Teachers’ Attitudinal Ambivalence to Mother Tongue Use in Classroom Instruction in Guyana: Consequences for Language Policy and ESL Programs

By Michelle Semple-McBean.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

One of the most significant aspects of children’s early schooling experience is the ability to speak in the classroom, and their mother tongue is often the only medium through which it can be done. In Guyana however, Creole-speaking nursery children are often dissuaded from using Guyanese Creole English (GCE) in the classroom. Discouraged from using the primary medium through which they fluently and confidently speak, children become inhibited and reluctant to speak at all. Viewed in this light, the teaching approaches of Guyanese nursery teachers could be best described as those which militate against children’s sociological and psychological well being, and restrict their educational success. Using a multi-method methodology involving questionnaires, interviews and document analysis, this research examines Guyanese nursery teachers’ views on GCE usage, to reveal whether these influence their approaches to teaching. Analysis of the data revealed that the general attitudes of the teachers are negative. For them GCE is a substandard form of English and thus, needs constant correction and/or rejection. However, significant differences exist in the approaches used by the graduates and undergraduates in the study, which is largely influenced by language awareness courses. Overall, the findings indicate that i) lack of sociolinguistic knowledge of GCE, ii) inappropriate pedagogical training of teachers and iii) irrelevant curriculum materials and guides contribute to current teaching practice. It concludes that expert help is needed to design initiatives to redress the current practices prevalent in Guyanese nursery classrooms.

Keywords: Guyanese Creole English (GCE), ESL Pedagogy, Language Perception, Sociolinguistics

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp.247-256. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 561.524KB).

Michelle Semple-McBean

Lecturer, Department of Foundations & Education Management, School or Education and Humanities, University of Guyana, Georgetown, Guyana

She has been an early childhood teacher/educator for over sixteen years and is presently a Lecturer in the Early Childhood Department, School of Education, University of Guyana. Her main responsible is training teachers who work with children between the age group 3 to 8 years. Research interest lies in the areas of nursery initial teacher education and early childhood education, policy and practice. In terms of publication, she developed informational booklets for early childhood settings and wrote an instructional module on Curriculum for the Teachers’ Training College, in Guyana. Most recently she has been facilitating workshops for teachers and parents on issues relating to young children’s learning and development.


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