Managing linguistic diversity in literacy and language development : an analysis of teachers' attitudes, skills and strategies in multilingual Kenyan primary school classrooms

Nyaga, Susan Karigu (2013-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study investigates teachers' language practices in multilingual classrooms with regard to their attitudes, skills and strategies in their management of linguistic diversity among learners in their first year of primary school. Both the critical interpretive theoretical paradigm adopted and the qualitative research approach employed in the execution of the study presupposed gathering rich data, which a case study design of research assured. The data for the study was gathered from four year one classrooms purposively selected based on parameters that were deemed of interest in this study. These included, but were not limited to, the location of the school, the linguistic diversity among learners in the classrooms and the literacy traditions of the first languages spoken by the learners in the target classrooms. Although the specific context provided real input to the study, the findings may be relevant to language-in-education issues in many other African countries, and even in multilingual communities beyond. The study reveals yawning discrepancies between language policy and practice; between teachers' beliefs about linguistic diversity and their actual language behaviour in the classrooms; and between the definitions of mother tongue provided by the Ministry of Education and teachers' re-interpretations of these definitions in the various contexts studied. The study further indicates that teachers are working in an environment that is not supportive of effective policy implementation. This very limited policy implementation support is reflected in teacher training and preparation, teacher placement criteria, text book production and school examinations. This study indicates that even a sound understanding of linguistic diversity among teachers and their best intentions to give learners a sound foundation, is only the beginning of literacy development of young learners in Kenya. It recommends a new and incisive look at critical aspects of the education system in an effort to synchronise the different levels at which policy and practice need to meet. Various well-informed choices need to be made in the creation of a supportive environment for effective policy implementation. This should include among other things a change in the language-in-education policy to move away from early-exit to late-exit mother tongue education, and more first language maintenance in bilingual or multilingual classrooms. If learners are to benefit from mother tongue instruction in line with current research in the field, much needs to be done. Based on the insights gained in this study, a revision of teacher education curricula to include the management of linguistically diverse learners and improved language awareness is suggested, as is flexible curriculum delivery, scrapping of formal examinations in the early years and introduction of alternative assessment methods in these levels. In later years, bilingual (in some cases even multilingual) tests are bound to lower the drop-out rate and produce more understanding and less rote learning. The aim should be to assure multilingual, multiliteracy development and academic achievement for all learners regardless of their particular linguistic backgrounds.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie ondersoek onderwysers se taalpraktyke in veeltalige klaskamers ten opsigte van hulle houdings, vaardighede en strategieë in die hantering van talige diversiteit onder leerders in hulle eerste jaar van primêre onderrig. Sowel die vertolkende teoretiese paradigma wat gevolg word as die kwalitatiewe navorsingsbenadering wat die studie aanneem, het daarop gereken dat ingesamelde data ryk sou wees aan inligting; die navorsingsontwerp, naamlik dié van gevallestudie, verseker die verkryging van sulke data. Die studie is gebasseer op inligting wat ingesamel is in vier klaskamers van leerlinge in die eerste skooljaar. Die betrokke navorsingsterreine is telkens doelbewus gekies op grond van die parameters wat belangrik was vir die studie. Dit sluit in, maar is nie beperk tot, die ligging van die skool, die talige diversiteit van die leerders in die klaskamers en die geletterdheidstradisies van die onderskeie eerstetale van die leerders in die geteikende klaskamers. Alhoewel hierdie spesifieke konteks verseker het dat die studie in 'n werklike situasie geanker is, is die bevindinge waarskynlik relevant tov taal-in-onderrig kwessies in verskeie ander Afrikalande, en selfs ook in veeltalige gemeenskappe elders. Hierdie studie onthul gapende ongerymdhede in die verhouding tussen taalbeleid en praktyk; tussen onderwysers se oortuigings rakende talige diversiteit en hulle werklike taalgebruik in die klaskamers; en tussen die omskrywings van moedertaal wat deur die Ministerie van Onderwys voorsien word en die onderwysers se herinterpretasie van hierdie omskrywings binne die verskillende kontekste wat ondersoek word. Die studie dui verder daarop dat onderwysers in ʼn omgewing werk wat nie die effektiewe implementering van beleid ondersteun nie. Sodanige beperkte ondersteuning in die implementering van die beleid word weerspiëel in die opleiding en voorbereiding van onderwysers, die plasingkriteria van onderwysers, die publikasie van handboeke en skooleksamens. Hierdie studie toon aan dat selfs 'n goeie begrip van talige diversiteit onder onderwysers en hulle beste voornemens om aan leerders ʼn vaste grondslag te bied, net 'n eerste tree is in die geletterdheidsontwikkeling van jong leerders in Kenia. Dit stel ʼn nuwe en indringende ondersoek van kritiese aspekte van die onderwyssisteem voor as ʼn poging om die verskillende vlakke waar beleid en praktyk mekaar behoort te ontmoet, te sinchroniseer. Verskeie goed ingeligte besluite sal geneem moet word in die skep van ʼn omgewing wat bevorderlik is vir effektiewe beleidimplementering. Dit sou onder andere ʼn verandering in die taal-in-onderwys beleid insluit om weg te beweeg van die vroeë wegbeweeg moedertaalonderrig na later wegbeweeg van moedertaalonderrig, sowel as meer instandhouding van die eerstetaal in twee- of veeltalige klaskamers. Vir leerders om baat te vind by moedertaalonderrig in oorstemming met huidige insigte uit navorsing in die veld, moet nog baie gedoen word. Gebaseer op die insigte wat in hierdie studie verkry is, word onder andere hersiening van die onderrigkurrikula vir onderwysers voorgestel sodat die hantering van talig-diverse groepe leerders asook verbeterde taalbewustheid daarby ingesluit is. Dieselfde geld ontwikkeling van buigbare kurrikula, die skrapping van formele eksaminering in die vroeë skooljare en die instelling van alternatiewe assesseringsmetodes op hierdie vlakke. In die later jare sal tweetalige (in sommige gevalle selfs veeltalige) toetse beslis die uitvalsyfer verlaag, asook meer begrip en minder leë memorisering tot gevolg te hê. Die doel moet wees om veeltalige, multi-geletterheidsontwikkeling en akademiese prestasie vir alle leerders te verseker ongeag hulle spesifieke talige agtergrond.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/79899
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