A brief report: Mother-tongue education and language development in Nigeria
The Six-Year Primary Project (SYPP) was an experimental project to teach primary school children using their mother tongue (Yoruba) as the medium of instruction throughout the six years of primary school. The project lasted 8 years (1970-1978). A book based on it with the title Education in Mother Tongue (Fafunwa, Sokoya, & Macauley 1985) carries a full description of the project and its findings.
This was a challenge to the existing language policy of Government that primary school children should be taught in the medium of their mother tongue or the language of the immediate environment in the first three years and in English in the last three years. Evaluation showed that children taught in their mother tongue for the six years did not suffer any deficiency in learning in English in later years at secondary school. In addition, the project children made definite affective gains in terms of adjustment and attitude to schooling.
- There was no impact on Government language policy in primary school which has remained unchanged till today.
- However the books produced in Yoruba by the project have been adopted for use in primary schools in the Yoruba states of Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun.
- In addition, there has been increased government effort to develop the orthographies of other Nigerian Languages. The Nigerian Language center as of 1993 had produced orthographies in 30 Nigerian Languages. The number is small considering that there are about 400 languages in Nigeria. However 13 of them account for about 85% of the Nigerian population and the 30 account for 90%. Work is still going on.
- Production of textbooks is not proceeding as rapidly. The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) has produced primers and text books for the three major languages Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo but not text books in other subjects in these languages.