Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon

Committee Members

Bertin M. Louis, Awa C. Sarr, Lisa C. Yamagata-Lynch

Abstract

The number of students who are not being educated in their first language is on the rise, globally. While it may seem rational to teach in a second language, especially when it holds the potential to guide students towards employment and increased human capital, this policy is not in the best long-term interest of learners. Gaining primary literacy skills uniquely in a second language has been proven to decrease overall linguistic development among children and increase students’ risk of academic failure.The purpose of this dissertation is to construct a philosophical argument for the importance of first language instruction. Using postcolonial scholars (Fanon, Derrida, and Freire), the reasons for a second language medium of instruction in postcolonial nations are explored. Colonial languages were used to reinforce the imperialistic goals of colonizing nations and this language policy was rarely reversed after decolonization. Many nations have instated pilot mother tongue programs into their school systems, but they rarely move past this stage. To illuminate the complex issues of language education policy in postcolonial nations, Senegal’s language policy is deconstructed. Through document analysis of all sources of financial resources that contribute to the Senegalese public school system available for viewing, the analysis revealed that while research and funding may exist for these programs to move forward, the historical oppression of national languages has prevented their full support.Neocolonialism has further propelled the lack of native tongue instruction in education. As globalization increases the use of world languages across the globe, working towards policy that allows learners to become literate in their first language before learning through a second language is vital. Three recommendations are made to move towards first language instruction in the classroom: increase community support of mother tongue programs, increase funding to support national implementation, and lastly, individualize programs without decentralizing the education systems.

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