Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Do we need a language policy?

Stakeholders from various sectors have called for the need for government to adopt a clear language policy to specify the roles of “our Ghanaian languages and other languages in our national life”.

They said the need for a national language policy “is a necessity and not a choice”, adding that “this policy must have a legal backing to ensure its enforcement”.

This was contained in a communiqué issued after a two-day language policy conference organised by the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT).

The communiqué recommended that public universities assist in the training of teachers or language professionals in Ghanaian languages as well as in the production of training materials such as textbooks, dictionaries, literature books and other literacy materials to enhance the use of the local languages.

It also recommended that the Ministry of Education, University of Education, GILLBT and other stakeholders should assist in the development of orthography for Ghanaian languages, to enhance the use of local languages as a medium of instruction in all public schools, at least at the lower primary level.

It also recommended that public universities should have terminology centres for language modernisation and terminology development just as was done in Tanzania and South Africa.

The communiqué called on national and local governments to show more commitment by making resources available for the development of the local languages.

It concluded by calling on the ministries of Education and Finance, GILLBT, CSOs, Non-Formal Education Division, chiefs, parents, amongst other stakeholders, to support the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction at lower primary levels in all public schools across the country.

This call once again reignites the debate about Ghana Education Service’s language policy.

The decision to use languages other than English as the medium of instruction in the first three years of basic education can hurt the nation. With this call, the nation will embark, yet again, on a needless experiment that will not help anyone.

In countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, every national document written in English has a Swahili equivalent. 

Swahili is a language everyone speaks in these three countries so it is so easy to draw up a uniform code of instruction for teachers to follow. 

Consequently, teaching children in Swahili, which is an official national language, is in the right direction.

However, in Ghana, there are more than 40 local languages. It will be very costly - impossible, in other words - to draw up a uniform code of instruction at the lower primary level.

Imagine a situation where a child moves from Accra – where Ga is supposed to be the medium of instruction – to, say, Dzodze, where they teach in Ewe, how on earth is he/she going to learn anything in the new language?

Finally, this policy of instructing pupils at the lower level is being introduced at a time when there is serious concern about the quality of spoken and written English in Ghana. 

If the GES proceeds to implement this policy, the problem will get worse – not better. 

If those who were introduced to the English language much earlier in life cannot speak and write it so well, how does anyone expect those who get a late introduction to do better?

This new language policy is yet another dangerous experiment the Ghanaian education system can very conveniently do without. 

Apart from local language, all examination questions are written in English. The first step to passing exams is the ability to read the questions written in English and understand them.

It is only when a candidate understands the question that he or she can provide the right answer.  

Therefore, GES must reconsider the language policy and ensure that English is used as a medium of instruction from kindergarten. 


Read 395 times Last modified on Tuesday, 26 July 2016 09:42