LANGUAGE POLICY IN EDUCATION: THE PRACTICALITY OF ITS IMPLEMENTATION AND WAY FORWARD
Language is a critical tool that is used for the purposes of communication. Through it, we probe and elucidate various situations that we come across in our daily interactions. At the centre of the education system is the language policy in education which dictates the language used in disseminating knowledge at varied levels. Of concern to this study is the practicality of this policy with regard to the medium of instruction used at the various levels. According to Muthwii (2002), the language policy approved in Kenya entails a bilingual perspective in education where the child’s first language (or the admissible local language) is used as the language of instruction in lower primary classes while English is taught as a subject. In the upper primary classes, English takes over from the first language as the language of instruction however the latter does not relish the same reverse role as English. The significance of local languages in the education system cannot be overlooked. This is because local languages are inimitable benefactors to social, political and economic development of any country. Nyika (2015) asserts that the use of a local language as a medium of instruction is beneficial across all the levels of education. He asserts that students whose mother tongue is used as the medium of instruction have an edge over those whose mother tongue is not used. He further notes that policies respecting the channel of instruction have both short and long term imputations some of which may easily go unnoticed yet they may have overarching consequences for current and future generations. Because of the impact of local languages, their use is entrenched in the Kenyan constitution of 2010 as stipulated in chapter 2, section 7(3) which notes the commitment of the state to: promote and protect the diversity of languages of the people of Kenya and to promote the development and use of indigenous languages, Kenya Sign language, Braille and other communication formats and technologies accessible to persons with disabilities. Despite the benefits that accrue from the use of local languages, they have not been given the attention they deserve in the Kenyan context in particular and the African continent generally. Most education systems in this continent give precedence to international languages despite the fact that the number of those fluent in these languages is minimal. The use of such languages in the education system pose far reaching consequences because there is a disconnect between what is formally taught and its applicability in its social domain. It is on this premise that this paper sought to investigate the extent to which the local language policy in education is implemented by teachers; to examine the challenges faced in the implementation of the local language policy and to describe practical solutions to the challenges faced in the implementation. The researchers argued from the premise that enhancement of local languages promote career development and open up avenues which can be used to achieve social integration, a concept that has been elusive in the Kenyan context. Interviews and Focus Group Discussions were carried out with the principal implementers. Secondary data in the form of books and journals were also utilized. The study found out that there were challenges faced in the dissemination of information contained in the language policy in the local languages. In addition, there was need to give teachers opportunities to attend refresher courses with regard to teaching learners in mother tongue. Moreover, there was lack of training in translation a fact that contributed to the encumbrance that the implementers faced in implementing the local language policy.
Key words: Language, Multilingualism, Pedagogy, Constitution