In search of high literacy levels in Zambian primary schools: does duration of mother tongue instruction before transitioning into a second language matter?

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Mwanza, David Sani
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International Journal of Education and Research
The study aimed at establishing whether the period of mother tongue use before transitioning to a second language has an effect on improving literacy levels in Zambia. The study used documentary analysis in answering the research question. In this case, recent studies on medium of initial literacy in Zambia have been reviewed and selected data sets from the reviewed studies have been presented to provide an answer to this study. In one case study which was reviewed, the findings show that even after extending the period from one year to four years of using mother tongue, the majority of the learners’ ability to read and write was very low. For example, results from reading and writing tests in English revealed that, 55.4% of learners scored below average in reading and 94.9% scored below average in writing. Findings also show that teachers lacked teaching and learning materials that would allow them to teach effectively, teachers were not trained on how to transition and learners had not broken through to the second language by grade five. Thus, the study concludes that regardless of how long a mother tongue is used as medium of instruction before transitioning to a second language, literacy levels may not improve unless other equally important factors are addressed. In view of the findings, the study recommends that there is need to change the transitioning model in which case translanguaging should be legitimised as a bridging language practice from grade 4 to grade 5. This implies that primary teachers should be trained on how they are supposed to transition from grade 4 to 5 in the context of translanguaging
Language and languages--Study and teaching--Zambia , Literacy--Government policy--Zambia