A History of The Six-Year Primary Project in the Use of Yoruba as the Medium of Primary Education


The Larger Context and Arguments on Mother Tongue and Education Many non-English speaking parents think that if their children only learn English, they will fare better in school. In the last half a century or so, researchers have noticed the problem faced especially by developing nations in their language-related educational policies.1 Some countries, like Burundi, for example, have adopted this mentality and made English the official national language, in hopes that encouraging English will stimulate the economy and improve the job prospects of youth.2 However, research consistently shows that focusing entirely on English or any “majority language” at the detriment of one’s native language actually does more harm than good. There are many 1 See works of Joshua Fishman, Language Problems of Developing Nations. New York: Wiley, 1968 and Joshua Fishman. Readings in the Sociology of Language. The Hague, Paris: Mouton, 1968. 2 Angelina Kioko, “Why Schools Should Teach Young Learners in Home Language,” British Council, January 16, 2015, https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/ why-schools-should-teach-young-learners-home-language. 238 Toyin Falola and Michael Oladejo Afolayan benefts of children’s maintaining their native language, which I summarize below and will expand upon throughout the essay: 3 1. One’s language is tied with one’s identity. Consequently, then, maintaining one’s native language means maintaining one’s identity. With this maintained identity, one feels a connection to one’s native culture and therefore has a positive self-concept. 2. Maintaining one’s language allows one to strengthen relationships with family and community members who perhaps do not speak English (or the majority language) or who prefer to speak in their native language. Tis allows for one to keep a reliable social network bound by a common tongue. 3. If a young child is forced to speak in English (or the majority language) when they prefer to speak in their mother tongue, they are also forced to operate at a lower intellectual age than they actually are. Tis can damage the child’s academic future. Therefore, it is best for the child to be encouraged to speak both languages and experience the benefits of bilingualism and a fully developing brain. 4. Similar to #3, children who are able to speak in their native language and English (or the majority language) experience higher academic achievement throughout their life.

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