A Professor of Education Planning and Leadership at the Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (I. E. P. A), Yaw Afari Ankomah, says there seem to be no political will to ensure the full implementation of the Language Policy in our school system.
“History of Ghana’s School Language Policy presents a picture of a struggle between rhetoric and implementation”, he noted. Prof. Ankomah said there was the urgent call for the policy to be implemented at all levels of education to create the necessary level playing field for all learners so all could equally enjoy the educational packages being rolled out by government. This, he said, would contribute successfully to achieve the Education 2030 Agenda as a nation
The eminent professor of Education Planning and Leadership made the call when he delivered his inaugural address on the topic: “The Struggle Between Rhetoric and Implementation in Ghana’s School Language Policy: Common Sense in the Balance”. Prof. Ankomah traced the School Language Policy to the era of Sir. Gordon Guggisberg in the 1925 to present and indicated that all there had been numerous changes. He described the current one as eclectic or blended mode where the children's first home language and Ghana's official language, English were used for instruction in school.
The essence of School Language Policy
“The essence of School Language Policy is to ensure effective communication between learner and teacher (facilitator) to enable effective learning to take place”, he explained. Prof. Ankomah indicated that there have been attempts to revise the current policy further, but added that “in my candid opinion the current eclectic mode takes care of the challenge that exists as a result of its flexible nature and hence requires no further revision”.
Explaining further, Prof. Ankomah said combining a familiar language with an unfamiliar one facilitated an understanding as it freely allowed for code-switching and co-mingling. “Bilingual instruction allows teachers and students to interact naturally” he noted. According to him, the affective domain, involving confidence, self-esteem and identity, was strengthened by the use of the first language, increasing motivation and initiative as well as creativity. “Bilingual programmes encourage learners to understand, speak, read and write in more than one language and thereby improve proficiency equally,” he said.
He explained that, the School Language Policy has the primary function of facilitating effective teaching and learning through effective communication between the teacher or facilitator and the learners in the class. He mentioned two main parts of each version of the School Language Policy as foundational and learning consolidation, explaining that “at the foundational part, the familiar language the child comes to school (including pre-school) with which largely in the Ghanaian context is the mother tongue and the learning consolidation part is English, the official language of Ghana”.
Benefits of the School Language Policy
Enumerating some benefits of the implementation of the policy he said, “effective implementation of the policy at the early stages by using a language familiar to the child (usually the mother tongue) will provide the child with the avenue to understanding what the teacher says and thus be able to interact freely with the teacher”. He further said, it would provide the child with the foundation on which to build subsequent learning and also give the child confidence to participate freely in the teaching-learning experiences.
At the consolidation he said, “if local language is still used at the upper or higher levels instead of English, it will result in poor proficiency in English coupled with very limited English vocabulary emanating from no effective build-up of English words since there is no practice to make room for adding as well as making the learner destitute in the ability to effectively argue and to defend a point”.
Enforcement of School Language Policy
Prof. Ankomah cautioned that “If we continue as a nation to play this game of mere rhetoric with the school language policy without any clear and effective implementation as has happened over the years, we will continue to lose”. He recommended that there was the urgent need for the School Language Policy in its current flexible form to be fully enforced with immediately without further delay. He again called for an uncompromising and a visible enforcement of the use of English as the dominant medium of instruction from the upper primary level onwards. He said, the implementation plan he was envisaging was a simple one that has the teacher as the main and important resource required and therefore need not entail any major costs, if any at all.
“It is about using the appropriate language to teach based on the background of the learners at the early stages and using English predominantly at the upper primary level onwards, with the freedom to code-switch and code-mingle freely to facilitate understanding. This need not entail costs as such!”, he concluded.