PROSPECTS OF MT AND
BILINGUAL EDUCATION IN AFRICA:
With Special Reference to Tanzania
Martha A.S.Qorro
Department of Foreign languages and Linguistics
University of Dar es Salaam
Tanzania
07/10/2015
1
Introduction
Apart from the first three years of schooling
most African countries do not practice mother
tongue or bilingual education
– That partly explains why this paper
addresses the prospects of offering MT and
BL education in Africa.
– Those coming from Africa this Conference
is a learning process.
– Thank you for the invitation
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Introduction cont…
Before independence formal education in Africa was
offered in the MT for the first three to five years of
schooling, followed by transition into a European
language such as English, French or Portuguese.
With independence some countries tried to introduce
African languages as media of education, however
the effort did not last.
With the influence of liberalised economy and
globalisation, European languages, especially
English are coming back strongly.
The tendency now is to introduce English from the
first year of schooling; the intention is to make
children bilingual from an early age.
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Introduction cont…

The emphasis has shifted from offering
education to English language teaching;
 The shift is clear from the arguments given
by policy makers;
 The shift is based on the myth that the best
way to teach a foreign language is to use it
as the language of instruction.
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Introduction cont…

The outcome is however contrary to what was
intended.
– Despite the early start in learning English in the first
year of school, complaints still abound about students’
poor proficiency in the language;
– Students’ proficiency is equally poor in MT or African
languages of wider communication;
– Students’ level of understanding of subject taught in
English is also poor;

Research findings elsewhere show that the use of
MT or a familiar language is a key factor in
accessing Quality education;
 The paper examines the effects of not using MT or
a familiar language as medium of instruction.
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Dangers of using a foreign
language for instruction

Research findings in Tanzania show how seriously
handicapped teachers and students are when using
English, and how better they perform when they
use a familiar language, Kiswahili. Below is a
Form II student’s response to the researchers’
question: “How will your secondary education be
of use to you and to Tanzania?”
– My name secondary education is a treal secondary
school for education in Dodoma region in Tanzania.
The student are paying fees this school is not spend the
sam thing for the education off like the subject for year
(Mlama and Matteru 1978:39).
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Dangers of using a foreign
language for instruction

A Form 3 student was asked the same
question, and the response was:
– In my secondary education used to find the
political in swahili. I dont know why dont you
find all subjects in secondary in Swahili. They
find others in swahili others in English. I think
if the subject we can find in swahili the
secondary it is their happy to enjoed the subject
except eny reason (Mlama na Matteru 1978:40)
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Dramatic change in the quality of
response when a familiar language is
used

The same student was asked the question in
Kiswahili: “Unafikiri elimu ya sekondari
utakayopata itakunufaishaje wewe na nchi
yako Tanzania?” Response:
– Elimu nitakayopata katika shule ya sekondari
itaninufaisha mimi pamoja na taifa langu.
Nitashirki kikamilifu katika kazi ya kujitolea
nafsi yangu kuondoa ujinga, magonjwa,
nitashiriki kikamilifu kuwafundisha wazee
ambao hawakupata nafasi ya kusoma. (Mlama
na Matteru 1978: 39-40).
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Dramatic change in the quality
of response when a familiar
language is used
 Authors’ translation:
– The secondary school education that I
will get will benefit me and my country. I
will participate fully in volunteering in
person to remove ignorance, disease, I
will participate fully in teaching the old
who did not get a chance to study.
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Further examples of classroom
observations

In a study (Rubagumya, Jones and Mwansoko
1998: 17) the following interaction between the
teacher and students was observed:
– T: When you go home put some water in a jar, leave it
direct on sun rays and observe the decrease of the
amount of water. Have you understood?
– SS: (Silence)
– T: Nasema, chukua chombo, uweke maji na kiache
kwenye jua, maji yatakuwaje? (I say, take a container
with water and leave it in the sun, what will happen to
the water?)
– SS: Yatapungua (it will decrease)
– T: Kwa nini? (why?)
– SS: Yatafyonzwa na mionzi ya jua (it will be
07/10/2015 evaporated by the sun’s rays).
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Further examples of
classroom observations

Extract from a Form 3 student’s notes:
– By the end of 18th some at the States had become beig
sertralised king doms. By the middle at 19th C states such
as Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole, Rwanda and Burundi had
become powertul througth trident and military
conquest… Anuther form of feudal relation was
Ubagabice which clevdoped between the Tustsi and Hutu
in Rwanda, Burund, and Buha. Here feudal plaction
revelved catllo ownership. The Tutsi wduld some at thes
catlle toa Hutu family. Land lord (master mass cattled
sebujca and his subject was called Mugabbi (Qorro
1999).
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Further examples of
classroom observations

Teacher and students’ interaction in Form 2
Commerce lesson (Vuzo 2005: 68-69)
T: Good must be remain in the store…to be ready for a
changing of weather…it is a danger to sell all goods in the
store… The dangerous of selling all the goods in the
store… when good are scarcity… and sales are increase…
(T mixes language to elaborate the point) Nina maana
kuwa bidhaa zikipungua… we need time for preparation.
Time to ask for a new goods…(in the course of the lesson
he posed a question)
T: How can we do before to sell all goods in the store?
S: You must be care with that changes… and making time for
a preparation…
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Effects of using European
language LOI in Africa





It has resulted in 90% of intellectual production in
Africa being stored in FL forts, completely
inaccessible to the majority of African people;
Education has become an investment with little or
no returns for the continent – nurtured poverty;
It has fostered dependency on foreign financial
institutions, technology, ideas for development
models and educational materials;
It has alienated the elite from the general
population in Africa – almost irrelevant;
It has fuelled brain drain from Africa.
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Effects of using European
language LOI in Africa

It has denied generations of youths firm
understanding of issues and how they relate
to real life; and has resulted in:
– Poor planning and decision making,
– Lack of commitment to community service,
– Lack of independent thinking,
– Inability to think critically, creatively and
independently; to question, discuss and analyse
issues in a systematic manner.
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Confusing ELT with English as LOI

Most policy makers and parents seem to confuse
ELT with using English as the language of
instruction;
 Most of the reasons they give for using English as
LOI (see p. 6) are good reasons for teaching
English;
 One wonders whether these are genuine reasons
or there are covert reasons only known to
policymakers;
 There is need to raise awareness among policy
makers and parents in Africa.
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Lack of understanding on
language proficiency levels

Students are expected to learn all subject in
English, even when their proficiency level is very
low;
 Research findings for almost thirty years have
consistently shown that most secondary school
students in Tanzania learn by memorising due to
low level of proficiency in English, the official
LOI;
 Research findings elsewhere show that students
need to attain a certain level of proficiency before
they can use a language for academic purposes
(Cummins 2000).
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The impact of mother tongue
learning in Africa

A comparative study of learners’ writing skills in
Kiswahili/IsiXhosa and English (Brock-Utne and
Desai 2005:243-244) shows that:
– Students’ description in Kiswahili and IsiXhosa were
explicit and related clearly to the given pictures, while
the descriptions in English were largely
incomprehensible and often did not relate to the
pictures.
– The stories were much longer and clearer compared to
those written in English.
– The vocabulary in Kiswahili and IsiXhosa was rich and
varied, with proper sentence construction, no
grammatical, spelling and tense errors.
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The impact of mother tongue
education beyond Africa

Cummins (1979, 1981 and 2000) and Krashen
(1985) have shown that poor performance in the
language of instruction results in poor
performance, not only in subjects taught in that
language, but also in the language of instruction as
well.
 In other words, when students have a firm
understanding of their specialised subjects, when
taught in the first language (MT), that firm
understanding gives them a solid ground on which
to build a strong foundation for learning English,
or any other foreign language.
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The impact of mother tongue
learning beyond Africa

The strong foundation in MT that lead to higher
proficiency in a foreign language is what
Cummins has termed as the ‘interdependence
hypothesis’.
 The same hypothesis might explain why those
who started learning English in the fifth year of
schooling (before independence) were more
proficient in English than those in the current
system, who start in the first or third year of
schooling.
 Thus MT and BL go well with the learning of
foreign languages.
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Why MT and BL education have not
been implemented in Africa

Lack of understanding among parents and the
general public, on the critical importance of MT
and BL education;
– These exert pressure on governments to introduce
foreign languages early in schools,
– …

Stigmatization of African languages and cultures
during the colonial rule;
 It works in the interest of a few powerful countries
for political and economic reasons:
– MT education liberates the mind, thus people are not
easily manipulated,
– …
07/10/2015
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Why MT and BL education have not
been implemented in Africa

The use of an unfamiliar language in any
communication situation acts as a means of
control on the part of the leadership:
– At the national level it works in the interest of
the rulers,
– In schools it sometimes works in the interest of
school heads,
– In offices and industries???
–…
Thus the use of MT works contrary to that of
unfamiliar language;
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Conclusion

Examined the way MT and BL education have
been sidelined in Africa, e.g. Tanzania;
– It is ‘project’ carried out partly by Africans,
– It does not benefit the majority of people,
– It is used as a means of control (tongue tied);

MT and BL are possible, viable and sustainable in
Africa just as they are in Asia and Europe;
– It means hard work to develop materials,
– It means learning other languages,

NGOs, CSO, CBO, researchers and educators
have a critical role to play;
– Awareness raising and liberating minds on MT and BL.
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Tak!
Asanteni kwa usikivu wenu!
Thank you for your attention!
Shukran!
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