The author cites evidence for the interdependency between overall cognitive development and the development of the mother tongue in the child (UNESCO 2003; Baker 2006). If children are allowed to follow a natural process of language acquisition, a solid foundation is laid for all their further learning. A curriculum built upon this foundation in the early primary years begins far ahead of one which suppresses or discards almost all the children bring to the preschool classroom.
The natural process of mental development for the young child is language-embedded. First language skills are intricately linked with all areas of the child’s mental development (Baker 2006, Cummins 1977 and 2000). The curriculum described here attempts to utilize a young child’s rich supply of linguistic knowledge, skills and abilities as the point of origin for a language arts curriculum. This paper provides examples of methods and materials currently in use in some Kenyan early primary schools, describing a language arts program which targets over 30,000 children in 152 early primary schools among the Tharaka people of Kenya.
A curriculum which allows a natural cognitive and linguistic process to continue should provide gains in the other academic disciplines, as well (Collier and Thomas 2004). The benefits of such programs could extend both nationwide, where mother-tongue based bilingual education programs are part of national policy, and to the individual, where they would help diminish the traditional African divide between “school knowledge” and real life skills.
Summary: Children’s mental development is enhanced when their foundational mother-tongue skills are used and nurtured in school. In the curriculum described, these linguistic skills will further their education.
|Keywords:||Cognitive, Linguistic, Mother-Tongue, Curriculum, Skills|
literacy consultant, Bantu Department, Africa Area, SIL International, Nairobi, Kenya
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