The Medium of Instruction in Zambian Primary Schools
Sekeleti, Clayton M
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Literature was reviewed which looked at the Educational Psycholinguistic, Psycho-social and Cultural effects of the use of heterogeneous student populations' foreign language as a medium of instruction. The study set out to deal with two basic issues:should English be the medium of instruction immediately a child enters school in Zambia or should the child initially be taughtin a language he is familiar with for the first three to four years before a switchover is nade to English? From each of the two types of Primary Schools (i.e. Underprivileged and Privileged)were sampled 40 (20 males and 20 females) Bemba speaking subjects from grades 5 and 6, making up a total of 80 subjects for the entire study. To illuminate the problem of investigation, achievement tests, attitude and factual information questionnaires and observational schedules were used to which appropriate statistical tools were applied.The results showed that teachers in privileged schools were observed to use significantly more English when addressing their pupils than in underprivileged schools both in English lessons and in Maths lessons.Pupils in privileged schools also used more English when addressing their teachers than those in underprivileged schools, but only in English lessons. Pupils' choice of language for addressing each other in class did not differ across the two types of schools. A comparison of the two groups of pupils on various tests showed privileged school pupils score significantly higher on tests of English Comprehension, but significantly lower on tests of Bemba Comprehension and of Comprehension of Bemba proverbs. Pupils in underprivileged schools scored significantly higher than those in privileged schools on tests of English Reading, English Writing and Bemba Writing. No significant difference was found between the two groups on a test of Bemba Heading. Skills in the two languages were only negligibly correlated. A test of Self-Esteem in relation to their usage of their vernacular language, Bemba, was administered and the results factor analysed. No significant relation was found between scores on the four factors which emerged and performance on the proficiency tests, but high total scores on the self-esteem scale were associated with higher scores on the English Writing and English Reading tests and with lower scores on the English Comprehension test.Responses to a questionnaire on parental attitudes towards, and self-reported usage of, English showed that the two variables were positively correlated: Parents who reported using English extensively also tended to show a positive attitude toward the language. However only the reported usage scale was significantly correlated with pupils' performance on tests in the case of those attending under-privileged schools, who were drawn fron lower class families, a significant positive correlation was found between parental reported usage and pupil's English and Bemba comprehension; while in the higher class group patronising the privileged school a significant negative correlation was found between parents' English and pupils' Bemba comprehension.On the question of culture awareness and the role of vernacular languages, the findings suggested that the fonaer was being affected by the lack of developiaent of the vernacular languages in schools due to their low status and the consequent lack of appropriate teaching materials and interest by pupils and their teachers to learn them and teach them respectively. It was concluded that Government policy on instructional language for primary schools seeas to be influenced nore by intent than reality.It was therefore suggested that future policy should take account of empirical data from research, and that encouragement should be given to further research on language and education with emphasis on Zambian languages.
SubjectLanguage and languages--Zambia
- Education