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MOTHER TONGUE POLICY IMPLEMENTATION VIS-À-VIS STUDENTS’ PROFICIENCY IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE SKILLS OF SENIOR SECONDARY THREE (SSS3) STUDENTS
The study investigated the correlates of mother tongue education policy implementation vis-à-vis students’ proficiency in English language skills of Senior Secondary school three (SSS 3) in Lagos state. It investigated the interplay among the roles of the major stakeholders in the implementation of the mother tongue education policy and consequent proficiency in English language skills of Senior Secondary School Three (SSS3) students. A descriptive survey research method was adopted for the study. Five research hypotheses were tested at 0.5 alpha levels. One of the five hypotheses was accepted while four were rejected. Four research questions were also answered. Four hundred and ten subjects took part in the study in the ratio of: two hundred (200) students; one hundred (100) teachers; one hundred (100) parents and ten (10) Inspectors of education. The participants were randomly chosen from ten Senior Secondary Schools within Oshodi/Isolo LGA of Lagos state. Questionnaire technique was used to collect necessary data from the respondents and the data collected were analysed with the aid of Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS), version 17 that deployed necessary statistical tools. Such techniques include, essentially: frequency distribution supported with charts, inferential statistics which include simple percentage and chi-square test for independent sample. The findings revealed that there was significant influence of the students’ reception of initial literacy in the mother tongue on their English language proficiency skills; parents’ attitude towards the use of the mother tongue for initial literacy and preferences for use of languages at home for their children had significant influence on the implementation level of the mother tongue education policy; teachers’ perceptivity and attitude towards the mother tongue policy had no significant influence on the implementation of the mother tongue education policy . The government was not committed to the policy by not making provision for both human and material resources necessary for the mother tongue policy implementation. Implied is that parents’ negative attitude towards the use of mother tongue for initial literacy of their children, and their preferred language for communication with their children at home, coupled with the Government’s non commitment to the policy, adversely affected the mother tongued policy implementation, which in turn, adversely affected students’ proficiency in English language skills. Based on the findings, recommendations were made believing that if they are strictly adhered to, they will enhance the implementation of the mother tongue education policy which will subsequently boost the much desired students’ proficiency in English language skills.
1.1 Background to the Study
Language as a human and social phenomenon has continued to attract the attention of scholars within and outside the field of linguistics and language studies, Maduekwe, (2007:1). The importance of language to man as a means of communication cannot be over emphasized. It is one of the factors that unify a people, state or nation. Webster Encyclopedia defined language as “Any set of symbols use for communication by a people”. Similarly, Abdulwaheed (1998) said language can be defined as a code that contains signs and symbols that are meaningful with a particular linguistic community. Throughout history, man has learned to use languages other than his native tongue for communication with members of other languages and cultures.
In many parts of the world today, bilingualism and innovative approaches to education that involve the use of two or more languages constitute the normal every day experience.Innovative language programs are often implemented to promote proficiency in international language(s) of wider communication together with proficiency in national and regional languages.
According to UNESCO report (2002), due to the challenges of globalization, education systems around the world are paying special attention to foreign languages; first and foremost it is English. The choice of language in education policy is largely driven by the international labour market, particularly in the field of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and science.
As a matter of fact, the linguistic situation of English language is both a consequence of and a contributor to globalization. According to Babajide, (2002), the fast developing technologies have literarily broken down the boundary walls of nature and we now live in a world of globalized economy, academy, polity and information flow and in this setting, English is the medium of interaction between individuals and nations. He adds that for any nation particularly in the third world to be relevant and derive the maximum benefit from the opportunities that abound in every area of human need, for personal advancement and national development, English is a sine qua-non. The use of English has fostered a world society. It is often called an international lingua franca (Fazal and Lingard 2010). In fact, it is indisputable that English has become a world language. It is the world’s leading language in terms of publications, technical reports, international conferences, and computer technology.
In recognition of the status of English as a world language, it became imperative that every individual seek to attain some acceptable level of proficiency in the language. Consequently educational systems around the world have shaped their policies to reflect the global dominance of English by making English a second language compulsory at an early stage. For examples, in countries like Fiji, a native language is the medium of instruction for the first three years in primary education, but subsequently and entirely replaced by English. In Polynesia, a native language is the medium of instruction in primary education but English is introduced as a subject early in the first or second year of primary education, (Lynch and Mugler, 2004 as cited in Fazal and Lingard 2010). In China and Korea, the age at which English is introduced has recently been reduced from 11 and 12 years respectively to 9 years (kaphan and Baldauf 2003, cited in Fazal and Lingard, 2010).
In Nigeria, a multilingual nation, the trend is not different. English not only enjoys a prestigious status as the nation’s lingua franca, it is also a core subject in the school curriculum. It serves as pre-requisite for certification of Senior Secondary Certificate, for admission to tertiary institutions and for job opportunities. It is the nation’s window to the outside world.
Consequently, it is desirable that students should attain a reasonable level of proficiency in the language in other not to be left behind in this new age of science and technology.
To promote the study of and proficiency in both English languages as well as in the mother tongue, the Federal government promulgated and incorporated the Mother Tongue Education in the National Policy on Education which states thus: “The medium of instruction in the primary school shall be the language of the environment for the first three years. During this period English shall be taught as a subject. From the fourth year, English language shall progressively be used as a medium of instruction and the language of the immediate environment and French shall be taught as subjects” NPE, (4th. Ed, 2004: PP.16).
In addition to further intensify effort to improve proficiency in English language, English language curriculum was revisited and reshaped as part of reformation process. The reform took cognizance of the fact that any attempt to prepare English language curriculum with the desire to enhance proficiency in the language among secondary school students must recognize the position of English in the present day Nigeria and the world over Maduekwe, (2004).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
With the promulgation of the mother tongue language education policy and the reformation of the secondary school English language curriculum, it is normal to expect great improvement in students’ performance in English language in their terminal examinations. Nevertheless, it is sad and disheartening to observe that, in spite of these efforts, the students’ level of proficiency in English language skills remains appalling. The results obtained by students at all levels in Nigeria education keep plummeting, as evidenced in the external examinations at the end of secondary school with an average credit pass level fluctuating around 10% and with the Nigerian students performing worse than an average student of other West Africa countries Ikonta, (2010: iv). Obanya (1982) and Obemeota (1984) summarized the dismal and unhappy state of this thus:
“Every year… the performance has tended to be worse than the previous year, but this year there has been a noticeable decline in general and there is certainly grave cause for concern about the standard of English teaching and learning in our country”. This situation has been a great concern to parents as well as the general public. The concern by parents and the general public of the poor performance of students is justified in view of the importance of English in Nigeria in particular and the world at large. If the situation is not arrested on time, it will not only hinder students’ social and academic development but will also adversely affect the nation’s social, political and economic advancement because English functions across the world as a language of inclusion and exclusion in participation in global activities.
This ugly situation compels the researcher to undertake this study, to critically assess the level of the mother tongue education policy implementation and its effect on students’ proficiency in the “world language”, noting successes, and constraints along the line with a view to offer suggestions for performance enhancement strategies for the immediate future.
1.3 purpose of the Study
The main purpose of the study is to assess the level of the mother tongue policy implementation and its impact on students’ proficiency in English language skills of Senior Secondary Schools three (SSS3) Students in Lagos state.
The specific objectives are to:
1.4 Research Questions
The following research questions were answered in this study.
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following statistical hypotheses will be tested in this study.
1.6 Significance of the Study
1.7 Scope of the Study
The study was limited to Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area within Lagos state. From this one local government area, ten (10) Senior Secondary schools were randomly selected for the study.
1.1Operational Definition of Terms
The following terms are hereby defined for better understanding as used in the study:
Language proficiency refers to a person’s ability to use a language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary for a variety of purposes including speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
Language competence is a broad term which includes linguistic or grammatical competence, discourse competence, sociolinguistic or sociocultural competence and what might be called textual competence. The specific learning outcomes under “Language Competence” deal with knowledge of the language and the ability to use that knowledge to interpret and produce meaningful texts appropriate to the situation in which they are used. Language competence is best developed in the context of activities or tasks where the language is used for real purposes, in other words, in practical applications.
Learning strategies are any sets of operations, steps, plans, routines, used by the learner to facilitate the obtaining, storage, retrieval, and use of information. They are intentional behaviours and thoughts used by learners during learning so as to better remember new information. It is an attempt to develop linguistic and sociolinguistics competence in a target language (Stern, 1992: 261)
Limited English Proficiency
Limited English Proficiency refers to a student who is not fully capable in English, who speaks a language other than English at home, and does not demonstrate English language skills of comprehension, speaking , reading, and writing at a level that would place him/her in a class where English is the only medium of instruction.
Mother tongue (First Language/Native Language)
Mother tongue or first language is language a person has learned from birth or that a person speaks the best and so is often the basis for sociolinguistic identity. In most cases, it is the language a person acquires in early childhood because it is spoken in the family and /or it is the language of the region where he/she lives.
Home language refers to language (s) spoken in the home by significant others (e.g. family members and caregivers) who reside in the home; sometimes used as a synonym for the first language, primary language or native language.
Second language is the language one speaks other than one’s first language.
English as Second Language (ESL) Programme
English as Second Language (ESL) Programme is an instructional program for students whose dominant language is not English. The purpose of the program is to increase the English language proficiency of eligible students so they can attain academic standard and achieve success in the classroom.
Language adopted by the state for administrative and institutional use, often including schools
Receptivity is the ability to accept something as authority or truth or learn of something and react towards it. Languages are instrumental in our receptivity to reality. They influence the way we perceive things in our environment, the way we think, the way we act and speak as well as the way we behave in any given social context.
Perception is the attempt to understand those aspects of observations of the world of things and people that depend on the nature of the observer. It also consists of a series drawing out from events in the material world external to the perceiver, through the translation of those events into patterns of activity within the perceiver, culminating in the perceiver’s observed and behavioural reactions to those events.
Contemporary linguists and educators commonly use the term L1 to refer to a first or native language, and the term L2 to a second language or a foreign language that is being studied.
Lingua franca is a language that is used among people of various different languages. For the purpose of this study, English language is the lingua franca.
Medium of Instruction
The language used in teaching and learning curricular content.
Bilingual Education is a program that involves teaching academic content in two languages, in a native and second language, with varying amount of each language used in accordance with the education program model.
Immersion bilingual education
Immersion bilingual education is a program in which the usual curricular activities are conducted in a foreign language.
Transitional bilingual education
Transitional bilingual education refers to a program that involves the child’s native language for no more than three years. It typically begins in Kindergarten or Elementary school by using the students’ first language as the media of instruction but the aim is to leave the students’ L1 capabilities behind and develop only their L2 linguistic and academic proficiencies.
Maintenance Bilingual Education
Maintenance bilingual education programs do not involve development or extension of the minority language. They are limited to maintenance of the minority language. Maintenance bilingual education aims at enhancing students’ native language while they acquire a second language.
Comprehensive Inputs refer to stored material of information capable of being understood. In other words, it is the language that is understood by the learner. It focuses on meaning first and then uses simplified speech. For the purpose of this study, comprehensible inputs refer to the contribution made by a person’s learning in the first language (L1) to his/her competence in other languages.
Literacy for the purpose of this work is defined as the ability to read, write and communicate. It is consciously and deliberately taught and learned.
Biliteracy means ability to speak read and write in two or more languages.
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