Proceedings of The International Conference on Teaching, Learning and Education
Language Diversity and Language Policy in Education in Nigeria – A Critical Review
It is estimated that over 60 percent of Nigerians are under the age of 24. This number can be either a burden or blessing to the nation. This means there is need to make every citizen count. There is need for high value or productive citizens.In otherwords, there is need for high value knowledge economy that comes with quality education. It is in recognition of this critical role of education that the 1979 Constitution that brought presidential systems of government gave birth to the 1981-revised edition of the national policy on education. The five main objectives of the philosophy of Nigerian education, as stated in the policy document 1981- revised edition are: a free and democratic society; a just and egalitarian society; a united, strong and self-reliant nation; a great and dynamic economy; and a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens. The above objectives seem to have symbiotic relationship in the light of contemporary socio-economic and political trends in Nigeria. However, the policy objectives of education in Nigeria are couched in English language been the nation’s lingua Franca and as such Language of Education at all levels. It should be realised that a great number of Nigerians do not speak the language in which all the education policy in Nigeria is written.Nigeria has over 250 linguistic ethnic groups. This means that even if the will to be democratic, egalitarian, a united, strong and self-reliant nation; a great and dynamic economy; and a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens were there, and even if most Nigerians were otherwise literate and able to access the policy materials, or if someone read it to them, half of the country’s population would not understand the language in which the goals are stated in the first place. To put it in numbers, approximately ninety million Nigerians (53% of the population) do not and also cannot speak English. They cannot therefore, understand the National Policy of Education or hardly any policy decision making at national level for that matter. There are therefore, convincing reasons to believe that issues related to language diversity and language policy in education have been one of the major factors responsible for poor education content and poor student academic performance in the Nigerian educational system. Using an exploratory design with anecdotal evidence and envisaging a historical survey of education policy in Nigeria, the proposed study (or paper) seeks to establish the link between language diversity and language policy in education and poor performance of education sector in Nigeria.
Keywords: Education policy, national policy, language diversity, philosophy of education.