What is it about?

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa. Over 500 languages are believed to be spoken in the country. It has often been argued that this makes it impossible to use these languages in (higher) education and other formal domains. We disagree. We argue that with the continued expansion of higher education in the country, it will become more and more difficult to first teach English to a sufficient level and then to teach in English. It will be far more efficient to use Nigerian languages instead. Illustrated by an example from Estonia, the article argues that teaching English is done more efficiently by teaching it as a subject, instead of using it as medium of instruction, Estonia outperforms Nigeria in this regard. Yet, Estonia uses Estonian in higher education, in part because not even Estonia manages to give sufficient numbers of youngsters a good enough knowledge of English. The article points out that the addition of Nigerian languages will be practically possible by choosing a limited number of languages. These languages should be chosen in such a way that they area easy to learn for (and teach to) speakers of as many related languages as possible. The article discusses a number of rational principles that should guide language choice. In Nigeria, a minimum of around 12 languages would be sufficient for higher education (more languages should be used at lower levels). The article concludes by suggesting a number of steps that could be taken to lead to a revised National Policy on Education, through which the addition of Nigerian languages should take its shape.

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Why is it important?

This is an important new contribution to the long-standing debates on medium of instruction issues in education in Africa and Nigeria. For the first time, it goes beyond an ideological discussion of what would be desirable and examines how the expansion of education itself will be a key factor driving the need for a change to current medium of instruction policies. In addition, the article for the first time provides rational principles that can guide a practical way forward towards the addition of Nigerian languages as medium of instruction.

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This page is a summary of: Issues in introducing indigenous languages in higher education in Africa, Language Problems & Language Planning, October 2022, John Benjamins, DOI: 10.1075/lplp.22005.olo.
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