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An appraisal of the mother tongue for early child education in Nigeria

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This article provides an overview of the use of the mother tongue (MT) in child education in the Nigerian context. We explicate previous government efforts at focusing on the native language as a means of improving learning in the early years, particularly in training the Nigerian child. We also address the obstacles to government's attempts at de-emphasising the place of English in the Nigerian polity. Without doubt, the English language is regarded by the citizenry as the language of now and the future. The belief is that school-age children and their parents are more comfortable with English than any other language. The policy of the adoption of an indigenous language as the instruction medium in the lower primary school is at variance with parents' desire to make their children speak English as the first language (L1). Our recommendation is that uniformity of policy implementation will reduce conflicts as the schools of the rich/elites and non-fee-paying government schools are made to employ the same medium to instruct the pupils. The above claims are supported by preliminary findings from observations, data from the administered questionnaire and interviews conducted to determine people's attitude towards the use of English and/or indigenous languages in the education of the child. Following Krashen's theory of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), which highlights the significance of exposure to and interaction in the target language, we conclude that, if English language remains the medium of instruction in the classroom, Nigeria and other African nations with similar linguistic complexities will be saved from further confusion and inconsistencies in educational policies, even as the MT will still function in other aspects of national life.
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Keywords: English; early child education; language acquisition; language policy; mobility; mother tongue

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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