Language Of Instruction In Tanzania Education Essay

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This paper will try to point out why Kiswahili which has been successfully used as a language of instruction (LOI) in primary education and in other settings in Tanzania requires to be promoted as a LOI at secondary and tertiary levels of education for Tanzanians to realize quality education for development.

Tanzania is one of the few African countries endowed with a local national language, Kiswahili, that is used by about 95% of the entire population, while English is spoken fluently and used by only about 5% of the population (Brock-Utne, 2002). According to Batibo (1995) Kiswahili is a fast growing language in Tanzania, although it is a second language to many it is the language used in commerce, industry, in Parliament, in the various Ministries, in the lower judicial courts and in all of public primary school as a LOI since independence as compared to English which is used as a LOI in post primary education and in few ministries.

With the above information, is it English or Kiswahili that Tanzanians need more? Proponents of English as a LOI argue that, Tanzanians need English in performing their duties in their daily lives. In response to this argument Qorro (2004) asserts that it is Kiswahili and not English that is popular among most Tanzanians in performing their daily duties in Agriculture, commerce, industry, transport, public offices, religious institutions and courts (p.97). It would therefore be fair to do justice to the many who work in such areas by conducting education in Kiswahili which they understand to keep them abreast with current issues. On the other hand English is a non-indigenous language that was introduced during the British colonial rule. English is spoken fluently by about 5%only of the Tanzainan population as a second language Brock-Utne, (2002). This percentage is dwindling although it is being used as a LOI as from secondary school level contrary to the expectations of many that the percentage of people who are fluent in it would have increased. Senkoro (2005, p. 9). Therefore the question is what has the government done about this glaring need issue of medium of instruction.

After independence, the Arusha Declaration and the drive towards education for self reliance made policy makers to grapple with the issue of language policy and thus the government of Tanzania made several attempts to have Kiswahili as the LOI especially in the 80s and 90 but never came to fruition (Batibo, 1995). This is was largely due to lack of political will and the influence of the British government that was keen on maintaining English as LOI in Tanzania (P. 28). Basically this is one way of the former colonial governments trying to maintain their hegemony over former colonies, so as to ensure continued language dependence. For the purpose of information in would be appropriate to note some of efforts that were made. In 1982 a presidential commission appointed by the then President of Tanzania Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, and chaired Mr. J. Makweta recommended the making of Kiswahili the language of instruction at all levels of education in Tanzania (Brock-Utne, 2002 p. 3). Unfortunately the recommendation were never implemented due the influence of British government which convinced the government to instead strengthen English by funding the implementation of the English Language Support Project (ELSP) in 1984 (Roy-Campbell, 1995). Another famous attempt was in 1997 when the Ministry of Education and Culture published a policy document on Education and Culture which recommended the use of Kiswahili as a LOI at all levels of education, in part it stated;

'English shall be a compulsory subject in pre-primary, primary and secondary level and shall be encouraged in higher education. A special programme to enable the use of Kiswahili as a medium of instruction at all levels shall be designated and implemented.' (MEC, 1997 pp. 2-3)

This policy document clearly stipulated the need for Kiswahili to become the LOI at all levels of education while strengthening English as a subject. The question is why were these recommendations not implemented? The main driving force is the fear inculcated into the people that Tanzania would be isolated from the international community if it adopts Kiswahili as a LOI in its education system, thus resulting in submission against the glaring needs of the country. In many African countries, submersion for the majority of the people manifests itself in the use of the former colonial LOI as was seen in the attitudes of parents, educationists and even students who are in favour of English as a LOI (Puja 2003). The linguistic goal is dominance in the 'world language' by the elite and former colony as was stated by Phillipson (as cited in Rubagumya, 1991, pp. 80-81) who outlines some tenets which have guided LOI practice in Anglophone Africa. These tenets were:

English is best taught monolingually

the earlier English is taught the better the results

if other languages are used much, then the standards of English will drop

the more English is taught the better the results

Phillipson, goes on to assert that these tenets are fallacies (appeal to consequences) in the light of research on education and available theories of language learning. These tenets are used, he argues, "to accord priority to English, to the exclusion of all other languages." According to Swilla, (2009) most Tanzanian children have access to learning English theoretically, it is only those attending good quality English-medium private schools that attain competence in the language and perform well as compared to students from poor background who attend public schools. These are the children of about 5% of the population who created a class of their own. The rest of the 95% of learners receive instruction in substandard English which affects their performance.

The question which begs an answer here is, is English actually used inside the classroom, although the policy of the ministry of education and culture stipulates so? Senkoro notes that, even if Kiswahili is not designated as the LOI at secondary and University level, teachers, lecturers and students nonetheless use it in and out of the classroom. Teachers in Secondary schools teach in Kiswahili to make the subject matter easier to understand instead of English which is officially assigned. To support the above assertions let us consider evidence provided by research findings on LOI in Tanzania.

Roy-Campbell (1995) while carrying out research on LOI in Tanzania found out that the element of continuity of students learning experiences lacked in the Tanzanian education system and in essence forced some student to regress in their performance standards. The teachers interviewed by Roy-Campbell (1995) noted " … students familiarity with the use of Kiswahili in their school subjects since they used it throughout primary school, and noted that thereafter everything has to be reinterpreted instead of building upon what they have gained in Kiswahili." (p. 29). This shows that learning would have been much easier for students if was conducted in Kiswahili. Research findings on Language of Instruction in Tanzania and South Africa (LOITASA) indicated that most students and teachers had difficulties in the use of both spoken and written English (Qorro, Desai & Brock-Utne 2002). During instruction in secondary schools teachers' use copping mechanism such as code-switching or teaching in Kiswahili and only gave notes in English. Senkoro (2005, p. 12). According to Mwinsheikhe (2001) "code-switching is the use of two or more languages during a single utterance or a sequence of utterances between two or more speakers" (p. 16). This type of instruction has resulted in poor communication and dismal performance in national examinations. In another similar research carried out by Brock-Utne (2002) she noted that there was limited participation of students in class when teachers used English only during instruction. When students were asked why they don't speak in class, their honest answer was that they know what the teacher wants but do not know how to say it in English. On the contrast the teaching of "Siasa" Political education (now taught in English) the only subject that was taught in Kiswahili at that time, there was a lot of student participation in class and students could even challenge the teacher in class (Puja, 2003). This shows that Kiswahili is being used as a LOI unofficially in both secondary and tertiary institutions as a matter of necessity due to difficulties students and teachers face with the use of English as a LOI. Therefore, if the purpose of LOI in education is to enhance learning, then it would have been appropriate to use a language both the learners and teachers understand and have a good command of.

One worrying aspect to note is the attitude of university lecturers, teachers and students towards the promotion of Kiswahili as a LOI. A study conducted by Rubagumya in 1991 (cited in Roy-Campbell 1995) on the attitudes of students towards English as a LOI found out that, while 65% of the respondents reported that they were more comfortable with Kiswahili than English, 53% felt that educational standards would deteriorate if Kiswahili became the medium of instruction. The reasons given here is that, Kiswahili has a limited vocabulary and is not adequate for use in higher education, especially in science and technology. Another argument is that, it would be too expensive to translate some of the science and technology text books such as medical textbooks. Mazrui (cited in Puja, 2003 p. 119) points out that Kiswahili is probably the most eligible African language in Black Africa for the transformation of modern scientific and technological knowledge into indigenous African language. He argues that "Japan was able to become one of the major technological powers of all times while conducting a substantial portion of its own technological discourse in its native language." Mazarui stresses the possibility of making western science accessible to Eastern Africa through the use of Kiswahili instead of English.

At present, much of the public debate concerning the choice between English or Kiswahili as the lOI in Tanzanian schools fails to take account of the distinction between using language for learning and learning a language (Rubagumya, 1993). Proponents of Kiswahili are not against the teaching of English as a subject but it use as its use as a LOI driven by the concern of how students learn best. Policy makers, teachers, parents and especially students seem to think that English is learnt well when it is used as a LOI. However the link between learning a language and learning through that language is a fallacy. There is no evidence to show that using a language as a medium of instruction will necessarily lead to proficiency in that language. If the aim is to learn English, it would be much better to have good instruction in that language by trained language teachers. Teachers trained in other subjects are not language teachers and are naturally more concerned about teaching the subject matter to students. (Brock-Utne, 2002 p. 21).

The arguments postulated above show that, English language is not the Language that is most appropriate for use as a LOI in Tanzania education system. Kiswahili is the only legitimate African indigenous language that can make education, technology and modern science more accessible to most people in Tanzania. This therefore calls for attitudinal, policy and structural changes to promote the academic development of Kiswahili and its eventual use as LOI in higher education in Tanzania