The Effects of Mother Tongue on Students Academic Performance in Secondary Schools in the Buea Municipality
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Education is a powerful driver of development and one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability. Developing countries have made tremendous progress in getting children into the classroom and the majority of children worldwide are now in primary school. This piece of work set out to investigate the effects of mother tongue on students’ academic performance in the study of English language in secondary schools in the Buea Municipality.
Language is a natural gift which every human is blessed with. A modern tongue is not learned in school; rather, it is inherited from one generation to another true cultural heritage and from the environment. The English language is one of the most used languages in the world, thus its significance in our era cannot be argued. It has become the language of business, politics, science and technology. It is estimated that 1.4 billion persons use English as their official language, but it is rather ironical that the greatest population of English language speakers are nonnatives of English language (they speak English as a second language).
Most African countries are multilingual. Cameroon is not left out; it has over 250 native languages, though some are gradually fading out. These languages are not taught in Cameroonian schools, they are learned true cultural heritage, peer groups and from the environment. This chapter will focus on the background of the study, statement of the problem, research objectives, research questions, research hypothesis, justifications of the study, significance of the study, scope of the study, and definition of key terms.
Historically, the word mother tongue is as old as the human race. The origin of the word draws our attention to the early Catholic monks. According to Ivan Ilitch (1982), the word was first used by Catholic monks in the 1970s to indicate a particular language they used aside from Latin when they were “speaking from the pulpit”. That is, the “holy mother church” introduced this term and colonies inherited it from Christianity as part of colonialism.
Germany was the pioneer colonial master of Cameroon from 1884. During the era of administration in Cameroon, native languages where encouraged and used in German missionary schools in the country (Fonlon 1969). Languages such as fulfulde and Bamun where used in schools and public places. After the world war one, Germany was defeated and sent out of Cameroon empty-handed. Cameron was later partitioned between Britain and France, where Britain took 1/5 of the territory and an administered it as part of Nigeria. France on the other hand to 4/5 of the territory and administered it on its own. This change in power resorted to change in language in her part of the territory an administered how people through indirect rule. She permitted some native languages in primary schools and public places. France introduced French and uses the policy of assimilation to rule her people. French was the only language to be spoken in that part of the country, therefore native languages were illegal and punishable.
Southern Cameroon was educationally linked to the eastern region of Nigeria with an almost non-existent educational policy. Both Northern and Southern Cameroons were described as rural areas and as such had only elementary schools with a dominant vernacular curriculum. Four types of schools existed in Cameroon Province by 1922: Government-administrated schools; Native Administration schools (run by local Cameroonian authorities); mission schools, under Catholic and Protestant missions; and ‘hedge’ or ‘unofficial native schools’, also referred to as vernacular schools or bush schools. Vernacular schools mushroomed rapidly throughout the country and numbered 114 by 1925 with an enrolment of 3,207 pupils. Basel Mission maintained its focus on using local languages in its schools, mostly Duala and Mungaka. The British Catholic Mill Hill Fathers, who replaced the German Pallottine order in 1922, had no fixed language policy and used English and Pidgin English in their schools while Pidgin English and local languages were used incatechumenates. The Baptist Mission used English, Pidgin or Duala in its schools and churches. Native Administration schools were established to serve particular communities and used the language spoken by each of these communities. Government schools used English and Duala in four of their six schools. In a report to the Council of the League of Nations in 1928 the British colonial administration noted that ‘it has been found impossible to use only the vernacular and it has been necessary to introduce English at the very beginning’ (British Government, 1928, p. 77). Notwithstanding the shift towards the teaching of English in schools in British Cameroons, mother tongue education was never abandoned and subsequent language policy development suggested bilingualism in English and the mother tongue as a way of resolving the language question.
Contextually, Cameroon is generally referred to as Africa in miniature, considering that it poses a majority of the cultural characteristics of almost all regions in Africa. Following the unification of Cameroon in 1961, French and English were declared as the two official languages of the country. From here, several policies were implemented to ensure that French and English are respected as the languages of teaching and learning. In the early years of these policies, learning French and English was a “hard nut to crack”. Therefore some native languages such as the Douala and the Bulu languages were used to facilitate the teaching and learning process of French and English in schools especially at the elementary levels.
Looking at the present situation of English language in Cameroon, particularly in secondary schools in the Buea municipality, English is gradually degrading, with visible effects on students’ academic performance. The first language acquisition can be applied to this situation. Students in Buea who grew up knowing the Mopkwe dialect as their first language tend to use the same pronunciation and intonation used in the Mopkwe language when speaking English. So the influence of the Mopkwe dialect on students of English language in the Buea municipality is visible in their use of English specifically in the areas of vocabulary, syntax, Gramma spelling and pronunciation. The government has not included any indigenous language in the curriculum of both primary and secondary Schools; rather it favours English and French. The 21st of February had been set aside by the government of Cameroon to celebrate the National Mother Tongue day.
The English language is the medium through which all other subjects aside from French are taught and learned, therefore a good mastery of English will give students an upper hand to comprehend and perform better in other subjects and also enable them to carry out their duties as citizens.
Students’ academic performance in English language in Buea calls for serious attention. Examinations and daily communications in English language have experienced a decline over the years. Therefore performance of students of English language in the General Certificate of Education (G.C.E) 2021 was 63%. It declined to 61% in the 2022 session. This indicates that there is a problem in the field.
There are over 270 native languages in Cameroon, but none of these languages have been included in the curriculum of secondary schools. These native languages are the first languages of cameroonians, hence these constitute the vocabulary, grandma and pronunciation of cameroonians. English is only added and learned as a second language to these native languages. Therefore learning English language is a great challenge to the inhabitants of Buea, because it is only learnt as a second language. English is a global language, an inability to write or speak affects educational outcomes, social relationships, and employability and business affairs.
To investigate the effects of mother tongue on students’ academic performance in the study of English language in secondary schools in Buea
To examine how background of parents affect students’ academic performance in the study of English language in secondary schools in B
To determine how environment of growth influences students’ academic performance in the study of English language in secondary schools in Buea.
To investigate how peer groups affect students’ academic performance in the study of English Language in the Buea municipality.