Learning outcomes: does the mother tongue hold the solution?
According to the World Bank, Nigeria experiences learning poverty in which 70% of 10-year-olds cannot understand a simple sentence or perform basic numeracy tasks. Thus, this percentage of children in the country are not learning the basic foundational skills.
The concern to meet the challenge of having more than 10 million children out of school in Nigeria has gained momentum through the efforts of individuals, stakeholders and government, but a more difficult problem is the result of learning of those who attend school.
The World Bank report showed that Nigeria is facing a staggering learning crisis, with learning outcomes in the country being one of the worst in the world.
While learning outcomes in the country’s basic education, particularly in public schools, continue to worry parents, groups and stakeholders, many have suggested that much remains to be done to develop the basics of literacy and numeracy in the country.
Even though Nigeria does not lack adequate policies to deal with learning crises, the challenges of insufficient infrastructure, inadequate funding, inadequate and under-prepared workforce, high ratio of students in class, 1:55 in primary schools and insecurity, among others, in the education sector have continued to minimize the effectiveness of policies.
While the policies are there to be enacted to address the learning crisis, the proposal on the use of the mother tongue to teach at the basic level is at its lowest level at the basic education level from the country.
Mother tongue is the language a child hears after birth and helps give precise shape to his feelings and thoughts.
According to research titled “Indigenous Education: Language, Culture and Identity”, published on Researchgate.net, learning in the mother tongue is also crucial for improving other critical thinking skills, second language learning and literacy skills.
Based on years of research, the inclusion of Indigenous language and culture in the school curriculum is an important factor in children’s academic achievement, retention rate and school attendance, the research also showed.
Although the debate over the use of indigenous languages at the grassroots level has been a national issue for decades, language experts have reaffirmed the importance of indigenous languages for the cultural and educational development of any society.
Various studies have been conducted in this regard and the results have shown that the mother tongue is very effective in learning outcomes. However, the practice of using the mother tongue in schools in Nigeria is frowned upon or rather, it is the use of the national languages Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba and English.
Yet, Nigeria is a multilingual country with around 400 languages and has an education policy that allows for trilingual education in the mother tongue (MT), a national language and English.
The education policy provides for a multilingual policy involving the learning of the L1 (first language) or the language of the immediate community (LIC) of the child, one of the three main or national languages (i.e. say Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) and English, but this policy has not been effectively implemented.
However, experts believe that apart from the three national languages; other languages should be used at the basic education level.
Oluwabunmi Anani, a teacher at Concordia College, Yola, said that it is believed that the implementation of the Indigenous Language Teaching Mechanism (recognized and supported by Nigerian education policy) will solve the learning crisis at the level of basic education in the country.
Anani said, “Using the mother tongue at the basic level makes learning easier and more familiar to students. It is like bringing the familiar into the unknown – thus leading students, gradually, to trust and therefore embrace the unknown.
While noting that children who come from poor homes or homes that practice a conservative culture may find learning imposing and threatening, she said that to allay their fears, suspicions and distrust, the teacher must engage the language native, if learning is to be achieved.
“Learners with a short attention span and slow learning pace need the warmth, simplicity and familiarity that the Indigenous language offers for inclusive learning to take place.
“Creativity at the lower level is enhanced by writing when the child first learns to think, visualize and imagine ideas in their native language. Gradually, he or she learns to ‘see things’ by English; builds up his stock of words before starting to articulate in English.
Speaking on the benefits, Anani said it “lubricates the learning process, thus gradually introducing the learner into the world of the English language and it effortlessly lays the foundation for cumulative knowledge of the English language” .
However, she advised teachers to apply the principle of balance when teaching in the mother tongue and to avoid extremes.
“The English language should not be completely erased from the child’s learning experience, as we must remember that the use of the native language is only a means to an end, not an end in itself,” she added.
In addition to the use of indigenous languages, the application of the game method (fun-based learning method), outdoor learning, practical work and experiments, teacher and student narration and visual literacy in classrooms can be deployed to improve learning outcomes.
A pedagogue, Olasunkanmi Opeifa, said that learning is achieved when the learner can construct knowledge or create a concept from what is learned. Thus, all the means that will enable learning to take place must simply be employed.
“The language of the immediate community is not limited to the three main languages we have in Nigeria. The vehicle of communication is language. Once a child can decipher the lesson in their local language, I think the learning outcome won’t be far,” he said.
According to Opeifa, using the mother tongue is likely to increase learning outcomes, especially in local communities where “local” languages are used for daily communication.
“Although I can suggest that English be used in the elite community being the language of the immediate community (LIC), local languages should be used in any other community based on popularity. What we want to achieve is learning, that is, creating goals,” he said.
He said that using the mother tongue is only beneficial if it is the same as the learner’s first language, called L1, and “there is a psycholinguistic link between your root, your language and your understanding. You have enough vocabulary to use and grasp if the concept is taught in the language you are rooted in.
Opeifa argued that improving learning outcomes also relies on modern learning facilities, needs-based and 21st-century curricula, and appropriate training and well-being. for teachers.