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The purpose of the study was to investigate the influence of mother tongue on children’s learning abilities in English language in Kaduna north local government area. The study used descriptive survey design which used both quantitative and qualitative approaches to collect the data. The participant included nursery school teachers from eight nursery schools. Data was collected using questionnaires for the teachers and the nursery school pupils. While interviews were use for children. Data was analyzed using the statistical package for social science (SPSS) frequencies and presented in tables and charts. The study revealed that mother tongue contributes positively towards the learning of English language in nursery schools. It further revealed that parents had a negative attitude towards the use of mother tongue as a medium of instructions. The study concluded that the language should be implemented in nursery schools and that the stakeholders should ensure that there are enough learning materials in nursery school.
1.1 Background to the Study
Language is a system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other. It is a means of communication through which people express their desire, ideas excitements, amusements, disappointments and exchange of information. It is a tool for thinking and concept development in children. Children think and talk in a language that is familiar to them. It is a vehicle for many different kinds of learning. Language development in children is very essential. It is the process by which children come to understand and communicate using language during early childhood.
From birth to age five years, children develop language at very rapid pace. The stages of language development are universal among humans. However, the age and the pace at which a child reaches each milestone of language development in an individual child must be compared with norms rather than with individual children. Mother tongue is very significant in our lives. It is our means of communicating our thoughts and ideas to the rest. It is also a tool for forging friendships, cultural ties as well as economic relationships. Language shapes our thoughts, emotions and determines our perception of reality (Gordon, 2004). He referred to language as the light of the mind.
According to him, language is not just a vehicle for carrying out expressions of thoughts perceptions, sentiments and values but also a representation of fundamental expressions of social identity. He also believed that language helps in maintaining the feelings of cultural relationship. In our day to day living, language aids in developing and growing one’s personality as a whole. With the advent of the concept of globalization, people all over the world communicate with each other and exchange ideas. Understanding of a common language has helped people to communicate, despite being from varied parts of the world.
It is used as major tool of communication between countries, cultural groups, organizations, communities and friends. Language sets humans apart from the rest of the animal’s kingdom and knits a strong feeling of kinship among people. In the development pathway or trajectory of a child, mother tongue language plays an important role as it is connected to various aspects of a child growth. Learning a language is directly related to emotional development. Since emotions are expressed by using language, it is also connected to moral development in a child since the child learns right and wrong by listening to what parents and adults authorize them to do.
Learning mother tongue language within the first five years of a child’s life is one of the predictors of a child’s later performance in school (Cummins, 2000). A child who has no significant speech or language delays has a high likelihood of having trouble with reading, which may continue throughout the school. Children ability to communicate helps them to relate to and reflect upon their daily educational experiences in order to extend their horizon. If children are unable to communicate effectively in school, their academic and intellectual development is hindered.
Buckley (2003) asserts that some children experience a gap between the language they bring to school and the language of the school. In this concept the child’s home curriculum becomes meaningless and its language may be out of place in the classroom. This may make many children drop out of school even before completinglower primary classes. Gordon (1994) asserts that even those children who remain in school, if their social cultural background is somewhat different from that provided by the school; they tend to perform poorer than that of their classmates who’s their social cultural background is the same as that of school.
Gordon (1994) asserts that there are two main common language gaps. The first one is when a child has a completely different home language or regional dialect from the one used by the school. Secondly, is when the home and school languages are the same though the child might not be familiar with the more formal literally style of the language used by the teachers during lessons. All children come to school with a basic communication competence, developed through their everyday use of mother tongue language at home. The child’s starting point towards learning in school is therefore the spoken and action vocabulary that has developed at home. The school language can be regarded by the child as alien and unfamiliar because it is usually based on the written text and the vocabulary of specific subject content.
He contends that by the time children come to school, they are competent users of their home language or mother tongue and they can label, categorize and describe things. Teachers need to find out and build upon the children’s use of the home language in the school context. To do this, they need to be responsive to the action vocabulary the children already have which they can use to engage in class discussions on familiar themes from home such as names of the food eaten, domestic animals, family members among others.
Children spoken language can then be used as a starting point for developing learning. This can be reinforced through writing in class stories and lessons based upon children’s experiences at home. Where the child’s home language is completely different from that of the school the approach has to be different.
He also contends that wherever possible, teachers should teach young children using their own home language and hence teachers must be familiar with the child’s language of the catchment area and also he or she must have skills to develop language competence in children using the most appropriate second language techniques. Failure to achieve literacy in early years of schooling can hold a child back throughout his or her education life. According to Ellis (2010), all children when joining pre-school bring with them rich experiences in various areas and also knowledge of language of their catchment areas which includes other language dialects other than English. He advocates for teachers to make effective provision for those children who are monolingual to access the second language i.e. English which will assist them to learn with ease.
Ellis (2010), laments that it is unfortunate that same schools fail to find out accurate information about their children’s language and literacy level as they join pre-school, which they can build on or support those with linguistic skills, thus promoting bilingual and multilingual children. According to Cummins (2000), bilingual and multilingual children achieve more highly in school when they continue to use and develop all of their languages.
According to Kangas (2000) bilingualism which involves mother tongue (L1) and the second language English (L2) has positive effects on children linguistics and educational development. When children develop their abilities in two or more languages as they learn, they gain deeper understanding of language and how to use it effectively. Cummins (2000) asserts that children’s knowledge and skills transfer across languages from mother tongue they have learned from their homes (L1) to the school language (L2). Both languages i.e. L1 and L2 nurture each other when educational environment permits children to access both languages. According to Kangas (2000), the level of children’s mother tongue is a strong predictor of their second language development. Children who come to school with a solid foundation in their mother tongue language develop strong literacy ability in the school language (English).
On language policy in Nigeria according to education session paper number 14 of 2012, all children below eight years should be taught using the language of catchment area. However the policy has elicited different reactions from different stakeholders in education such as Nigeria national union of teachers and some parents who argue that the policy is against aims of education. “Daily nation of 27th January 2014” had a sub ending “teachers fight rule on using local languages in classroom”, which shows their negativity towards use of mother tongue.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Nigeria is among many developing countries in Africa with majority of young children going through education systems that sometimes fail to provide teaching and learning instructions in the language that they speak at home, Kobia (2007). This is the language of the catchment area or mother tongue. According to research by UNESCO (2008) children are better placed to become literate easily when they start learning using their first language L1, than when they try to learn directly using a second language (English or L2).
Nursery school children’s performance in English language in Kaduna North Local Government has been below the average for some time according to education division office .This could be linked to failure to use mother tongue as a medium of instruction in Nursery school, but instead teachers and parents prefer use of English as medium of instruction in the classroom which probably affects children`s performance in English language. This could be due to lack of transition from the language they know from home that is mother tongue to the new school language, that is English.
Nigeria education system has a language policy which allows children in nursery schools to be taught or learn using the language of their catchment area and English in later years. The policy is supposedly in effect in some nursery schools in rural areas while in urban areas there is no uniformity in language of instructions, due to language diversity of people and sometimes English is used as a medium of instructions and socialization. It is not unusual in urban areas to find children as young as two years speaking English language fluently, which is widely used as language of instructions in pre-school when learning.
In both rural and urban areas, there is a big challenge of implementing the mother tongue language policy in nursery-schools. This is because both nursery-school parents and teachers prefer English language being used as medium of instruction because they think it is superior to mother tongue. This has made the pre-school teachers to continue teaching nursery-school children using the school second language (L2) that is English so as to fulfill the wishes of pre-schools parents which may have influenced negatively the performance of English language of nursery-school children in Kaduna north local government areas. Most of nursery-schools in the division are located in rural areas, hence the need for a study to be carried out to identify the exact problem affecting children’s performance in the English language in nursery-schools, in Kaduna north local government.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study was to investigate the role of the mother tongue language on nursery- school children `s performance in the English language in Kaduna north local government.
1.4 Research Objectives
The research focused on the following objectives
i. To establish the influence of home language on pre-school children’s performance in theEnglish language in Kaduna north local government.
ii. To determine the influence of the school language of instruction on nursery-school children’s performance in the English language in Kaduna north local government.
iii. To examine parents and teachers perception of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction on nursery-school children performance in English language in Kaduna north local government.
iv. To evaluate the implementation of the educational language policy in Nigeria on nursery-school children performance in the English language in Kaduna north local government.
1.5 Research Questions
i. How does the home language influence nursery-school children’s performance in the English language in Kaduna north local government?
ii. How does the school language of instruction influence pre-school children`s performance in the English language in Kaduna north local government?
iii. How does the parents and teachers perception of the mother-tongue as medium of instruction influence nursery- school children`s performance in the English language in Kaduna north local government?
iv. How does the implementation of the educational language policy in Nigeria influence nursery-school children`s performance in the English language in Kaduna north local government.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The findings of the study will be of benefit to various education stakeholders such as the head teachers of various public and private schools where pre-school centers are located who are to be enlightened on importance of mother tongue based learning and emphasize on the same to pre-school and lower primary teachers. Parents, pre-school teachers and lower primary teachers were to get an insight on the importance of mother tongue in the teaching and learning processes. The community, sponsors and faith based organizations (FBO) which support education were to be sensitized on the value of mother tongue language based learning and how it influences children’s English language learning. Educational policy makers were to be enlightened on the importance of mother tongue as a language in teaching and learning process and emphasize on its implementation by teachers of young children.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
Negative attitude of the nursery-school parents towards the use of mother tongue in teaching and learning process in the classroom which may have made them give wrong information. The division had very many head teachers who were not Early Childhood Education compliance and so to them the research could not be of any value to education. The location of the study that is in soba gari was very vast and to reach some parts even with a motorbike was very difficult especially when it rained. The researcher after sampling may not have got the enlightened parents to give the required data. Time was not enough to carry out the research thoroughly in the whole division since the researcher was also teaching as well as doing the research work.
1.8 Delimitation of the study
The study was conducted to some sampled publicschools in Kaduna north which had a population of thirty sixnursery-schools. It confined itself to nursery-schools’ children in public schools, nursery-school teachers, parents and head teachers in the division. This was due to constrains of time and money required to carry out the study in the whole Division.
1.9 Definition of key terms used in this study
Nursery-school Child - a young person age (3-5) years.
Language - a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings using signs, gestures and sounds.
Mother tongue - language of the child` s catchment area.
Performance - activity level of a child (high or low).
Perception - apprehending by means of senses or of the mind or views
10.0 Organization of the Study.
The study was organized in the following way. On completion of the study the research project was organized in five (5) chapters. Chapter one which is referred to as introduction contain background to the study, statement of the problem, purpose, objectives of the study, research questions, significance of the study, limitations and delimitations of the study, basic assumptions and definitions of key terms. Chapter two which is referred to as literature review addresses introduction, relevant themes and sub themes related to the objectives of the study, theoretical and conceptual framework. Chapter three which is referred to as research methodology focused on introduction, research design, population, sampling technique and sample size, instruments, validity and reliability, procedure for data collection, data analysis and ethical concerns. Chapter four dealt with data analysis and discussion of the findings, while chapter five dealt with summary of the research findings, conclusions and recommendations. References and appendices were given at the back respectively.
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