to the objectives of study subjects in general. The practical reality is that one does not dream and think in a foreign language. It has been observed that in writing in a foreign language, the thinking process takes place in the mother tongue consciously or unconsciously. As practical as this has been, mother tongue as a medium of instruction has been relegated to the socio-linguistic background due to the influence of English Language. For this reason, Tiv language, one of the major languages in Benue state has not been accorded its rightful place on the linguistic map of Nigeria, due to the influence of English language.
The laudable goal of Education For All (EFA) by the year 2020 being facilitated by the UNESCO is a clear indication that education has come to be viewed as not the preserve of a few but the right of every individual, irrespective of state, or country of origin. As plausible as this statement is, many Nigerians cannot be literate because of the over dependence on English language. Supporting the above, Shoja (2005) says:
The practical reality is that only a certain percentage of primary school pupils come from homes and environments where the English language (official language) is frequently used outside the classroom. They therefore have some difficulties in gaining mastery of English Language as the target language because of its strange or unfamiliar phonetics, [sic] syntactic and lexical structure. (Shoja, 2005, p.29).
This article argues that if Nigerians accept the mother tongue medium of instruction but keep encouraging the use of English language as medium of instruction, the EFA goals of 2020 will be a mere policy statement. Yina (2006) agrees that:
The world conference on EFA held in Dakar, Senegal in 2008 rated Nigeria as one of the fifteen countries with the highest number of illiterates and one of the top five that will not achieve any meaningful EFA goals by the year 2020; ….EFA global monitoring report shows that 20 million Nigerian children do not attend school, out of 39 million children eligible for secondary education only 10.4 million are attending any form of secondary school now. (Yina, 2006, p.8).
As a result, many Nigerian children have become political thugs, secret cultists, school dropouts and prostitutes. This article believes that the unimaginably low use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction is the bedrock of these problems. It is unfortunate that a great percentage of children/adults cannot read and write in their mother-tongue (Tiv) due to the influence of English and other foreign languages.
The Tiv Language.
Teaching in Tiv language like in other Nigerian languages started through the activities of the Christian missionary. The missionaries did not reach Tivland until about five decades after their arrival in the southern part of Nigeria (Chioke, 2003). It was until 17th April, 1911 that Rev. Zimmerman led a group of the Dutch Reformed Church Missionaries (DRCM) from South Africa to enter Tiv land and they settled at Sai (Rubingh, 1969; Ikpa, 1985; Iyortyom, 2001). The DRCM brought along its Christian message, the apartheid policy of South Africa where separate development was emphasized (Ikpa, 1985). The Africans were thus to study and write in African languages (Tsumba, 1997). They also discovered that the linguistic barrier between them and the natives would not permit effective communication of the gospel with the natives. As a result, mother tongue was introduced both as a medium of instruction as well as a subject in all DRCM primary schools in Tiv land from primary 1-4 initially. In order to fully implement this language policy, the DRCM church was further indigenized and the Tiv wing of The Church of Christ among the Tiv, became known in Tiv language as Nongo U Kristu U Ken Sudan Hen Tiv [NKST] (Tsumba, 2003).
It is pertinent to stress here that discussing western education in Nigeria, particularly in Tiv land without mentioning the roles played by the various missionary bodies such as the DRCM, and RCM will amount to nothing. From 1911-1980; more than 120 books were produced in Tiv language, either by writing or translation. One of such translations was the bible stories in Tiv language. Tiv children had access to most of these books and could read and write the Tiv language fluently because the DRCM/NKST insisted that education must be given in the mother tongue. This paid off well. The work of evangelization proceeded very fast through education; the pupils understood what was taught right from the beginning to the end of the lesson. It is of interest to note that Rev. Judd was able to reduce the Tiv language to writing and Akirga Sai was the first Tiv man to read and write in Tiv language (Ahenekaa and Achineku, 2007). It should be noted that English was not even the medium of instruction nor a subject of study at this level.
Nevertheless, while the DRCM introduced mother tongue medium of instruction for acquiring western education, the Roman Catholic Mission (RCM) on their part brought the “Straight-for-English” approach to education. They were more interested in the teaching of English language. This explains why the native products of their schools were more proficient in the English language than their DRCM school products (Rubingh, 1976).
At this stage of the inception of mother tongue education, the Christian missionaries were at ideological variance with the colonialists on the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction. The colonial government thus moved in with emphasis on the English Language as the medium of instruction. They maintained that the Tiv child must study English and adopt it as the language of education since it is the language of commerce and must be given in the language of the colonial masters (Shoja, 2005).This development brought a great desire of Tiv people to study in English; the pressure was so great that there was a modification by the policy. Tsumba opines that:
…in the 50’s English was introduced as a subject right from primary one to four. English also became a medium of instruction from standards five to six. For the NKST primary schools products, a special class was designed for them called “remove class” which acted as a transition class for a change from Tiv to English to enable the pupils take up studies fully in English and only study Tiv as a subject. (Tsumba, 2002, p.216).
This transition from Tiv language as a medium of instruction in the Primary school to English language marked a gradual abandonment of the mother tongue medium. From this time onward, the changes that came were more for English language in the classroom and less mother tongue (Tiv) which gradually diminished from the classroom after a long period of time. Shoja (2013) asserts that the reason for this linguistic transition was that “the recipients of colonial education were meant to take up menial jobs in colonial government”. When Nigeria attained independence, she had to re-define her values in accordance with the challenges and aspirations of the new nation. This accounts for the introduction of the new National Policy on Education in 1977. The document has been revised in 1981, 2004, and 2012. Article 10 of the 2004 edition on the importance of language states:
Government appreciates the importance of language as a means of promoting social interaction and national cohesion; and preserving cultures. Thus every child shall learn the language of his immediate environment … For the smooth interaction with our neighbours, it is desirable that every Nigerian should speak French. Accordingly, French shall be the second official language in Nigeria and it shall be compulsory in primary and junior secondary schools.
A cursory look at the declaration above makes the pro-Tiv language adherent in Nigeria heave a sigh of relief that the language has finally been given the linguistic place it desires. A careful and thorough analysis however reveals that it is not yet victory for Tiv language in the Nigerian education system. It is of interest to note that the Nigerian language policy as enshrined in the National Policy on Education in trying to address this issue states:
The medium of instruction in the primary school shall be language of immediate environment (mother tongue) for the first three years. During this period, English shall be taught as a subject. From fourth year, English shall progressively be used as a medium of instruction and French shall be taught as a subject. (Federal Republic of Nigeria [FRN], 2012, p.12)
A critical look at the roles assigned mother tongue shows that the roles are quite minor as compared to the roles assigned English, our official language. The hypothetical question one needs to ask is how can a Tiv child read and write in his mother tongue if he only studies the language for the first three years of primary school? One observes that the socio-linguistic seeds of discord have been sown by the policy in relegating the Tiv language or mother tongue to the background and one can only remember with nostalgia the good old days of mother tongue as medium of instruction and its values to the Tiv nation. This is why the Ife six-year language project reported by Afolayan (1976) as cited in Shoja (2013) has further justified the position that the “Straight-for-English” approach did more harm than good to our children’s early education.
The discourse will be incomplete if the study of Tiv language at different levels of education is not mentioned. Though the National Policy on Education has clearly states that the language of instruction in the lower basic primary school shall be the mother tongue (Tiv), it is disheartening to note that as plausible as this statement is, Tiv language is sparingly offered in primary and secondary schools in Benue State. Where it is offered at all, it is at the discretion of the head teacher and the principal (Udu, 2013).
Mention has been made right from the beginning that it was the DRCM/NKST that reduced Tiv language to writing and reading forms. It is therefore interesting that Tiv language is most taught in NKST primary and secondary schools in Benue State of Nigeria. Apart from these categories of schools, some public and catholic schools also teach Tiv language at the discretion of the head teachers and principals. However, private nursery/primary and secondary schools in Benue State neglect the teaching of Tiv language. To them, it is only through English language that white collar jobs can be obtained. In such schools, the teacher’s commandment is “do not speak Tiv in the class”. To buttress this point, Shoja (2013) opines that Benue State parents do withdraw their children from public schools so that they will be exposed to English as medium of instruction in private nursery/primary and secondary schools.
In the Colleges of Education, Katsina-Ala, and Oju in Benue state, those students who are studying Tiv language are looked upon as inferior to their counterparts studying other courses or languages. Shoja (2005) says, in an investigation into the choice of course of study among the students of the Department of Tiv Language Studies, College of Education, Katsina-Ala, it was observed that out of 150 students interviewed, only about 46 chose to study Tiv because they wanted it. Most of the students confessed that they could not gain admission to study courses of their choice and so chose Tiv as last resort.
The theoretical framework which informed and guided this is bilingualism and its two models which are additive and subtractive models. The framework also incorporates theories on mother tongue education and second language learning drawn from the works of Bamgbose (1991); Robinson (1996); Lambert (1997); Hornby (1977); Benson (2005) and Adegbaji (2009).
One of the expectations and assumptions of bilingual education is that the product becomes successful both linguistically and culturally, but it is only possible when the form of bilingualism is additive rather than subtractive Hornby (1977). In the additive and subtractive constructs, Genesee, (1977) in Hornby (1977) draws the distinction between additive and subtractive bilingualism in which the first language (mother tongue) continues to be developed and remains the first culture to be valued while the second language is added. Subtractive bilingualism on the other hand is a situation whereby the second language is added at the expense of the first language and culture which diminish as a consequence. Corroborating Genesee, Robinson (1996) opines that the learners of L1 skills are replaced by L2, thereby placing linguistic and central system in conflict instead of complementing one another.
Linguists and bilinguals argue that it is highly desirable for multicultural societies to support the use of mother tongue medium of instruction in the learning of young bilinguals in schools, Scarcella (1990) in Tompkins & Hoskisson, (1995). Mother tongue as medium of instruction in the primary school years offers the best introduction to learning that eventually becomes useful in the learning of foreign languages (Whestley, 1992 in Mwamwenda, 1996; Hawes, 1979; Hakuta, 1986 in Travers, Elliot & Kratochwill, 1993; Ndamba, 2008). A growing body of research on learning of L2 shows that if a child masters the first language, then learning another language becomes less problematic in that habits of speech, listening, reading and writing can be transferred to the learning of the second language (Cummins, 1981; Hawes, 1979; Obanya, 1985; Dawes, 1988; Krashen, 1985 in Maclaughlin, 1987).
Despite the findings that mother tongue as a medium of instruction has positive effects and is crucial in the initial phase of the child’s school life, research has also shown that many parents have negative attitude to mother tongue as medium of instruction. In one study, Ndamba (2008) found that parents of Shona/Ndebele children in Zimbabwe have become use to English as a language which provides their children with a more profitable future in the world of employment. English is viewed as performing higher functions than the mother tongue which does not give employment, while parents tend to negatively evaluate mother tongue because it does not perform such higher functions. In another study, Lawal (2005) found that parents out of ignorance insulate their children from mother tongue to induce facility in the use of English language, thus depriving children of basic source of education and imaginative development. Shoja (2005), Walu (2009), Muriana & Jubril (2011), OlaOlorun, Ikonta & Adeosun (2013) in their study on mother tongue found that parental attitude to the use of mother as medium of instruction is negative. In their findings parents preferred English as language of instruction for their children. A situation where parents prefer English as their children’s L1 calls for attention. Their negative attitude to the mother tongue as their children’s L1 is erroneous. The consequence of the continued preferences for English means the displacement and replacement of Nigerian languages. This portends danger to the survival of the Tiv language.
Purpose of the Study
The main aim of this study was to examine the attitude of Vandeikya LGA parents to the use of mother tongue as medium of instruction. The desire for this study came from the strong evidence from research findings which indicate that mother tongue proficiency plays a vital role in the learning of bilingual children during the early years of schooling.
What medium of instruction do Vandeikya LGA parents prefer for their children in the primary school?
Vandeikya parents do not prefer a particular language for the instruction of their children in the primary school.
The design of this study was the descriptive survey. According to Hale (2011), this method allows participants to answer questions administered through interviews or questionnaires. After the participants answer the questions, researchers describe the responses given. The study was conducted in Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State between January and June, 2016. A total of two hundred and fifty (250) parents were randomly selected for the study.
Parents Language Preference Questionnaire (PLPQ)
This 18-item questionnaire was adapted from Coardy 2001.This instrument was administered to pupils’ parents during the PTA meeting days in the schools. These were collected immediately by the researcher. This instrument sought to know which language parents prefer their children to learn first and which one they will encourage them to use more. It also supplied parents’ personal data. The adapted instrument was revalidated by experts in the School of Languages, College of Education, Katsina–Ala, Benue State and reliability was tested through the test- retest method. A reliability index of 0.80 was obtained. The generated data were analysed using percentages and the chi-square statistic.
A total of two hundred and fifty (250) parents from Vandeikya were the subjects. The analysis is presented in table 1 below.
Table 1: Descriptive statistics of parents’ attitude to mother tongue medium (Tiv).
|More Tiv than English||20||8|
|More English than Tiv||100||40|
|Both languages equally||20||8|
The answer to the research question is presented in Table 1 above. This result indicates that eight percent (8%) of parents preferred the use of mother tongue (Tiv) as a medium of instruction in primary school. Forty percent (40%) of them opted for more English, while eight percent (8%) preferred bilingual instruction. Forty four percent (44%) of the parents’ preferred English language only as a medium of instruction in the primary school. In effect, majority of the parents preferred English as medium of instruction to their mother tongue, Tiv, contrary to the prescription of the Nigerian National language policy on education.
There is no significant difference between the presents and the language(s) in which they prefer their children to function.
Table 2. Shows the calculated value 38.54 is greater than the table value 7.82. Hence, the null hypothesis is rejected. It is therefore concluded that there is a significant difference between parents’ attitude to mother tongue medium of instruction in the primary school.
Table 2. Analysis of attitude of parents to mother tongue medium of instruction
Findings and Discussion:
The general finding of this study was that parents preferred their children to read and write in English. However, it may be pertinent to mention here that when children at this level of studies say they like to write in English, they could have meant copying English words from the board since they may not be able to express themselves adequately in English, which is a second language Dyande and Mateta (as cited in Ndamba, 2008).
An explanation for favouring English more than the mother tongue may be that children are told by their parents that they go to school to learn English (Fyle, 1976; Roy-Campbell, 1996). The attitude that English is more important than Tiv is passed on to children by parents who tell children that English provides educational and employment opportunities in the future (Shoja, 2005). These children may begin to develop negative attitude towards mother tongue medium which might then be regarded as less important (Bamgbose, 1991; Adegbija, 1994; Robinson, 1996).
The result of this study is also in agreement with Ndamba (2008), OlaOluron, Ikonta & Adeosun (2013) who separately found that African parents have become used to English as a language which provides their children with a more profitable future in the world of employment. English in Nigeria is therefore viewed as performing higher functions than the mother tongue which does not make a person employable; hence they tend to negatively evaluate the indigenous languages because they do not perform such higher functions.
The finding of the study also revealed that a significant percentage of parents preferred the use of the English language as medium of instruction in primary schools. This also agrees with Shoja, (2005), Muraina and Jibril’s (2011) findings that parents vehemently opted for English as medium of instruction throughout primary education. According to them, parents preferred to take their children to schools where English language is mainly used as a medium of instruction. The parents’ preference may probably be as a result of their opinion that early exposure of the child to English based education may be advantageous for him/her later in life.
The results of the study further revealed that majority of the parents were not disposed to the use of mother tongue as medium of instruction and the transitional bilingual medium of education in primary schools. This tends to corroborate Shoja, (2005) who asserts that most Nigerians especially the Tiv have a negative attitude towards their indigenous language. However parents’ lack of predisposition to the use of the mother tongue medium of instruction may be in line with Walu’s (2009) fears of its divisive tendency in a multilingual setting like Nigeria.
Finally, the present study has demonstrated that the negative attitude of Tiv parents to the use of mother tongue as medium of instruction in primary school is enhanced by fact that parents are ignorant of the role the mother tongue plays during the early years of schooling.
For Tiv language to take its rightful place on the linguistic map of Nigeria at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of our educational system, the following should be considered:
- With the implementation of the 9 year Basic Education Programme which has Lower Basic (primary 1-3), Middle Basic (primary 4-6) and Upper Basic (JSS 1-3), this article advocates the compulsory use of Tiv language as medium of instruction and subject at Lower Basic and the Middle Basic and as a compulsory subject of Certification at the end of Upper Basic.
- The language spoken by parents at home is the model for the children in the course of language acquisition. The mother tongue (Tiv) curricula should be parent oriented. Parents should assist their children to ensure that they acquire the correct pronunciation among other language skills.
- There should be availability of attractive reading materials which can contribute to increasing the demand for Tiv language and for access to materials that are seen as linguistically and culturally embedded and locally relevant.
- The Tiv language should also appear on the school time table as many times as do English and Mathematics. Beginner Reading programmes should also be introduced in the mother tongue curricula from the Lower Basic Education to Upper Basic Education through appropriate learning materials. This could arouse the interest of children in mother tongue which will in turn improve their learning of foreign languages.
- There should be a change of attitude by parents towards Tiv language. They should consider it as being capable of communicating ideas, information as well as expressing their world-view all the time.
- There should be serious commitment on the part of Benue state government, which should be concerned and involved in setting up committees that would argue, deliberate, organise debates and conferences for the promotion and development of Tiv language..
- Tiv authors, Tiv language studies and Development Association should partner with the Department of Tiv Language Studies, College of Education Katsina-Ala for the development of the language.
This article dwelt on the attitude of Vandeikya LGA parents to the use of mother tongue medium of instruction in primary schools in Nigeria. From the discussion it could be observed that learning via mother tongue as medium of instruction is more effective and more functional than using the medium foreign languages, no matter the status of the language. The article believes that if Nigeria is to achieve the EFA goals by the year 2020, mother tongue as medium of instruction should be given adequate attention. The policy should be implemented in all primary and junior secondary schools in Nigeria without further delay. Mother tongue as medium of instruction not only increases access to skills but also raises the quality of basic education by facilitating the transfer of prior knowledge and experience to new learning.
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