ATTITUDE OF TEACHERS AND STUDENTS TOWARDS THE USE OF MOTHER TONGUE IN MATHEMATICS TEACHING IN NIGERIA PRIMARY SCHOOL: IMPLICATIONS FOR GUIDANCE COUNSELLING
Mathematics is critical to scientific progress and development in general. The study aims to investigate teachers’, parents’, and students’ attitudes toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction. As a result, this study, which included 210 participants (99 students, 99 parents, and 12 teachers), investigated parents’, teachers’, and students’ attitudes toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction at lower primary schools in Ogun State’s Yewa South Local Government Area.
The findings revealed that parents and students (both male and female) have a positive attitude toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics teaching at the lower primary school level, whereas teachers have a negative attitude toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics teaching.
Public primary school students have a positive attitude toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction, whereas private primary school students have a negative attitude toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction.
Based on the findings, it was recommended that the government sanction schools and teachers who failed to use mother tongue to teach mathematics in lower primary schools, and that schools, in collaboration with the government and other stakeholders in education, organize orientation for teachers, students, and parents on the importance of using mother tongue to teach mathematics in lower primary schools in Nigeria. Lower primary schools should have a mathematics dictionary in their native language to help teachers perform their duties effectively.
1.1 THE STUDY’S BACKGROUND
Language is the expression of ideas through the combination of speech-sounds into words. Words are combined to form sentences, which are then used to express ideas. We cannot escape the influences of language, even through silence, because it is required to grasp things intellectually and persuade others to do so; language, to a large extent, defines humanity.
Language is the primary tool used in classroom interaction (Lopez, 2007). According to Oginni (2013), language is the key to people’s hearts; if we lose the key, we lose the people. If the key is treasured and kept safe, it will open the door to untold riches, riches that cannot be guessed from the other side of the door.
“When we speak about language and its meaning, we often do so from the standpoint of what it does or what we use it for (its functions”),” writes Kembo-Sure (2000). According to Lopez (2000), these acts are dialogic and communicative in nature.
According to David (2006), language is unquestionably one of the most important areas of the curriculum. They give a child the tools he or she needs to communicate while also being an important part of the creative process that leads to communication. As a result, the language of instruction in any school curriculum is usually chosen with care.
Because of the colonial legacy in matters of language in education, most African countries that were once colonized (including Nigeria) are frequently faced with difficult choices regarding the language taught and learned, as well as the language used for instruction.
This is usually the result of the incorporation of colonial languages into the educational system and the belief that mother tongue languages have a role to play in the educational system (Hassana, 2006). Unfortunately, the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction is not encouraged in Nigerian schools (Kolawole, 2005). This discourages the use of mother tongue as a language of instruction, particularly in the teaching of core subjects such as mathematics.
Many people believe that mathematics is the key to unlocking future career opportunities (Stafslien, 2001). Mathematics is the study of life and the explanations for natural phenomena (Papanastasiou, 2002). As a result, mathematics is at the heart of today’s reform efforts, which aim to establish a system for guiding students in their learning and understanding of mathematics (Smith, 2000; Franke and Kazemi, 2001).
Primary school provides a solid mathematical foundation as well as students who will become future scientists, engineers, doctors, and technologists capable of managing the country’s resources to achieve self-sufficiency, technological growth, and advancement (Abubakar, 2011).
Mathematics instruction, according to Balogun (2002), is a training of logical thinking and a means of solving many problems because it is confronted with finding solutions to problems that have not been provided by a similar type. People who became increasingly skeptical of mathematics saw it as a subject (discipline) that pursued unnecessary complications, inventing unrealistic problems, and prescribing solutions within the confines of elementary mathematics (Adenegan 2001). Adenegan (2003) emphasized the importance of mathematics in four broad functions: utilitarian, cultural, social, and personal.
In a nutshell, mathematics is now an enormously useful science that has had to cross a desert of usefulness where mathematics was tenderly nursed as a science of mind (Balogun, 2002). Astronomy is a practical mathematics science that is used to predict the calendar, feasts, eclipses, wars, pestilence, whirlwinds, storms, and even the future of nations and individuals (Adenegan, 2003).
A credit in mathematics is required for admission to a wide range of tertiary education programs in Nigeria. According to Ekhaguere (2010), given mathematics’ pivotal role in the nation’s educational system, a policy must be developed and implemented to ensure that no child falls behind in mathematics at the pre-tertiary level.
In Section 4 page 13 of the National Policy on Education (2013), the Federal Government of Nigeria stated and clarified the goals of primary education concerning mathematics for the benefit of all citizens and the realities of the modern world.
The goals of primary mathematics education are to enable students to:
Develop your understanding of numbers and numeration.
Develop your ability to carry out the four basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division)
Improve your measurement, approximation, and estimation skills.
Develop spatial concepts and abilities.
Learn data collection, representation, and interpretation techniques.
Develop positive attitudes toward mathematics and make effective use of free time
Create investigation techniques and problem-solving strategies.
Depending on the context, the term “attitude” can mean different things to different people. This is because it includes cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components (Boliner & Wanke, 2002). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, attitude is a way of thinking (cognitive) or a physical posture (emotional) or self-confident or hostile behavior (behavioural).
The definition of attitude toward mathematics varies depending on the researcher’s conception, ideas, and perspectives. According to one’s point of view, one’s emotional disposition toward mathematics can be positive or negative (Zan & Martino, 2007). Thus, an individual’s attitude toward mathematics can be defined as the emotions associated with mathematics, beliefs about mathematics, or behavior toward the subject, which can be positive or negative.
According to research reports on attitude in mathematics education, attitude plays an important role in learning mathematics, but the link between positive attitude and achievement in mathematics is inconclusive (Zan & Martino, 2007). Attempts to improve attitudes toward mathematics at a lower level provide a foundation for higher mathematics studies and also have an impact on secondary school mathematics achievement (Ma & Xu, 2004).
According to Martino and Zan (2009), many instruments for studying attitude toward mathematics have been developed based on various definitions of attitude and have generally moved from being quantitative to being qualitative in nature. They discover three key components of attitude: emotional disposition, mathematical vision, and perceived competence.
However, a more recent review of previous research has revealed that the stability of beliefs, and thus the stability of attitudes, is unsupported (Liljedahl, 2012). This implies that attitudes have the ability to change. In studies on attitude change, the learning environment, teacher quality, and meaningful teaching methods have all been considered as change factors. Surprisingly, the teacher emerges as a critical mediating factor in relation to these three dimensions, and it is the most frequently associated with changes in a student’s attitude toward mathematics.
According to Ajayi (2005), no foreign language can replace the mother tongue, and no educational system can afford to treat it as such without serious consequences for the child’s mental development. Thought and language exist as one entity. One is dependent on the other for survival.
They grow and decay together, and the child thinks and dreams in the language that provides him with firsthand knowledge of life (Itchison, 2001). Even the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2003) discovered that children perform better when taught in their native language.
Even though they were colonized by Britain, which had colonized Nigeria, all great, highly developed countries of the world speak their own languages, including the newly emerging economic and industrial powers of South-East Asia. Teaching in one’s mother tongue may remain a pipe dream unless Nigeria’s education system is decolonized (Adekunle, 2008).
The National Policy on Education (NPE, 2013) stated that the government recognizes the importance of language in promoting social interaction, national cohesion, and cultural preservation. To promote national unity, every child should be required to learn one of the three major Nigerian languages: Hausa, Igbo, or Yoruba.
According to Section 2(ii) of the National Policy on Education published in 2013,
“The government will ensure that the primary medium of instruction is the mother tongue or the language of the immediate community.”
In addition, section 3(xx) of the same National Policy on Education stated:
“The government will ensure that the medium of instruction in primary schools is initially the mother tongue of the immediate community, and then English.”
Section one discusses the significance of Nigerian language in the educational process.
“In addition to appreciating the importance of language in the educational process and as a means of preserving people’s cultures, the government believes that encouraging each child to learn one of the three major languages other than his mother tongue is in the best interests of national unity.”
According to Lawal (2005), this policy “has been very difficult to implement due to the attitude of the educated class who would rather have their children taught English Language right from the cradle.” There is a need for Nigerian mathematics experts to reject colonial mentality by abandoning English and developing a mathematics curriculum and textbooks that will meet the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of the three major Nigerian languages- Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa.
Teaching in the child’s mother tongue also brings mathematics examples and concepts closer to the child, assisting the child in developing a mathematical vocabulary in the mother tongue. It also assists adults who are illiterate in English in understanding and appreciating mathematics.
According to Muthwii (2001), one of the problems with teaching mathematics through mother tongue is a lack of vocabulary in the mother tongue, which is the primary reason why some students cannot correctly interpret mathematical language, contributing to the high rate of failure in mathematics. To assist students in mastering more difficult content, teachers must go beyond simply disseminating information, administering tests, and assigning grades (Odogwu, 2002).
According to Weber (2008), in order to guide students in developing accurate criteria for what constitutes a good argument, the teacher must have a solid understanding of such criteria. According to Brock-Utne and Alidou (2006), teachers will be required to use explanations in the mother tongue and to limit their questions to those of low-order cognitive value.
Linguistic stereotyping on the part of the teacher may also lead to erroneous evaluations in which a student appears sound and intelligent when he is not. Because such a student appears intelligent simply because he can express himself fluently in English, the teacher must undermine stereotyping in order to encourage classroom communication and eliminate inappropriate labeling (Weber, 2008).
According to Lawal (2005), “parents, out of ignorance, insulate their children from the mother tongue in order to induce facility in the use of English Language, thereby depriving children of a basic source of education and imaginative development.” At the same time, some parents are proud to tell their friends that their children only speak English (Emenyonu, 2007).
The negative impact of this situation is that many of these youths may become culturally misplaced, resulting in serious social and educational problems (Olaolorun, Ikonta & Adeosun, 2013). Most parents discourage their children from counting numbers in their mother tongue, and if the mother observes her child being taught mathematics or any other subject in her mother tongue,
she may report the teacher to the school authority, withdraw her child from school, or raise the issue during the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting, resulting in the teacher being labeled as a “local teacher” by parents, colleagues, and even students.
Many private schools forbid the use of vernacular (mother tongue), and most parents, particularly mothers, will not send their children to a school where the mother tongue is used as a medium of instruction; such schools are referred to as “local schools.” This is consistent with Lawal’s (2005) claim that it is not an exaggeration to say that the use of the mother tongue is completely prohibited in some private schools.
According to Jannina and Mark (2004), mother tongue was christened vernacular, which means barbarian language. This could be seen as one of the factors contributing to the difficulties encountered in implementing the mother tongue as a language of instruction in Nigeria.
Mathematics educators are increasingly concerned about the language used to convey mathematical ideas to students (Bolaji 2007). Mathematics, like any other school subject, must be taught in a language that the recipients understand if the basic concepts, principles, and laws of mathematics are to be meaningful to children. According to Fafunwa (1999), children should receive early education in their mother tongue because it will last longer in their memory than any other language. As a result, it is widely accepted that the child’s mother tongue is crucial in the teaching and learning processes.
At this point, it is critical to consider whether the attitudes of teachers, students, and parents toward the use of mother tongue have an impact on the teaching of mathematics. It is critical to draw attention to the presence of problems and the causes of the problems observed, and to discuss what will be discovered, as well as to recommend what can be done to reduce them if they cannot be completely eradicated.
According to Garret (2000), “we also need to learn about how learners feel about this language” (mother tongue). According to Weidmann and Humphrey (2002), investigating students’ mathematics attitudes and perspectives not only informs teachers, parents, and administrators about students’ needs, but also serves as a catalyst for mathematics education reform.
The purpose of this study is to investigate teachers’, parents’, and students’ attitudes toward the use of mother tongue as a language of instruction in the teaching of mathematics at the lower primary school level.
1.2 THE PROBLEM’S STATEMENT
Students’ attitudes toward mathematics may influence the types of behaviors they exhibit when learning mathematics. The researcher discovered that Mother Tongue, as a language of instruction specified in the National Policy on Education, is facing stiff competition from other languages and, as a result of the position it has been assigned, it is on the verge of losing the battle against these other languages, particularly in the teaching of subjects that appear to be abstract in nature, such as mathematics.
Because mathematics is logical (sensible and reasonable), many students developed a negative attitude toward the subject. It has been observed that some teachers find it difficult to instruct students using indigenous languages, citing a lack of vocabulary in the mother tongue as one of the problems of teaching with the mother tongue, which is the primary reason why some students cannot correctly interpret mathematical language, contributing to the high rate of failure in mathematics.
The mother tongue has no inherent inability to express mathematical concepts. Even if some words are missing, this can be remedied through codification and modernization. As a result, this study investigates teachers’, parents’, and students’ attitudes toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction.
1.3 QUESTIONS FOR RESEARCH
What is the attitude of primary school students toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction?
Will the attitudes of male and female primary school students toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction differ?
Is there a difference in the attitudes of public and private primary school students toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction?
What is the parental attitude toward the use of mother tongue in the teaching of mathematics in lower primary school?
How do primary school teachers feel about using their mother tongue to teach mathematics?
1.4 THE STUDY’S OBJECTIVE
The study includes two hundred and ten (210) participants, including 89 primary three pupils and their mothers, as well as twelve mathematics teachers from six (6) randomly selected primary schools in Ogun State’s Yewa South Local Government Area. The study focuses on the attitudes of students, parents, and teachers toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction in both public and private schools.
1.5 THE STUDY’S SIGNIFICANCE.
The Nigerian government has identified mathematics as a tool for both scientific and technological advancement. Aside from the large sums of money invested in improving mathematics teaching and learning, the results have yet to produce the desired results for national development. This research will assist mathematics educators in assisting students in learning to organize facts, see relationships, and patterns in their mother tongue.
The study would demonstrate the efficacy of using one’s mother tongue to teach mathematics in primary schools. The findings will be used to help the government plan for and improve mathematics education in schools.
This study will aid other stakeholders in mathematics education in their efforts to create mathematics materials that will stimulate and arouse the interest of students, thereby correcting students’ negative attitudes. The study would also be useful as a reference material for students and scholars of mathematics who are conducting similar research. The study’s findings would also encourage scholars in other disciplines to conduct similar research.
There is a need for national language instruction rather than using English for mathematics. The study would also reveal the attitudes of students, parents, and teachers toward the use of mother tongue in mathematics instruction.
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