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Early childhood education is the educational training a child receives before the age of seven. It has been ascribed by experts to be the most important of a child’s growth into adulthood. According to a white paper published by the Journal of Educational and Social Research 2013, “the early years in life are the most important to the formation of intelligence, personality and social behaviour of a child. The year before a child reaches Kindergarten are among the most critical in his or her life to influence learning. This is why modern societies show serious concern for the education of their young ones by providing needed support to prepare them to succeed later in life.”

The objectives of early childhood education according to a 2004 report are to effect a smooth transition from home to school, prepare the child for the primary level of education, provide adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work,(on the farm, in the market, or offices) inculcate in the child social norms, the spirit of inquiry and creativity through the exploration of nature, the environment, art, music, playing with toys and so on. the children develop a sense of cooperation and team spirit, learn good habits especially good health habits and finally teach the rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes, forms and so on through play.

Prioritising Local Language Use in Early Childhood Education

Education of a child in a local language has been proven by educational and social experts to be important in driving learning. However, according to an FGN/UNESCO statistic, about 93.2% of teaching and learning in Nigeria preschools is done in the English language. This is totally against the Basic Curriculum Provision of the National Policy on Pre-Primary Education which states that “the medium of instruction will be principally the mother-tongue or the language of the local community”. A school of thought showed that the problem is likely to be connected with the interest of parents and pupils in English which has been in place since 1842.

According to Angelina Kioko, a professor of English and Linguistics at United States International University, Nairobi, Kenya, research findings consistently show that learners benefit from using their home language in education in early grade years. In most parts of Africa, the language of instruction is English. But the learners in rural areas enter school with only their home language. According to Kioko, for these learners, using the mother tongue in early education leads to a better understanding of the curriculum content and to a more positive attitude towards school.

It has also been discovered that when learners speak or understand the language used to instruct them, they develop reading and writing skills faster and in a more meaningful way.

However, one fearful thing most parents have is the literacy of their child. But again, research has revealed that all that the young learner was taught in his native/home language do not have to be re-taught when they transfer to a second language or lingua franca. It has been shown that a learner who knows how to read and write in one language will develop reading and writing skills in a new language very fast. The use of native or home language relieves the stress on teachers and learners when teaching is done in this way, experts say the experience is natural.

Also, native or local language use apart from gaining community support will create an emotional stability for the learner which in turn will lead to cognitive stability. Thus we’ve been able to see that the rigidity of language will do no good in our pursuit of quality early childhood education.

Original thoughts are not scarce amongst children who grow up learning through their local language. For the singular reason of building originality in the young learner, the use of local language in early childhood education should be praised!

(Earlier published on Medium)

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