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PARENTS’ AND TEACHERS’ PERCEPTION OF THE USE OF MOTHER TONGUE AS LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION IN LOWER PRIMARY SCHOOLS
This study examined the parents’ and teachers’ perception of the use of mother tongue as language of instruction in Lower Primary Schools (1 – 3). A total of four (4) public primary schools in Mainland Local Government Area of Lagos State were used. The study was carried out to ascertain whether the children’s mastery of mother tongue at school, is influenced by their parents’ and teachers’ perception of the language.
The descriptive survey research was used in order to collect data from respondents. Two different questionnaires were used – one for the teachers and the other for the parents. A total of two hundred and forty (240) respondents were randomly selected and used for this study. The sample size is made up of one hundred and twenty (120) parents and one hundred and twenty (120) teachers.
Two null hypotheses were formulated and tested using the independent t-test statistical tool at 0.05 level of significance. At the end of the analyses, the results obtained show that:
(1) There is a significant difference between parents’ perception of mother tongue and children’s mastery of mother tongue at home.
(2) There is a significant difference between teachers’ perception of mother tongue and children’s academic performance at school.
Based on the results obtained at the end of the analyses, it could be deduced that, the way both parents and teachers perceive the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction at school, to a large extent influence the children’s mastery of the mother tongue and their performance in it. Recommendations were proffered also.
1.1Introduction/Background to the Study
A primary school pupil according to the National Policy on Education, 3rd Edition (1998) comprises children aged between 6 – 11 years) plus. The primary education is graded from Primary 1 to 6. The first three years of the primary education is termed the lower primary.
Children at the lower primary form the bedrock of the educational system in Nigeria. Therefore, the success of the whole system of education is hinged on the success of the lower primary education level. At this level, pupils are still very attached to their homes which is one of the agents of socialization. Hence, the mother tongue which is a means of transfer of cultural practices, norms and mores of the society should be given utmost priority.
According to Obanya (1985:19), the child’s mother tongue is the child’s first language, the one in which he/she feels most at home with and which he/she uses most of the time. Mother tongue according to Olayemi (1990), refers to any language indigenous to Nigeria.
The National Policy on Education (1998) stipulates the importance of language as a means of promoting social interaction, national cohesion and preserving cultures. Thus, every child should learn the language of the immediate environment. Furthermore, in the interest of national unity, it is expedient that every child should be required to learn one of the three Nigerian languages: Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.
According to Agagu (1990), parents’ and teachers’ perception of the use of mother tongue or the traditional language to teach the child is negative. This is because many parents, especially the ones living in the urban areas of Nigeria, do not even have the mastery of the mother tongues and this is applicable to the teachers. As Agagu puts it, one cannot give what one does not have. As parents who are the first teachers of the child at home, the educated urban dwellers especially, do not know how to speak the mother tongue without code-mixing it with English Language. They lack the capability and competence to impart it to their children.
Also at school, the teachers cannot teach the children with the mother tongue because many do not have the mastery of the indigenous language such as Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Efik, Urobo, Nupe etc. This has left the child to be more proficient in English Language which his/her teachers and parents mostly apply in teaching and interacting with them.
Language plays a very important and active role in the effective education of the child. In the process of educating the child, especially at the primary level, different languages could be used, for example, the mother tongue of the child. This is the first acquired language by the child from parents who are the child’s first teachers, Abingbola (1995).
Once a solid educational foundation is laid in the child’s first language, the child learns more even through other languages spoken in his/her wider environment, Munonye (1991). Children who come to school with a solid foundation in their mother tongue develop stronger literacy abilities in the school language. For example, when parents and other caregivers are able to spend time with children and tell stories or discuss issues with them in their mother tongue, it will in a way help them to develop vocabulary and concepts in their mother tongue (the L1) thus, the children will be well prepared to learn the school language which is English Language (L2) and this will enhance their success educationally. Mother Tongue education encourages the understanding of those linguistic concepts in English.
According to Asuai (1994), the destruction of the local language and culture in schools is highly counter-productive for the society itself. Whether it is done intentionally or inadvertently, when the child’s mother tongue is destroyed or ruptured, their relationships and interactions with parents and grandparents especially the uneducated ones, will be affected. The need for the use of mother tongue as a means of instruction in schools has featured prominently in educational discussions in recent times. It has postulated that a child needs to be tutored by both parents and teachers in the mother tongue at the early stages, in order to enable him/her think clearly and communicate effectively in his/her immediate environment or at school, Adekeke (1996).
Various educationists including the former Minister of Education, Professor Babs Fafunwa have recommended the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction in the first three years of the primary schools. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), has been pioneering and promoting the use of the mother tongue as a means of education and more actively so in the last decade. For example, the 1925 Memorandum on Education, the British Colonial Government Officially approved the use of mother tongue in education. Also, Psychologists such as Baker (2000) and Cummins (1999) said that: “the first twelve years is the most formative in a child’s life, therefore, the mother tongue education for the child should be seen as a right and it’s denial be viewed as denial of the fundamental human right”.
The challenge for parents, teachers and policy-makers is to shape the evolution of national identity in such a way that the right of the school children are respected and the cultural, linguistic and economic resources of the nation are maximized. Therefore, any credible educator will agree that schools should build on the experiences and knowledge that children bring to the classroom and instruction should also promote children’s abilities and talents, Maxwell (1984).
Mother tongue can be any of the indigenous languages in the country. The three major languages – Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba have become the subjects of study and examination even in secondary schools. At primary school level, which is our major concern, some efforts in the use of mother tongue have been made, although with varying degrees of success.
The Nigerian National Curriculum Conference held in 1969, declared that: “The Nigerian primary school child should be well grounded in his mother tongue”. Therefore, both parents and teachers should have positive perceptions of the use of mother tongue as the language of instruction for children in lower primary schools.
1.2Statement of the Problem
Inspite of the growing interest in the use of mother tongue as language of instruction, English language serves as both a subject and medium of instruction in most schools at the lower primary school level (1 – 3), Etim (1989).
Fawemi (1999), identified the following problems in first language acquisition as: linguistic inadequacies, societal acceptability, personnel problem, lack of relevant materials in teaching and learning mother tongue and lack of finance. According to him, many Nigerian languages are rendered useless economically and are also viewed as inferior to English language. That is why, both parents and teachers do not have the right perception of the local languages.
Most teachers do not use mother tongue in reading and writing and will find it difficult to teach the mother tongue, lack of funds to train staff, to develop instructional materials and to provide training facilities, non availability of instructional materials which includes textbooks and the inadequacy of the available ones, are some of the problems of teaching and learning mother tongue in schools, especially at the lower level of the primary school system, Ezewu (1990).
Other problems are: linguistic diversity problems of choice and unsteady educational policies in Nigeria school system. The language policy as stipulated in the National Policy on Education (1998) that, every child should learn the language of the immediate environment is not implemented at the lower primary school level.
1.3Purpose of Study
The main purpose of this study is to examine parents’ and teachers’ perception of the use of mother tongue as language of instruction in lower primary schools. The specific objectives of this study are:
The study provided answers to the following questions:
The following research hypothesis will be formulated and tested in this study:
1.6Significance of the Study
The result of this study will be:
(1) Of immense benefit to the government and the curriculum planners in the implementation of the use of mother tongue as language of instruction at primary schools.
(2) It will encourage the teachers on the use of mother tongue for instruction to pupils, especially at the lower primary level.
(3) Parents will also learn from the results and recommendations of this study, because it will help to change their orientation about the use of mother tongue as language of instruction.
(4) The study will as well improve the academic performance of pupils in lower primary schools.
(5) The society will benefit from this study, because it will help the child to imbibe the cultural norms of the society through the mother tongue.
1.7Scope of the Study
This study will cover the examination of parents’ and teachers’ perception of the use of mother tongue as language of instruction in the lower primary schools (1 – 3) in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos State.
1.8Limitation of the Study
Limited time and resources on the part of the researcher will not permit detailed and more result – oriented study of this topic.
1.9Definition of Terms
The following terms were defined in this study:
(1) Mother Tongue: This refers to the language a child first learns to speak when he/she is a child e.g. Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Ijaw, Efik, Fulfulde etc.
(2) Communication: This is the process of expressing ideas and feelings or of giving people information. One of the means of communication in primary schools is the use of mother tongue.
(3) Ethnic: The customs of a particular group, race or tribe. The three major ethnic groups in Nigeria are: Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.
(4) Achievement: This refers to the process of doing things successfully, especially using one’s own efforts and skill. The use of mother tongue as a means of communication and instruction in the primary schools has improved the academic performance of the primary school pupils.
(5) Linguistic: The scientific study of language. The firm linguistic foundation on the use of mother tongue enables the pupils to express themselves in English Language.
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