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Reality and Prospects of Indigenous Languages as Medium of Instruction: The Case of Swahili in Tanzania

  • The Sociolinguistic Journal of Korea
  • Abbr : 사회언어학
  • 2009, 17(1), pp.1-31
  • Publisher : The Sociolinguistic Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > Linguistics

Chul-Joon Yang 1

1한국외국어대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Tanzania has been rightly known as one of the most successful instances of having pursued an active endoglossic language policy as well as of promoting an indigenous African language, namely Swahili, as the medium of instruction. Since the early years of independence Swahili has been adopted as the medium of instruction for primary education. Currently, students at secondary and tertiary levels have to use English as the medium of instruction. The sudden transition from Swahili to English has been blamed as one of the root causes of the current crisis of educational standards. Many scholars both from Tanzania and abroad have consistently pointed out that the problem of the medium of instruction results in educational failure, but the Tanzanian government has continued to be half-hearted in this matter based on an exaggerated belief that English plays a pivotal role in the age of globalization. English in today's Tanzania is almost synonymous with upward social mobility, and even English-medium primary schools have been mushrooming in recent years. The conflict between individuals and official language policy is inevitable, because the former prefers English as a medium of instruction at all levels and the latter tries to maintain Swahili at least at primary levels. For a language-in-education policy to be viable, multi-faceted approaches need to be introduced and applied to reflect changing social realities in Tanzanian society. The language-in-education policy also needs to be considered in the context of social inequalities and the distribution of limited resources among members of the society.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.