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Medium of instruction policy and multilingual pupils’ experience of learning to read and write in primary school in Cameroon

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This study draws on the experience of 4-7-year-old Year 1 pupils learning to read and write in English and French for the first time in four primary schools (two Anglophone and two Francophone) in the context of Cameroon. It uses focus group and individual interviews to elicit pupils’ views about their experience of language learning in and out of the classroom and teachers’ perception regarding children’s language use in school. A participant observation approach for the study engendered a friendlier rapport between the researcher and the researched and was useful in following up pupils’ language practice in the playground in the schools studied. While in the two Anglophone schools in the study a ban on the use of Pidgin English permeated pupils’ perception of the relevant language to use in school, teachers’ attitude towards pupils’ language use in both Anglophone and Francophone schools and their insistence on the use of the school language contributed to the inhibition of pupils’ mother tongue and the misconstruction of its value. However, teachers’ attitude towards pupils’ language use in school appeared to be in contrast with recent language in education policy and curriculum development, particularly in primary education in Cameroon. An apparent language in education policy shift was still to be evidenced by a paradigm shift in teachers’ perception of the appropriate language to be used in school. In spite of teachers’ castigation of the use of Pidgin English and pupils’ mother tongue in school, views from pupils showed their attachment to these languages as a result of using them in the home with parents, grandparents and siblings.

This talk is part of the Second Language Education Group series.

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