[lg policy] Uganda lays mother-tongue foundations; First-language teaching policy highlights rural-urban education divide (fwd)

listman at listserv.linguistlist.org listman at listserv.linguistlist.org
Tue Jun 2 20:42:55 UTC 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 25 May 2009 13:12:34 -0400
From: Harold Schiffman <hfsclpp at gmail.com>
Reply-To: Language Policy List <lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu>
To: lp <lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu>
Subject: [lg policy] Uganda lays mother-tongue foundations; First-language
     teaching policy highlights rural-urban education divide

  Uganda lays mother-tongue foundations First-language teaching policy
highlights rural-urban education divide

Richard M Kavuma guardian.co.uk, Friday 22 May 2009 15.09 BST

On a hot Friday afternoon at Katine primary school, in north-east
Uganda, Santa Awiyo points her large wooden ruler at the blackboard as
her year-three pupils chorus the words she has written in white chalk.
" Idwe pore ngapo, igwen me sukulu gi . . . " The paragraph, written
in Kumam, the local dialect of this rural region, refers to the
importance of school uniform and is part of a lesson that combines
language and social studies. About 400km south of Katine, in Kampala,
the capital of Uganda, the use of a local language in the classroom
would be unusual. In major multicultural urban centres, year-three
pupils are more likely to learn in English.

Beatrice Turyasingura, the head teacher of Buganda Road primary school
in Kampala, uses English as the medium of instruction in her school,
and teaches her students one local language as a subject. The
difference in approach is the result of a government policy introduced
two years ago as part of a new thematic curriculum. The policy
dictates that during the first three years of primary education pupils
must be taught using the mother tongue of their area as the medium of
instruction, with English taught as a separate subject, before
switching to English-medium instruction in year four.

With 52 ethnic groups in Uganda, each with its own dialect, the policy
is rooted in the idea that children pick up foreign languages more
easily if first grounded in their mother tongue. Prior to the policy
change, English was the official language of instruction in all school

The change has brought some early success. According to Remigious
Baale, the coordinator of the thematic curriculum at the National
Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), progress reviews conducted in
2007 and 2008 show that rural schools have registered improved
literacy since the curriculum was introduced.

Linguist Dr Wangotta Masakala, from Makerere University's Institute of
Languages, says learning in a foreign language at age six or seven -
when many children start primary school - makes the subject matter
sound very distant. "It becomes a double task - the child is trying to
learn the language and at the same time trying to appreciate the
knowledge the teacher is giving," he said.

At Katine primary school, Awiyo has noticed that children are much
livelier during lessons than when English was used. "These children
are much more active during literacy [classes], which I teach in
Kumam, than during English language lessons," she said.

But the policy is not without its critics who are worried that
differences in teaching between rural and urban centres are having a
negative effect on schools in rural communities.

Some parents in Katine are worried that the system favours children in
town schools who continue to learn in English. "What some parents are
saying is that their children could lag behind in English language
because other children in towns are continuing to be taught in
English," said Michael Asaku, head teacher of Katine-Tiriri primary
school, which teaches in the Ateso language.

These concerns are understandable. Children in poor rural schools such
as Katine's already have a poorer command of English, one of the
reasons they have consistently performed badly in national exams. Last
year, Katine sub-county, an area of about 25,000 people, fielded 389
candidates for the national primary leaving examinations, a
requirement for secondary school entry. No pupils scored a distinction
in English. At Buganda Road primary school 107 pupils received top
marks in the subject.

Masakala points out that children in urban areas live in an
environment that enhances their competence in English; being in a
multicultural community, children from different ethnic groups often
speak English both at school and home. Children at Buganda Road, for
example, have access to English-language books, newspapers, radio and
television. In contrast, their counterparts in Katine can only
practise English during school hours.

Next year, Awiyo's class will start learning traditional subjects such
as social studies and science in English. She fears some may face
difficulties, especially at the beginning. But Masakala argues that
the problem has more to do with lack of English-language teaching
resources in schools, not the practice of teaching in vernacular. And
that is where NCDC wants to turn its attention.

"The problem is that the materials that support the learning of
English are not there in the rural schools," Baale said. "But now that
curriculum development has ended, we want to direct more money into
instruction materials."

•Uganda lays mother-tongue foundations

The Guardian is tracking Amref's three-year development project, in
partnership with Barclays, to improve the lives of the 25,000 people
in Katine sub-county in Uganda. We'll explain where donations go, how
aid works, and how lives are changed

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list