Elementary or basic school education is seen by many educationists as the most influential and important level of education. It dictates the success or failure of every child who climbs the academic ladder higher. Since it is the foundation for the child, the teaching and learning processes at this level of education must not be compromised. It must rather be honed so well so that the pupils can be well equipped with the strong fundamental knowledge to pursue other higher forms of education later in their lives. The use of foreign language as the medium of instruction has been criticised as being a barrier for successful promulgation of the teaching and learning processes as well as minimising the expected learning outcomes for these fragile learners. Thus, many theorists and researchers in education have recently been raising the awareness of the great potentials of relaying the teaching and learning processes in education via the use of the local language.
Children in the elementary schools are in the formative years of their lives. The first point of instruction given them through informal institutions like the home and religious associations is imparted using local languages. Thus, the child is more accustomed and familiar with this language medium for instruction. This familiarisation is essential because it deepens the child’s receptiveness to any form of instruction that is given him or her. Right from the womb and in the early stages of their lives, these feeble pupils have heard and used this form of language. As a result, they are better prepared to understand abstract concepts in any field of study in comparison to any new, alien and/or unfamiliar language.
Granted, some languages like English and French are international languages and have been adopted as the official languages by some countries. This makes it imperative for pupils to be well versed in them. However, since it is a secondary language, it must be learned by the pupils as part of the subjects to be taught in the elementary schools. However, it will be a great challenge to use it as a primary mode of language in the teaching of all the other subjects in schools at the lower level. Studies conducted by the UNESCO have revealed that the secondary or foreign language barrier really blurs the understanding of pupils and is the major cause of poor expected learning outcomes among elementary school pupils globally.
Identifying this major setback to the education of pupils in elementary schools globally, many countries have already passed legislation for the use of the local language as the language medium of instruction at the lower levels of education. Examples of these countries who have successfully implemented the use of local languages in imparting instruction include China, Guatemala, Burkina Faso, Philippines, Cameroon, Ethiopia, India and many others. These countries have achieved great successes and have recorded a massive improvement as well as increases the expected learning outcomes of pupils in their elementary educational institutions. Thus, it will be a wise course that is not misplaced in any way, for other countries to mimic their excellent examples. This would help these fragile learners in developing a strong yearning for the teaching and learning activities in education. More importantly, it will aid in achieving the expected learning outcomes while setting a perfect foundation for the higher level education of these fragile elementary school pupils whom the future belongs.