The Bureau of Ghana Languages, Tamale, held a lecture on the importance of the use of the local language in Tamale at the Tamale Senior High School Auditorium. The lecture which was scheduled from 3pm to 5pm took off around 3:55pm on November 20, 2015 and was a huge success.

The MC was th District Director of Education
The MC was th District Director of Education

The speakers for the occasion, Alhaji Iddrisu Adam (Retired Educationist), Mr. Issahaku Alhassan (Lecturer, University of Education, Winneba) and the representative for Prof. Apusigah Atia, Dr. Agatha Inkoom (Head of Department, Faculty of Education- University for Development Studies)  spoke on ‘The Importance of the Mother Tongue in Education’, ‘The Essence of the Mother Tongue in a Middle Income Ghana’ and ‘The Use of the Mother Tongue as the Medium of Instruction in our Lower Primary Schools’ respectively.

Alhaji Abdul Adam
Alhaji Iddrisu Adam



In an overall discussion of the mother tongue literacy in the education system of Ghana, one would need to consider the subject under the following:

  1. The Ministry of Education’s policy on Ghanaian Languages
  2. The use of the Mother tongue in socio-cultural activities
  3. Ghanaian Language in politics
  4. Problems of Mother tongue literacy
  5. National language
  6. Policy on the Teaching of Ghanaian Languages

There has always been the need for specific and comprehensive policy on the teaching of Ghanaian languages. Though various views have been expressed, the policy on the teaching of Ghanaian Languages as outlined in the 1951 Accelerated Development plan for Education is still valid.

The policy is as follows:- Gbedemah F. F. K. (1975) pp.46


  1. Classes 1-3: the vernacular should be the medium of instruction
  2. Class 4: Introduce English as a medium of Instruction
  3. Class 6 all lessons in English.

It is obvious from the above policy that English would be taught from the first grade to the third year in the primary school as a subject. Using the Ghanaian Language as the medium of instruction means it is to be used to teach other subjects including English.

Earlier in 1920, the Educationist Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. D. J. Oman then Director of Education recommended that in order not to denationalize the country’s children, English should be introduced as early as possible as a subject of instruction but that the vernacular should be the medium of instruction.


Under  this recommendation, Guggisberg minuted, “this is probably the most important of all the committee’s recommendations. How can these infants really learn a subject in a foreign language; an adult might”. This recommendation was made the 12th of Guggisberg’s sixteen principle of Education. “Whilst an English Education must be given, it must be based solidly on the vernacular”- Mc William H. O. A. et al (1975) pp.54-58.DSC09750

There are so many reasons to support the positions taken by Guggisberg with regard to mother tongue literacy. Some of these may include;

  1. The psychological as well as the mental development of the child should be considered when teaching him/her any discipline especially language. The mother tongue has such a strong hold on the individual to such an extent that among many Ghanaian Language groups, the pronunciation of some words in a second language are influenced by the intonation of the first language ( an example is the “M” for “N” and “R” for “L”) etc.
  2. The child’s ideas and thoughts are in his own language and will be long with him after he is speaking quite good English. If the child is therefore to be encouraged to think for himself as stated in our aims of education, he must first be helped to think in his own language.DSC09742
  3. The use English may impose some limitations on the child’s thinking, especially at the early stage since thinking takes place in the mother tongue.
  4. The vernacular is also the child’s contact with his home, family and village and education should give him better understanding and contact with the home and village.

The efforts that were put into the study and development of our indigenous language in the school during the pre-colonial period were far more substantial than those we have put in since our independence. Our Colonial Masters seemed to have appreciated the necessity for us to know and use our linguistic heritage far more than we ourselves do. There seem to be more neglect of our responsibilities for our local languages now. Many people seem to be miseducated against the vernacular and for that matter mother tongue literacy.DSC09738

The time has come for us to free our minds of such negative attitude against the local languages. For whilst one needs the English Language to reach the international communities and government business, we equally need the local languages at the intr-societal levels. There is no need for linguistic imperialism now. The school has a responsibility to make the child literate in both English and the mother tongue.


  1. The use of the Mother-tongue in Socio-Cultural Activities

The preservation of the people’s pride lies in their own culture. This pride may be undermined when pupils find that little use is made of their mother tongue, which is the best vehicle for cultural transmission and expression.

The culture of the people is found in the child’s own language. The child’s own language should therefore be taught at its purest and best forms so that the child can appreciate the literature, stories, songs and poems of his country perhaps add his own contribution to them when he grows older.


The non-inclusion or lack of attention of the mother tongue in the school curriculum will not only undermine the culture of Ghanaians but will create academic giants and social dwarfs. A good working knowledge of the Ghanaian Language is very essential to the understanding of the Ghanaian culture. We use the mother tongue to express our emotions to either joy or sorrow. At the society level a person’s standard or qualification is based on the quality of his/her use of the local language and conformity of his/her behaviour with the norm. To the society person who fails in his behaviour and use of the local language is not well educated by their local standards.

Mother tongue literacy therefore helps the individual to acquire the necessary language skills well enough to function in the society.

  1. Ghana Language in Politics

Briefly, one can observe that though English is the official language of Ghana, the local languages are becoming more effective weapons politically and will continue on this role for a long time to come because the bulk of Ghana’s population is still illiterate in the requirements of the English language.DSC09748

Our recent political campaigns ans party activities have shown that almost all the political parties found slogans in the Ghanaian languages more effective than the English slogans (eg. Asieɛ hↄ! ɛsoro hↄ! And not the top or under and oh lɛm! And not oh umbrella).

Though politicians use the local languages to canvass for votes, once they win, they have to use to English which is the official language for government business. The implication is that the bulk of Ghanaians who do not speak English do  not understand how their representatives are articulating the use of the electorate. It will therefore be good if reports on proceedings in parliament could be made in the local languages (some MPs may just keep quiet in parliament for fear of making grammatical mistakes on the floor of parliament. Such MPs may be very effective at the committee level but how can their constituents know?)



  1. Problems of Mother-tongue Literacy

Many people are still miseducated against the mother tongue to the extent that they blame the child’s failure in some subjects on the mother tongue. Not until it is proven, it will be wrong for people to take this stand against the local language.


One of the problems of mother tongue literacy is tDSC09759hat many teachers are not literates in their own mother tongue. Teachers who have themselves received their education and professional training in the English language have real difficulty in learning to teach in the mother tongue. A teacher is not adequately qualified to teach a language merely because it is his mother tongue. There is also inadequate number of textbooks in the Ghanaian languages. The greatest number of publications in the Ghanaian languages until recently fell under the classification of Christian Religion.

There seems to be no stable language policy for education. Whilst teachers are trained in the Ghanaian Languages in the university level, the Ghanaian languages are not core subjects in the senior high school level. This has left the Ghanaian language at the mercy of headmasters. No wonder some schools do not offer Ghanaian languages and students are punished for speaking their mother tongue.


It is true that the child needs to be taught English in order to feel at home in the language in which the affairs of his government are carried on and in order to have access to the world history, new arts, science and technology. This should not be done to the total neglect of the Ghanaian language which is the contact line between the home and the school.



After 58 years of independence, the English language continues to be the national language and is used for government business and administration. This means we are only politically independent but still in the bondage of linguistic imperialism. Though the use of one Ghanaian language as a national language maybe desirable, for the nation’s cohesion and unity, it will be a difficult political decision if not impossible.

As stated earlier, language is a vehicle for the transmission of the people’s heritage and culture generally. To replace the English language with one Ghanaian language will therefore pose the same problem for other Ghanaians whose languages may not be chosen. The best way forward will be to give all Ghanaian languages equal opportunities to develop so that one of them will eventually come out above the others. When this happens, Ghanaians will adopt such a Ghanaian language without anybody imposing it on the country like the politicians do with regard to slogans (Ehejo! Eeeshie Rado Rado Rado! etc)



Ghanaian languages in the school have suffered in the past and even now from a certain lack of appreciation of the importance of mother tongue literacy. It is hoped that with the launching of the national Literacy Acceleration Programme (NALAP) in 2009, the situation will change positively. As stated earlier, Mr. D. J. Oman, Director of Education in 1920 recommended the inclusion of the mother tongue in the school curriculum to Governor Guggisberg. The question now is, what is the position of the Director General of Education of independent Ghana in 2015? It must be noted that if literacy is the ability to read and write without specifying the language of the material, those of us who cannot read and write our own languages are therefore illiterates as far as those languages are concerned.

Thank you.”


Alhaji Issahaku Al-Hassan
Alhaji Issahaku Al-Hassan







This paper intends to discuss the relevance of the mother tongue in a middle income Ghana. The definitions of what mother tongue is will be explained and then go further to explain what a middle income country is and then see the status of Ghana in the middle income bracket. The relevance of the mother tongue will be discussed in general and then focus on Ghana as a country. The effects of the usage of the mother tongue on the people’s cultural development, trade, governance and briefly on education. It will be concluded by indicating how Ghana tends to benefit if we develop positive attitudes towards the usage of the mother tongue or tends to lose as a nation if we are passive about it.


In looking at the topic under discussion, the first question to be asked is, what is mother tongue? According to Webster’s International Dictionary 3rd Edition, mother tongue is defined as “the language of one’s mother; the language that is naturally acquired in infancy and childhood: one’s first language.” This definition would have been adequate if the whole of humanity were living in isolated areas without people of different languages interacting or if people were staying on different islands.

UNESCO 1953 and 1968 committee of experts report on language of education, defined mother tongue as “the language which a person acquires in the early years and which normally becomes his natural instrument of thought and communication.” It further explains that the mother tongue need not be the language of one’s parents use the language one first learnt to speak since circumstances may cause one to abandon this language more or less completely at an early age.


According to Pattanayak (1986), mother tongue is “the expression of one’s own identify of being. It is the language through which a person perceives the surrounding world and through which initial concept formation takes place. It is also the medium through which the child establishes kinship relationships with other children and adults around. The mother tongue is that language, the loss of which results in the loss of footedness in traditions and mythology of the speech community and leads to intellectual impoverishment and emotional sterility” Pattanayak explains that when a child is denied his childhood language, his childhood has been stolen from him. Intellectually you are making him bankrupt and emotionally useless. He tends not to fit well in the society.


The second question to be asked is what is a middle income country? In the words of the World Bank, middle income countries are countries having per capita gross national income of US$1,026 to $12,475, they are a diverse group by size, population and income level. Middle income countries are a home to five of the world’s seven billion people and 73% of the world’s poor people. At the same time, middle income countries represent about one third of the global GDP and are major engines of global growth. The World Bank classifies the middle income category into two; the high/upper middle and the lower middle incomes.  Countries like Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, India, Iraq, Pakistan and others are in the lower middle income, while countries like Angola, Gabon, Algeria, Iran, Jamaica, Argentina, South Africa and others are in the upper middle income. Ghana entered this category when oil was discovered and extracted in commercial quantities. We are in the category but we are still to find our feet to be stable.


Ghana being a middle income country will now need its manpower base to be able to cope with its new status, especially those to fit into the new oil industries. One will be tempted to ask, what place the mother tongue has in this new industry. Countries are made up human beings who come from different ethnic groups and speak different languages. In looking at the number of languages in Ghana, different scholars have put the number from 45 to 85 languages. These languages serve as the mother tongue languages to so many people in the country. Language is the key component of culture, it is the vehicle that carries culture about and so people are very passionate about their culture and pride themselves in their languages.


Ghana has an official language which is English, it is the language used tin all official and non-official and non-official functions. The nation also recognizes some indigenous language as national languages these are Dagaare, Dagbani, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem, Nzema, Twi and Fante. These languages tend to serve as regional languages and are also taught in the school system of the country.

Mother tongue languages are an irreplaceable cultural knowledge and a cornerstone of indigenous community and family values. Our languages are a store of several generations of world’s knowledge and wisdom. The loss of the mother tongue will be a threat to the existence of mankind. The knowledge of our environment is not only embedded in the languages but our intellectual and linguistic diversity constitute a system crucial for survival (Reyhner 1996, Krauss 1996).


Indeed if we are to get our economic and political bondage then we must look towards the mother tongue (our languages) as a major tool to recreate a personality that has confidence in and respect for himself. The mother tongue (MT) and cultures should enable us to reject further colonization of the mid which makes the MT look inferior and that we are not capable of sustaining our existence.DSC09797

Social cost is MT loss. It is well documented in literature that when MT languages are being lost, there is a corresponding cost including alcoholism, drug abuse, dysfunctional families, child abuse etc. This is the result of the disintegration of family values that hitherto served as a check to these negative activities (Lily Wong Fillmore 1991, Russel 1995).


The legal dimension is another factor that should urge us not to just use MT only as a subject of study but as a medium of instruction. The 1992 constitution guarantees freedom of expression. It will therefore be unconstitutional to make English or any foreign language the medium of instruction when most people actually only speak and properly understand many issues in the MT is to deny them the freedom to express themselves in the appropriate language. The Linguistic Rights of every citizen is very important and its violation has serious legal implications.


All over the world, especially in the developed world, e.g. USA, there are growing efforts to revive extinct languages, those in danger of extinction (endangered) or at least encourage many indigenous people to maintain their MT. In the USA, these have been backed by legislation (the Native American Languages Act 1992. Bilingual Education Act etc)Every human being reasons in his MT, and we turn to view things in our culture and not in the second language that has been learnt. The MT is an efficient tool for thought. It also contributes in the building self esteem and self-consciousness. It is said that we dream in our MT and not in other languages. The mother tongue plays a central role in life of a person because he grows by what his culture has taught him from infancy.DSC09798

The mother tongue will help us develop very fast in technology, trade, and in governance. Nations have developed and are great because they use their MT which help them. Nations like Japan, China, Israel, and most of the Asian tiger nations. Libya’s Gaddaffi used the MT of his nation to keep his people together when he launched his green book ideology. The MT is capable of transforming nations for their development.

In trade, people understand better in their mother tongue, that is why adverts are being done in the local languages. Ghana has a very high rate of English illiterates and so adverts in English will not be understood. Trading is done in the local languages when our markets are visited. The MT should be developed so that their usage would be beneficial to all.

It is no wonder that the first CPP government of Dr. Nkrumah established the mass education programme in 1951  and the PNDC also established the non-formal education division to help adults learn to read and write in their mother tongue. It was also in 1951 that Bureau of Vernacular literature (Bureau of Ghana Languages) was established to provide reading materials for the new learners of the vernacular.


In governance, it is not only in English that people can think and come out with solutions to problems. The chieftaincy system has always been with us and most of the chiefs have been illiterates in English but that has not prevented them from performing their duties as chiefs. During the PNDC era, when the district assembly concept was established, assembly members were allowed to use the local languages the participants could express themselves in. The idea of using the MT during debates in the assemblies tried to disabuse the notion that only literates in English languages had solutions and knowledge to debate during sittings. The number of languages being used at such forums should be increased to cover all languages in the locality. It should not be restricted to only assembly sittings but parliamentary sittings too, where members are allowed to express themselves in their mother tongues.

In the case of technological development, the MT languages can fit in very well without problems. Scientific words and names are not the preserves of any language group. A lot of borrowing and translations is done names and words. This tells us that our MT languages can cope with the volume of new ideas that enter our system. Our constant usage will help our people understand what is going on in the new world as a whole.DSC09789

We are who we are. All we need to do is to understand ourselves and to add other people’s knowledge to ours so that we can develop better. When a child is able to establish the basic concepts of life in the mother tongue, when he encounters new ideas on his way, he is able to understand them very fast and to move forward in life. The child has little problems learning new things in life only if he was well grounded in the basic concepts formed in the MT language as Pattanayak said in the MT “ The loss of which results in the loss of footedness in traditions and mythology of the speech community and leads to intellectual impoverishment and emotional sterility” When a person loses the MT he loses a firm grip on his traditions and the myths of his people. He tends to look at things in the light of other people’s culture. If a person is not cultured, how can he contribute to the development of the nation? Our cultures make us who we are as Ghanaians; we pride ourselves as having a Ghanaian culture which is admired all over the world.DSC09791

Culturally, the history of most of the ethnic grouped is in the minds of people, especially with the Dagbamba, the Luaa (tomtom beater) he is able to recite the history of thee people and chiefs with perfection in the MT. his store of knowledge and wisdom is in the minds of people who are growing very old by the day. When such people do not transmit it to the young ones, then something great will be lost. These should be preserved in the MT; they will be as they are always, being recited. They should not be translated into English for keeping. Translations usually omit some parts of the message due to redundancy and repetitions, so that it will fit into the structure and norms of the receptor language.


The philosophies of the ethnic groups are found in their proverbs, idioms, songs and folktales. These are all rendered in the MT to make them interesting and meaningful. These should be studied, collected and compiled in the MT so as to preserve them. Translations of these will render them not interesting again and the moral lessons they intend to teach will be lost.

The benefits of the MT languages to Ghana are so numerous but a few will be mentioned here. People tend to see themselves as important because their language is given its rightful place in the society. Productivity improves as workers understand instructions given to them in their language. Both adults and children benefit as they develop their cognitive competences. The nation will be able to transmit its culture to its young ones and also teach societal morals and values which will in the end socialize the individual.


In conclusion, the discussion has given us the definitions of what mother tongue is and also explained what a middle income country is. We have looked at the status of Ghana in the middle income bracket. The relevance of the mother tongue has been discussed in general and we have focused on Ghana as a country. The effects of the usage of the mother tongue on the people’s cultural development trade, technology, governance and briefly on education were discussed. We also tried to give a few benefits on the usage of MT.

Thank you for staying with me throughout the discourse. May God help us understand and make use of this knowledge.”



Dr. Agatha Inkoom
Agatha Inkoom PhD


Agatha Inkoom, PhD

University for Development Studies, Ghana

Paper delivered at the Bureau of Ghana Languages Tamale, Lecture series in conjunction with the centre for National Culture. Friday 20, November, 2015

Tamale Senior High School Assembly Hall


The relevance of mother tongue in teaching and learning

The UNESCO 1953 observed that the best medium for teaching the child is his mother tongue. Psychologically, it is the system of meaningful signs that the child’s mind works automatically for understanding and expression. Sociologically, it is a means of identifying with the members of the community to which the child belongs. Educationally, the child learns more quickly through the mother- tongue than through any unfamiliar linguistic medium.


The UNESCO again commends the use of mother tongue to be extended to cover the entire primary school. Indeed, people should begin their schooling through the mother tongue because they understand it best and because the mother tongue will bridge the break between home and school.DSC09795

Other reasons underscore the necessity for Ghanaian Language learning by the school going child.

  1. The child should learn to love and respect the mental heritage of his people.
  2. When neglected, or haphazardly taught, there is the danger of crippling and destroying the productive and creative powers of the child and the genius of the race.

In line with UNESCO recommendations, the” Operational Guidelines” on Ghana’s basic education reforms confirm government’s policy that:

“The local Ghanaian Language should be the medium of instruction for the first three years of primary schools. English shall be learnt as a subject from first year at school and shall gradually become the medium of instruction from primary 4” (MOE Policy Guideline on School Education, 1988, p6). Based upon this, the Education Reforms Review Committee (1994) endorsed the policy and recommended:

…the intensification of training of Ghanaian Language teachers, and that posting of newly trained teachers should as far as possible consider their ability to use and teach the Ghanaian Language where they are posted to (Education Reform Review Committee Report, 1994:17).


Various relevant implications derive from these policies. Fobih (1988) observes that at the start of school, the Ghanaian child:

  1. Has mastered the language
  2. Has become somewhat competent in the skills of listening and understanding in the language
  3. Has acquired the vocabulary
  4. Can use the sentence structures correctly
  5. Is able to begin reading the printed symbols of the language and writing it.

It is therefore not logically sound practice to leave the child’s linguistic development maturity in the mother tongue and start him all over again in a new language. The teachers task thus, is to help the child develop these skills further and teach him the visual appearance of the language that he already understands. The second policy implementations is that the Ghanaian child is to develop as a bilingual learner.

Fobih (1988) again observed that there is a big leap in the child’s thought process at the time he enters primary one by age 6. Cognitive chance changes like the child’s ability to reverse, conserve and transform, classify or serialise enable the child to easily assimilate or acquire the printed symbols of his language. Consequently, at primary 4, the child’s  cognitive maturity plus the teacher’s conscious effort to foster transfer in learning help the child to use his earlier skills in the mother tongue to aid the reading activity in the new second language.DSC09788

Research evidence exists in the literature on bilingual children that positively supports native language education and instruction. Loysp and Flood (1978) concluded in their study on bilingual education that the most logical sequence of learning to read and write by bilinguals is to start from their mother tongue. They cited evidence from other studies to show that students who first learn to read in vernacular made better progress even in the second language reading programme than did those students who had spent the same length of time working only on second language reading.



The Nigerian Experience

One of the most convincing studies on teaching in the mother-tongue was carried out in the Ife Region of Nigeria in 1970 (Akinoso, 1993, Bamgbose, 1991). The purpose of the project was to test the use of languages in education during the first six years of primary school. Despite doubts, the evaluation of pilot schools and comparisons between them and other Nigerian schools were positive. The students in the project scored higher than their counterparts in the regular schools – both academically and cognitively. Moreover, pupils taught in Yoruba for the first six years of primary school were no less skilled in English than those taught in English throughout the last three years of primary school. The study concluded that, the advantages of teaching children in their mother-tongue go beyond academic success to include cultural, emotional, cognitive and socio-psychological benefits.

The Malian Experience

A similar evaluation of cognitive benefits in mother-tongue education was carried out in 1985 in Mali. About 150 pupils from experimental schools and 340 from French speaking schools starting at the same level were observed from primary one through primary six.

Results showed that 48% of the experimental school pupils finished their studies without repeating a single year as compared to only 7% of pupils from the French speaking schools.


This study proves that, the use of mother- tongue in education is an important factor for academic success (Hutchinson, 1995).

The South African Experience

In 1990, a sub-lingual transition programme “Threshold Project”, was studied in South Africa (Luckett, 1994; Klein, 199; Cummins, 1979) in which the pupils’ mother-tongue was replaced with English in primary three.

The main conclusion of the study is that bilingual programmes in which a language different from the student’s mother tongue is used before a certain age, or before a certain “Cognitive Level” is achieved are not likely to be successful.

The Tanzanian Experience

A Tanzanian research in secondary schools demonstrated that, teaching Swahili (mother-tongue) is superior to teaching in English for the development of the mind (Mlama and Materu, 1978)

It was observed that, when pupils were asked a question in English, the answers were often incoherent and irrelevant, showing lack of understanding of the question and, or inability to reply in English.  However, when the same question was asked in the mother-tongue, pupils gave relevant and articulate answers.

The British Experience

The issue of which language to teach is not specific to Africa Only. Useful lessens can be obtained from the experiences of advanced countries- even though the context differs.

Between 1978 and 1981, the University of Bradford in Great Britain observed the effects of yearly bilingual programmes on five year old native Punjabi (an Indian Language) speakers.

A controlled group using only English scored much lower than children who were taught partly in English.

In sum, all these experiences lend overwhelming evidence in support of mother-tongue education for bilingual children during the first three to six years of schooling. It is underscored that mother tongue education has a facilitating effect on second language learning, academic achievement of pupils and development of the mind. Consequently, the classroom use of a language, that is not already spoken by the child results in cognitive and pedagogical difficulties.

But what do we mean by the term” Language”?

What is language?

Language is a system of human vocal behaviour culturally acquired for the purpose of transmitting information. Language is considerably influenced by the culture in which it is rooted.

A Ghanaian Dagomba child orders and organizes his thinking in Dagbani. His brain thinks with words in that language- with its inherent overtones and special connotation, thus, the Ga language is the tool or instrument which gives order and organization to the Ga people’s thinking. In a sense then, the Ghanaian language: Dabgani, Asante Twi, Akuapem Twi, Ga, Fante, Dangme, Ewe, Nzema, etc, are the languages which belong to ethnic groups in Ghana. It is the universal exclusive mark of the ethnic group in Ghana.

Language, as a system, demands knowledge of linguistics to understand the underlying principles of the mother-tongue. For the fact that language is culturally acquired means that the teacher needs to know something about culture, anthropology, or the civilization in which the language has roots and grows.

To teach a Ghanaian language in the primary school is thus, simply put, a two-part case. Firstly, the nature of the primary school child must be known and secondly the teacher must be academically and professional competent.

Objectives of Teaching Ghanaian Language

The teacher of Ghanaian Language in the basic school has broad and diverse responsibilities. His workload in teaching the mother tongue includes helping pupils with:

  • Developing language skills (Listening, speaking, reading and writing)
  • The study of literature, and
  • Exploring the nature of the language

The teaching syllabus for Ghanaian languages and culture (2012) spells out the general aims which include helping pupils to:

  • Develop cultural and linguistic awareness
  • Attain competency in speaking, reading and writing their language
  • Appreciate the historical and cultural heritage of their linguistic community, and
  • Acquire the socio-cultural values in the literature of the languageDSC09782

Objectives that may be derived from these broad aims include the teacher helping pupils to:

  1. Appreciate the vernacular

Appreciation is what may lead to change in teacher attitude to influence pupil’s learning.

  1. Appreciate the literature of the mother-tongue

We must be motivated to understand our own culture and make efforts to preserve our oral literature, which abounds in the various traditional communities.

  1. Understand traditional Ghanaian culture

The principle underlying traditional beliefs, matrilineal and patrilineal family systems, patterns of child’s upbringing, social concepts, traditional  architecture, etc must be taught and learnt. The significance of these must be estimated in the light of modern knowledge and development to weed off the retrogressive aspect and retain what is valuable.

  1. Create awareness that the vernacular is an important tool for learning. In a situation where the school going child moves from home to the new school environment – Calling for new emotional and social adjustment the vernacular becomes the avenue that bridges the gap between pre-school experiences and formal schooling. The vernacular becomes the model for the child’s free expression, enabling him to respond and participate in the formal school’s activities.
  2. To develop Ghanaian mentality

A nation’s mentality is measured by the citizen’s mentality. For Ghana to over-rely on the use of English as the lingua-franca, and French etc. instead of developing and using her own various languages show that Ghana is still under the colonial mentality despite the hullabaloo it makes about gaining her independence.

  1. To develop democratic ideals

For democracy to grow nation-wide Ghanaians should be able to read and understand government policies and the manner in which it affects them- in the various Ghana languages.

Scope of the Ghanaian Language Curriculum

In Ghana, the scope of the primary school language curriculum covers all the study of the culture. It is thus a Ghanaian language and culture curriculum. Teacher preparation is geared towards helping the children to first learn the language and its literary content and to acquire the language skills of the people. To the young child, emphasis is on the communicative functions of the language.

Curriculum content consists of facts, terms, conventions, structures, etc which make up the subject matter. The broad body of knowledge that constitutes the language, literature or culture. It is the content that provides the base, the foundation for teaching the language skills.

Skills refer to those inter-related processes of listening, speaking, reading and writing – design to increase pupil’s control over all aspects of communication. The teacher’s preparation should enable him help pupils apply the content as they engage in the transmission and reception of communication through listening, speaking, reading and writing. Content and skill are thus inseparable in the primary school vernacular curriculum.

The culture hold the values that determines:

  1. The child’s opportunity for learning in the school
  2. The interest and experiences of the school child
  3. What the child reads, speaks and writes about

The language content is thus, the culture which should enhance the child’s self-image, equip him with skills and make him prove of his heritage.

Teaching Learning Materials

To the Ghanaian Language teacher, the main purpose of the materials is to enable him teach more effectively for the learner to learn more easily and learn more rapidly.

The materials selected should be a genuine representation of the people’s culture: It should be clear such that pupils have no doubts as to its meaning. The materials should be intrinsically valuable in its own rights as an effective teaching instrument. It must have practical use, robust, easy to use and store and be readily accessible. To motivate and sustain enthusiasm, it must be appropriate to the age, interest and ability of pupils and purposes to which it is to be used.


Depending on pupil’s age and learning stage, material may include a selection of:

  1. Pupils’ books, workbooks, grades, reading materials, word cards, sentence cards, reader, etc.
  2. Visual materials: Figures, flashcards, wall charts, posters ( story illustration) Pictures, photographs.
  3. Audio materials: Tape recorders, cassettes
  4. Audio-visuals: Television, video films
  5. Activities, puppets, songs, games (tongue twisters)
  6. Documentary materials: Project material, reproduced drawings, the alphabet documents etc. those may be used to develop group works and activity methods.DSC09792

Lesson preparation

      The Ghanaian language teacher should first  define in the scheme of work what is

Intended to be accomplished for the term and then plan each lesson. The lesson plan shows the step to follow. The plan includes the statement of the objectives to be realized and the means to attain them resulting from activities pupil engage in.

Lesson Objectives:

The behaviour to be manifested to indicate learning are what should be stated as instructional objectives. Relevant questions to ask are:

  1. What is to be learned?
  2. What changes are expected to take place in pupils?DSC09785

The Ghanaian language teacher could make these decisions to enable him determine:

  1. What materials to use
  2. Which teaching procedure to adopt
  3. What instructional strategy or strategies to employ
  4. And what evaluation techniques to use

Writing instructional objectives: Mager (1962) stresses three necessary elements:

  1. A description of the type of observable behaviour the pupil will be asked to employ in demonstrating mastery of objective (e.g to write; to identify, to orally describe). Terms such as to know, “to understand” and “to appreciate” must be avoided since they do not refer to observable behaviour.
  2. Description of the important condition the pupil will be expected to demonstrate achievement of the objective (e.g time limit, materials or equipments available or specific instructions)
  3. The criterion which will be used to evaluate the success of the pupils’ performance.

Example 1

In a 30 minute grammar lesson on four prepositions in the primary one class, objectives stated were:

By the end of the lesson, the pupil should be able to:

  1. Locate by pointing to three towns in Ghana from a wall map where fishing is done
  2. Mention three fishing implements and tell their uses
  3. Describe orally two ways by which fishes are caught and brought ashore. Besides meeting Mager’s (1962) essential elements, these are clear measurable, specific and achievable instructional objectives capable of identifying levels of mastery. The lesson plan should be related to pupils previous knowledge to link new learning. Reference books must be indicated and easily available to people when needed.

Lesson content and skill should be well organized under significant points.

Stage by stage information to be provided should be relevant, accurate and up-to dates adapted to

Pupils level and presented sequentially and have adequate coverage. The type of learning activities and situations should be clearly indicated.  In example 1 above for example, pupils

Would show objects, positions, say them, read from cards and match card with

Corresponding pictures .Thus, plan should indicate also tools and techniques the teacher will

Use to present and develop the lesson.

The evaluation procedure must   also be indicated .This will concern knowledge of specific term, facts convention, classification and categories, criteria, comprehension, analysis (of element, relationship, organizational principles), application, evaluation in the cognitive domain; and attitudes  (of acceptance, appreciation), reception (of awareness, attention) and participation (willingly or for enjoyment) in the affective domain.

The remarks section should end the lesson plan. It provides the Ghanaian language teacher opportunity for self-criticism about the lesson success or failure or improvement to make. Remedial teaching or  change in presentation technique may be necessary.


The nature of primary school child

Human beings learn all their lives. A child of 6 years, a pre –adolescent of 12, and a young adult of 20 learn different things. Their learning   capacities and their learning method also differ. Change in ability with age demands the use of suitable method in teaching language to the child. The Ghanaian   e method to use, and be guided by educational implications which he, the teacher, should derive to guide his educational practice

The lower child: Learning method and characteristics.

  1. Learning: the 6 old who starts school has more or less mastered the maternal

Language   or mother tongue though he may miss one or two sounds. He has mastered   the grammar though   he may make mistakes in some irregular verbs. The child is capable   or will   be capable of using complex sentences though may not be able to more than   one   or two subordinate clauses. Nevertheless, the principle of subordination will be there.

  1. Acquisition of information: From age 6, the child learning needs involve vocabulary, and skills in reading and  The child learns in generalizations and not just rote, learning separate bits. The children cannot talk about categories. For   example, they use the present tense or the past tense but cannot label them as such.
  2. Memory span; their memory span is short. Their memory span for digits is said to be usually only for.
  3. Muscular and motor skills: Children of this age are receptive to new muscular and motor skills. They are, after all, about to read and write –which requires a great deal of hand – eye co-ordination. They should be able to imitate good speech models in their parents and teachers.
  4. Activity: the young child acquires most of his information about the world by DOING, ACTING. The children should feel  and handle objects.
  5. Personal and emotional the adjustment: children at this stage accept the authority of adults. They may be naughty at times but they  soon realize their behavior as a deviation from the standards laid down for them.  The children at this age feel affectionate towards anybody who does not maltreat them.

These characteristics   hold important educational implications for the Ghanaian language teacher .The should remember that;

  1. a) The 6 year old is capable of learning languages, for he has already acquired one.
  2. b) He acquires his information by ACTING, DOING, BEHAVING. Speech, for example, is accompanied by acts .The language must be related directly to activities.
  3. c) His memory is short. Learning materials must therefore be graded, with any amount of repetition. This also implies that reading and writing should be postponed as long as possible, until the child consolidates the use of the mother tongue.
  4. d) Teaching by audio-visual aids is strongly recommended .the more concrete they are the better, for example, an actual piece of sugar cane chewed and an actual piece of string for plating the hair is better than a picture of girl whose hair is being plated. Their make belief play is very strong at this time. Again, making a thing is better than using ready-made object. Tape recorders and discs, television set and videos recorders may be used to teach children how to operate the machine.DSC09728


The mother tongue is the tool with which the child thinks. By the time he begins school, the child know its mother tongue ; he can listen to it and speak it .It is at school that he will learn and to read and  write  in addition to skills he has already acquired .To fail to teach the child its mother tongue results in crippling the genius of the race.

Current researches (LAPP&FLOOD,1978; Akinoso,1993 ,bangbose,1991;Hutchinson,1995;  Mlama &Materu,1978) indicate that teaching the child its mother tongue has far reaching advantages:  the child is made capable of succeeding in his academic work; and understands better. The government must put in place favourable Ghanaian language policies to motivate teaching and learning of mother tongue. The teacher must be well versed in the vernacular to be capable of helping the pupil in all the four language modes: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

The mother tongue must be taught using teaching and learning resources carefully selected and, or prepared to have to have value to the lesson and be appropriate to the different functions to which they will be put.DSC09723

The Ghanaian teacher should prepare well before going to teach: lesson notes must be well-planned, lesson objectives well –thought out and clearly well stated time limit. Such will guide the teacher concerning which skill to focus on, how to present the lesson, what types of exercises to give, what to evaluate, how to reveal the previous lesson and which decisions to make to reteach the lesson, vary the teaching technique or whether to continue with other lessons. Ghanaian language teaching thus involves decision making as to what to do and how to do and how to do it, with the goal of forming habits in the use of the mother tongue in pupils.  Method thus involves the use of strategy (plans) and tactics (the way to use to achieve the objectives).DSC09727

Any type of teaching method must include selection, and presentation. Selection because we cannot teach the whole field of mother tongue knowledge all at once, grading; because some particular lessons must be learnt before others can follow, and presentation, because one cannot teach unless one communities something to somebody.   The effective application of these three basic teaching modes should result in habit formation of the child thinking in and using the mother tongue as a native does.

To achieve such a challenging feat, the Ghanaian language teacher should be knowledgeable and well trained to possess both the academic and pedagogical competence and skills. Only such teachers calibre, well-motivated to work his heart  out, can help the pupil acquire the necessary skills to live in the society and exhibits his creative genius, first as a human being, and secondly, as a Ghanaian wielding a unique mother tongue that marks him out and identifies him with his culture.    




  • Jonathan Kansoh – Acting Director, Bureau of Ghanaian Languages, Tamale


  • Alhaji Abdulai Fuseini Bila- Former Lecturer- University of Education Winneba


  • Dr. Salifu Nagtomah- Lecturer- IDS, UDS


  • Alhaji Roland M. Yahaya- Former Director, Ghanaian Danish Comm. Programme


  • Hajia Habiba Saaka- District Director- GES, Sagnerigu District


  • Dr. Sulemana Iddrisu- Rector- Tamale College of Education


  • Alhaji Lawyer Ibrahim Mahama- Legal Practitioner and Lead- Malgu Chambers


  • Dr. Agatha Inkoom- head- Basic Education Department, UDS


  • Issahaku Alhassan- Lecturer, Language Department- UEW



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Mr. Muniru Alhassan (Econs), Director of Finance, addressing the crowd about the visions of Bureau of Ghana Languages, Tamale Branch. He said the branch wants to reconstitute the

Local Language Development Committee that used to exist and has died off because most members have also passed on and those left are either old or very weak. He also informed the audience that the institute is preparing a proposal to be considered by government or corporate organisation and or NGOs to put up a multi-functional library at the Tamale Branch. The library will  house books written in the local language and also serve as a resource centre for researchers.DSC09738





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Members of the high table


By amoafowaa

Just a simple Ghanaian trying to find the best in our society. I may be fun, I may be interesting, I may be funny, I may even be foolish or intelligent, but it is all based on the mood in which you find yourself. I believe our minds make us who we are. Know that, pain, no matter its 'unbearability', is transient. Unburden or delight yourself for a while in my writings please. And all corrections, advice and opinions are welcome. Know that you are the king, queen or royal on this blog. :)


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