Will the “Kiswahili only” Language of Instruction Model be the Answer for the Massive Failures in Tanzania?


This debate come and go every year when the dismal pass rates of our secondary and primary school students are announced. This year, this same debate came with a twist. The guardian newspaper reported recently that the Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training Philipo Mulugo and the government of Tanzania are in the process of drafting a new policy to make Kiswahili the language of instruction in both primary and secondary schools in Tanzania.

It is indeed true that the current system is not working. Everyone agrees with this premise. To make this situation worse, there is no ideal solution to the problem. This problem is so complex and multi-faceted.

While I see the value of a Kiswahili only model in improving students’ scores and comprehension for all the subjects matter, I fear that this new system will only perpetuate the already existing stratified education system in Tanzania between the very few “ the haves” and the majority of the “have-nots”. The “haves” will continue to send their children to English Medium Schools while the poor will be stuck with the Swahili only schools, creating a country of masters and slaves in the not too far future. If we are not already there?

Is this what we really want?

the path to improving the system relies on a strengthened bilingual education system model.  A strengthened bilingual education system model will put enough resources to colleges to be able to teach teachers the current research based teaching methods which will not only benefit educators but, students as well. To provide professional development opportunities for teachers by improving their working conditions, to pay them a livable wage, and to attract more people to become teachers. Furthermore, to encintivise the good teachers to stay in the profession for a long enough time for them to become competent and efficient educators. Without those kinds of incentives, the change of language of instruction alone will not yield anything worthwhile.

The argument that changing just the language of instruction will yield the desired results is flawed. Don’t we already have English teachers in these schools? Why then are the students not learning English proficiently?The problem impacting the education system in Tanzania is not largely due to the language of instruction.  If that was the case, we would see a huge pass rate in primary schools where mostly everything is taught in Kiswahili. The TWAWEZA report on this matter last year point to the contrary. Kids are not learning anything worthwhile in primary school either.

Resources needs to be improved, from teacher quality, the teaching environment, and to teaching tools.

I realize that there is a huge difference between learning English and being taught in English. Switching just the language of instruction will not be the solution to the massive failure rates in both primary and secondary schools. The problem is deeper than that. Huge systematic and policy changes need to happen before we see a real and meaningful uptick in the pass rates. Maybe pairing our existing teachers with teachers from abroad over a long time “ten years” could be something to be explored. The East Asian countries used this model and they are doing very well. Maybe we can learn from them this time around.

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3 thoughts on “Will the “Kiswahili only” Language of Instruction Model be the Answer for the Massive Failures in Tanzania?

  1. Pingback: Will the “Kiswahili only model” Language of Instruction be the ... | Scoop.it BEP | Scoop.it

  2. akismet-2abd59d4651197a8d9235848791fd7f5

    Mheshimiwa, thank you for your post. When I read your paragraph about solutions, “In my view the path…”, I want to jump out of my chair and say amen!

    Let me challenge your point about creating a country of masters and slaves. That is already the way things are heading. Not even 1-in-10 students make it through A-level. There are two goals in education: passing national exams and actual learning. English is the language of exams, but Swahili is the language of learning. If secondary schools’ language of instruction were to become Swahili, it might actually put those who went to English-medium primary schools at a disadvantage and level the playing field. At the same time, it could increase the actual learning that happens.

    I say you’re right, though, that there are smarter ways to do bilingual education.

    Like

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