Key note speaker's presentation at the dialogue
Mother-tongue as a Facilitator of Learning: What lessons should governments and their people learn?
Guiding definition - language
“the words, their pronunciation, and the
methods of combining them used and understood by a community”
“a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood
meaning” (Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language)
Basic theories and principles - language
•Language is cognition and behavior.
•Language is a psychological facility so fundamental to human development and social interaction.
•Language is often understood as a
facility used by a group of people.
•A group of people share an identity, and they communicate with each other about their world and their experiences.
•Language is expression, and is used to moderate
ideas and feelings.
Children (What about adults?) learn better in a familiar language (Cummins 2000; Kosonen 2005; Kioko, 2015).
The home language, a mother-tongue, first language or area local language is a natural medium of expression of their personal thoughts, their cultural heritage, and their wants.
language policies based on these universal facts are easily ignored, easily reversed and poorly implemented
(Gove & Cvelich, 2010; Muthwii, 2007; Trudell & Piper 2013).
Observations in learning contexts
•Why does a child fail to compute 2x3, 2+5?
What do “times”, “repeated addition”
or “plus” mean?
•Why do UWEZO, NAPE and EGRA results tell us that children are not reading age and grade level appropriate texts?
•What does an author mean
“Sets with exactly the same but with different numbers of elements or sets with different type but same number of elements are called UNEQUAL
sets.” (textbook definition)
•What does a child mean by this?
“For me unequal sets are sets where everything is not the same.”
(P6 pupil’s definition)
•How are university graduates coping?
“Learner’s reading culture can be determined by one social background, students when come from poor social economic background are not in facilitation of reading materials; therefore affects attitude of reading. For example
students tend to have a poor reading culture incompetence to reading skills. I will use the behaviourist theory of learners must be rewarded with positive or negative rewards to teach my students Kiswahili.”
Simple lessons about our classrooms
•Learners (and no doubt teachers and authors) are struggling with the language of instruction, among other things.
is simply as would be, given the reality that only 7% of the world’s population speaks English as their first language.
•Learning is at stake because learners are forced, very early, to communicate
in an unfamiliar language, which introduces confusion in the development process.
Where did we start going wrong?
practices are devoid of basic principles of learning.
1.Premature introduction of a second (foreign) language, especially in metropolitan contexts
that learning a new language is a hazardous experience – a new way of thinking, feeling and acting; it is a completely new means of physical, emotional and intellectual response (Douglas Brown, 1987).
2. Irrational learning loads
The learner has to cope with learning new concepts in a new language.
Opinion leaders who think that their
languages are a shame, uninformed policy leaders, parents and politicians do not understand what learning is about.
There is no care for the materially and consequently intellectually
disadvantaged majority who fail to learn.
3. Leaders ignore the principles of learning.
means to learning - acquisition of knowledge: study, experience or instruction are all intentional and can not be taken for granted.
Learning is retention and later appropriate use of knowledge in response
to dynamic situations.
Learning is cognition or organization of knowledge.
Learning is permanent behavior change.
4. Leaders deny the child the right to an education in a familiar language.
A child acquires vocabulary and structures in their language early in life and builds confidence in its oral use due to the rewards they realize. Children entering school for the first time look to this foundation for a scaffold to
Condemnation of mother-tongue based early grade curricula, usually in pursuit of economic indicators of globalization (Muthwii & Kioko, 2003), is ignorance of the fundamental development
path and of a basic right.
5. Leaders do not listen to the universal facts of transferability of foundational competences.
Education in a familiar language is a natural bridge to second language learning.
Children who are systematically supported to master the vocabulary of their language, to be fluent in
it, to talk about concepts in a language they understand will find it easier to work in an additional language (Balystock, 2001).
6. Our systems often
lack good learning models.
Children face a demand to learn from print. Since they join school with an oral foundation in their language, we should provide early exposure to reading - at the right time, in the right measure,
in the right manner.
Every child can and should learn to read, but they must be taught.
How do we make
1. Reading taught in a familiar tongue
•A familiar language is used to facilitate childrens’ ability to learn to read as well as their ability to learn another language
and other subjects.
•L1 reading mastery cements the cognitive development that is needed to learn L2 as many key reading skills are transferrable from one language to another.
•Children use their knowledge of vocabulary, linguistic construction of language and ability to pronounce sounds to decode and ultimately comprehend text.
2. Appropriate text provided to support
•LL and English primers are provided for every learner to ensure “eyes on text” every day.
•Texts for learners
are age and grade level appropriate.
•Texts provide the opportunity for learners to apply what they have learned, gradually increasing their ability to read more letters, words and extended text.
More time devoted to reading instruction
•Reading instruction starts early and happens everyday.
•Teachers maximize the amount of time spent
•Specific time is dedicated for reading instruction.
•Children have ample time to have their ‘eyes on text’, for practice.
•Time for reading
extends beyond the classroom and a culture of reading is fostered in homes and communities.
4. Effective teaching methodologies instituted
•Teachers are supported to learn the components of reading and effective practices for teaching each component.
•They learn simple yet effective teaching practices and instructional routines that motivate
children, and formative feedback and scaffolding.
•They are supported with explicit lesson plans, regular mentoring, coaching and support supervision.
5. Regular testing conducted to
assess learning progress
•Teachers should assess children ‘s learning by appropriate methods.
•Continuous assessment results must be ploughed back into instruction to respond to learners’
•Targeted assessments such as EGRA help identify which skills need reinforcement and can directly inform teaching and learning.
anything left for anyone to pick up?
Yes, a lot. Central governments have a responsibility to shift from tokenism to business in:
i. framing and articulating mother-tongue education policies based
on sound theory;
ii. budgets to support development and production of LL medium and transitional English instructional materials;
iii. investing in teacher and supervisor training and professional development programs;
iv. follow-up classroom support for teachers, and
v. increasing the currency of LLs by widening the domains of use.
a lot. Communities and CSOs should demand for teaching and learning effectiveness through:
i. leveraging schools’ efforts to implement LL based instruction policies;
ii. lobbying governments for bilingual
iii. lobbying for review of high stake examinations that glorify memorization at the expense of assessment that could enfranchise the marginalized learner, and
iv. sensitizing society about the glory
of white collar jobs.
•Balystock, E. (2001) Bilingualism in Development: Language, literacy and cognition, Cambridge: Cambridge University
•Cummins, J. (2000) Language, Power and Pedagogy, Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
•Douglas Brown, H. (1987) Principals of Language Learning and Teaching, 2nd Edition, New
•Gove, A., & Cvelich, P. (2010) Early reading: Igniting education for all. A report by the early grade learning community of practice. Research Triangle Park, NC: Research Triangle Institute.
•Kioko, A.N. (2015) Why schools should teach young learners in home language, Opens.
•Kosonen, K. (2005) Education in local language: Policy and practice in Southeast Asia, UNESCO.
•Muthwii, M., & Kioko, A. N. (2003) A fresh quest for new language bearings in Africa, Language, Culture and Curriculum 16:3.
•Trudell, B., & Piper, B. (2013) Whatever the law says: language policy
implementation and early-grade literacy achievement in Kenya, Current Issues in Language Planning.