Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Macro-Language Policy and Planning and Lack of Proficiency in Language Learning and Use by Nigerian Students

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Macro-Language Policy and Planning and Lack of Proficiency in Language Learning and Use by Nigerian Students

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

   Doing fieldwork, analyzing data and publishing papers in learned
   journals should not be our only preoccupation as linguists. Our
   social responsibility demands that we look beyond the classroom
   to see how we can empower Nigerian languages ... for use in
   education and other domains. (1) (Emphasis ours)

The observation above will serve the purpose of this paper with a slight modification on the expressions highlighted. For 'linguists, who are the target of the above address, we substitute 'intellectuals' to extend the population of human actors; and we interpret 'Nigerian languages' more inclusively to refer not only to indigenous languages, as intended in the quotation, but to all languages in Nigeria, both indigenous and non indigenous. The intention is to admonish the addressee to embark on more advocacy or practical work of language development. (2) This study investigates the lack of proficiency in language learning and use by Nigerian Students and attributes this mainly to a lack of fit between the national language policy, on the one hand, and planning and implementation procedures, on the other hand. It then suggests an initial bottom-up prioritization of micro-language policies, planning and implementation procedure that would provide support for a more viable macro-language policy.

The paper is divided into five sections as follows: the context of languages and education in Nigeria; language policy, planning and implementation in education; proficiency level of students in language learning and use; alternative policy and planning strategies; and conclusion.

2. The Context of Languages and Education in Nigeria

Nigeria has about has about 400 languages which have been categorized in different ways by scholars, based on the parameters of sequence of acquisition, number of speakers, and roles assigned to languages. The categorization in terms of number of speakers and roles assigned to languages has provided us with the following labels (3):

i. Dominant official language, English, spoken by a small population of speakers;

ii. Major ethnic languages, regional lingua francas, proposed but not utilized as official languages: Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba;

iii. A trans-national language, proposed as second official language: French

iv. Main ethnic languages used in network news: Angas, Edo, Efik/Ibibio, Fulfude, Kanuri, Ebira/ Igala, Idoma, Ijo, Nupe, Tiv, etc.;

v. Minor ethnic languages: Fula, Ikwere, Itsekiri, Jukun, Kalabari, etc.;

vi. Restricted lingua franca: Pidgin English;

vii. Languages for religious and personal use: Arabic, Latin and German.

Another categorization presents the status of Nigerian languages in ethnographic terms thus: dominant, deprived, endangered and dying (4). The dominant label matches English in Nigeria. The deprived languages refer to Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, which though have a relative advantage over the minority languages in terms of extent of their use mainly for informal communication, are less officially recognized than English. Endangered languages are minority languages that are used very little, for informal communication, or are not used at all. Lastly dying languages are languages that are almost in extinction.

On the educational context, we observe that apart from the informal education or home training that is generally assumed for all human beings, the National Policy on Education (5) has a list of the following categories of education: Early Childhood/Preprimary (2-5years); Basic education (Primary and Junior Secondary): Primary education (6-11years); Secondary education: Junior (3 year duration) and Senior (3 year duration); Tertiary education; Mass literacy, Adult and Non-formal Education; Science, Technical and Vocational education; Open and Distance Education; and Special Education. While primary to tertiary education above has been administered in schools over several decades, the others are designed as ad-hoc or remedy programmes to tackle problems as they arise. …

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