Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ghana to change English as medium of instruction

The education minister of Ghana recently announced that the country will soon replace English as the medium of instruction in schools. A news report said that the minister, Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, holds the medium of instruction responsible for "the inability of the educated working class to develop the nation...." She declared: "Once we can remove [English as the medium of instruction], we will change this country."

Interestingly enough, the minister herself is trained in English literature and has published on African literature and women's writings, as well as on higher education.

Comparing the progress of South Korea with that of Ghana, she noted, “Because the Koreans were taught in a language they understood, education picked up; because we are teaching our children a language they can’t even follow, we are drawing them back."

Not surprisingly, there's been a storm of discussion. See these comments, for example. Among those who have commented is Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, a well-known activist for linguistic human rights. She says:

"All research in the world, and masses of practical experience shows that teaching children in a language that they know, and later teaching them other languages well as foreign languages, leads to high levels of multilingualism, good school achievement, self-confidence, and later good jobs. Mother-tongue-based multilingual education leads to much better competence in English too! Congratulations Ghana for a really wise decision!"

The minister did not talk about the language(s) that will replace English. Ethnologue lists 81 languages for Ghana. English is the official language. The biggest language for wider communication is Akan. People fear that after English, Akan will dominate the education system. Discussing "The mother tongue question" Kwabena Nyamekye asks, "What do we do to benefit from a native language policy while at the same time avoid other languages vanishing from the scene?" The author recommends the use of local and regional languages as teaching languages. A wise suggestion.

But, as the author warns, "The grumbling about the Akan language domination can easily get louder and louder if something is not done."

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