• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Imperatives of teaching, learning in mother tongue

Imperatives of teaching, learning in mother tongue

The Federal Government recently approved a new national language policy that makes the mother tongue a compulsory medium of instruction for public primary school pupils. The minister of education disclosed this while briefing reporters on the outcome of the just concluded Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting held at the State House in Abuja.

Though the Federal Government and its education ministry could be said to have failed many Nigerians when it comes to education policy-making and implementations over the years, however, we must commend the vision and the political will to enforce teaching our children in basic schools with our mother tongues.

According to research, teaching and learning in one’s mother tongue is a key factor for inclusion and quality learning, and it also improves learning outcomes and academic performance. This is crucial, especially in primary school to avoid knowledge gaps and increase the speed of learning and comprehension.

Besides, multilingual education based on the mother tongue is proven to empower all learners to fully take part in society. It fosters mutual understanding and respect for one another and helps preserve the wealth of cultural and traditional heritage that is embedded in every language around the world.


In most countries of the world, the majority of the children who are taught in a language other than their mother tongue suffer from value and cultural crises

It is no doubt that many Nigerian children are losing touch with their culture because of the influence of teaching them at the elementary cadre with foreign languages. Many youngsters can effectively communicate in English Language and French but find it arbitrary to speak their mother tongue.

And the concomitant negative effect is that most of these adolescents do not have regard for the indigenous moral values and lifestyle. Like a songwriter once said, “If you do not know where you are going to, you should be able to know where you are coming from…” Unfortunately, most children do not know where they are coming from nor where they are going.

It is a welcome development that the Federal Government has approved the use of the mother tongue to teach these children, however, we must point out that there is still a long way to go before guaranteeing all learners their right to education in their mother language.

Read also: On the Queen’s demise: The reality of the English language

In most countries of the world, the majority of the children who are taught in a language other than their mother tongue suffer from value and cultural crises. Through its normative frameworks for language policy and education, UNESCO shares good practices in bilingual and multilingual education and mother tongue instruction.

This works with the ability of its member states to integrate multilingual education into academic curricula and education systems. And this is where the Federal Government must prove its seriousness by matching words with actions. Though the policy has officially taken effect, it can only be fully implemented when government develops instructional materials and adequately qualified teachers for those rural communities.

That the Federal Government extended the programme to Junior Secondary Schools is an added challenge, which it must prove to have what it takes to implement, because it is obvious that its implementation will be difficult.

The minister had revealed that the mother tongue will be used exclusively for the first six years of education, while it will be combined with the English Language from Junior Secondary School.

Recent successful initiatives to promote mother language-based education have taken place in Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, and Kenya. Findings from UNESCO show national efforts made by different countries to foster cultural and linguistic diversity.

In addition, UNESCO recently unveiled the World Atlas of Languages, an unprecedented initiative to preserve, revitalise and promote global linguistic diversity and multilingualism.