[lg policy] English no more the medium of instruction in Ghanaian schools? Crap!!

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Oct 17 20:27:58 UTC 2015

English no more the medium of instruction in Ghanaian schools? Crap!!

in Opinions <http://vibeghana.com/category/opinions/> October 16, 2015

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Friday, October 16, 2015

Folks, I continue to wonder why public officials in positions of trust
continue to create credibility problems for themselves, the appointing
authorities, and the country, generally. No need to enumerate the various
instances; but there is need to focus on the latest one, coming from Dr.
Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, Minister of Education:

“The Minister of Education has stated that Ghana would very soon change the
use of English as a medium of instruction in school. Prof. Jane Naana Opoku
Agyemang largely blamed the inability of the educated working class to
develop the nation to the language used in teaching them in schools.

“The minister who was part of the “Shared Prosperity Forum” Friday
indicated that she was determined to push through the language policy at
the highest level so that school children can be thought in their mother
tongue”. (See:


Just one word to encapsulate my revulsion: CRAP!! I hope what the Minister
said isn’t coming from the government. If it does, woebetide it. Another
opportunity being created to worsen its credibility problems!! Now, let me
explain my stance. Dr. Opoku-Agyemang has made a name as a Professor of
English (She and her husband taught me courses in English at the University
of Cape Coast). She is nothing without English!!

Her proposition is without foundation. The British colonial authorities
established formal education in the country with English as the medium of
instruction and a subject of study. Since then, English has consolidated
itself and virtually “killed” Ghanaian languages in the curriculum.

The Great Osagyefo’s establishment of the Ajumako School of Ghanaian
Languages was a bold attempt to give room to Ghanaian languages (at least,
those recognized as strong and used on Radio Ghana). Teachers of those
languages were produced by that school to staff the various institutions in
the country.

Come Jerry John Rawlings’ reforms in the system of education and the
Ajumako School of Ghanaian languages was abolished and turned into
something that is not worth talking about. So, no opportunity for promoting
the training of teachers of Ghanaian languages. I am not sure that those
languages are even taught in the schools. So, what is the Minister talking
about? Her proposition is a mere figment of imagination. It is not based on
anything concrete. Talking about a “language policy” even worsens the case
because there is nothing like that to rely on.

Let me raise just one example from Nigeria to prove that implementing a
language policy in the education sector means a lot more than the Minister
will have us believe. This is an extract from a project on
language/culture/education/identity in West African schools that I am
working on:

“As Akere (1995) explains, for instance, the language provisions of
Nigeria’s National Policy on Education (NPE)—which was formulated in 1977
and revised in 1981—spelled out the language content of the school
curriculum at the primary and secondary levels. Accordingly, the NPE
stipulated that the mother tongue should be used as the language of
instruction in pre-primary education  and that every primary school child
should be taught in his/her mother tongue of the language of his/her
immediate community for the first three years and thereafter in English.

“Thus, English should be taught as a subject in the curriculum at the
primary school level. At the secondary school level, every Junior Secondary
School (JSS) pupil should learn one major Nigerian language (that is,
Hausa, Igbo, or Yoruba) in addition to his/her own mother tongue. At the
Senior Secondary School (SSS) level, only one major Nigerian language
(supposedly not the pupil’s mother tongue) should be studied. English was
to be studied as a subject and used as a medium of instruction at all
levels of secondary education. The truth, though, is that English is taught
at all levels, meaning that it still dominates the curriculum content.” Why
is it so? Your guess is as good as mine.

There is no doubt that mother-tongue influence is imperative in education;
but when there are no resources to support the use of mother-tongues in
schools, there is no need to go for them, especially when English is
already established as the medium of instruction and provides opportunities
for enlightenment.

In this computer age when our local languages aren’t even featured in the
orthographical repertoire (writing system), where will the teachers ever
get materials with which to instruct the kids? How much do the teachers
themselves know about those languages and how proficient are they in them
to be able to use them for instruction?

We know how some politicians have been doing all they can toward imposing
Twi on Ghana as its national official language. This is a touchy issue to
be wary of.

English is Ghana’s national official language. For whatever it is, the
language is privileged all over the world and serves purposes that other
languages cannot, at least, when it comes to cross-cultural communication.

Those of us who have studied English to the highest level possible know
that the language is growing faster than any other in the world; and it
will continue to do so for as long as its affordances attract users all
over the world. Wherever English goes, it kills local languages ( a crime
called by the linguist Philipson as “linguicide”). But it kills the local
languages only to lend itself to nativization, which is why we have
different varieties of it all over the world.

Those of us using “Ghanaian English” know why our version is different from
the “Nigerian English” or the West African Pidgin English or the
Liberian/Sierra Leonean Creole (Kru English). But we largely understand
each other and do business as such.

English in Ghana is predominantly favoured and will continue to be so. It
doesn’t really prevent us from doing what will help us develop our country.
So, why consider it as a threat to be discarded in the schools?

Dr. Opoku-Agyemang may have other reasons for mooting this idea, but I want
to tell her that the country doesn’t have the resources to support her
idea. For now, it is a mere whiff of irritation that she has blown. Will it
make any sense removing English as the medium of instruction and retaining
it as a subject of study? And which particular local language anywhere in
Ghana can be used as a medium of instruction? Where are the resources for
such local languages?

Take the metropolitan and municipal areas (Accra, Kumasi, Tema, etc.) for
instance. Which “local” language will be used to teach the kids in schools?
And who will teach in those local languages when the teachers may not
necessarily be conversant with them? Are they even trained in those

When the Great Osagyeo established the University of Cape Coast as a
teacher-producing institution, he ensured that Ghanaian languages were
heavily invested in. What has happened ever since the UCC lost its traction
as a teacher-training institution is deplorable. Yet, English and French
are privileged in its curriculum and as it is in the other universities.
So, if we don’t have qualified teachers for Ghanaian languages, will it
make any sense to dislodge English as such?

Our Ghanaian languages are worth sustaining but not being used as a medium
of instruction, especially when there are no resources. So, why even
contemplate replacing English with them? And who says that using these
local languages will prepare kids for nation-building?

Multicultural and multilingual as Ghanaians are, the need will definitely
arise for them to do more than what the Minister has against English.
Nation-building calls for a drastic change in habits of mind and attitudes.
If Ghanaians can do what others elsewhere do to place country first, we
should make progress. Changing the medium of instruction won’t solve the
problems that worry us.

Folks, I wish that the government and its functionaries will be circumspect
in making public utterances that carry more weight than we can bear.

I shall return…

   - E-mail: mjbokor at yahoo.com
   - Join me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjkbokor to continue
   the conversation.


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