Article

Students’ underachievement in English-medium subjects: The case of secondary school in Zanzibar

DOI: 10.2989/16073614.2017.1284008
Author(s): Haroun Ayoub MaalimSchool of Languages, South Africa

Abstract

Kiswahili was used as a language of instruction in primary schools in Zanzibar for more than four decades and English as a language of instruction in secondary schools. The increasing hegemony of English has led to the introduction, from 2014, of the use of English as medium of instruction from Grade 5 onwards in primary schools. This article critically analyses Form 2 (Grade 9) students’ performance in one secondary school in Zanzibar when a subject was taught and assessed in Kiswahili, and in the same subject when it was taught and assessed in English with the same students. Compelling evidence from the analysis indicates that students performed far better when the subject was taught and assessed in Kiswahili compared to when the same subject was taught and assessed in English. These findings therefore provide impetus for policymakers and other education stakeholders in many countries in Africa to rethink the use of an unfamiliar language as a language of instruction. Zanzibar in particular has moved backwards by replacing Kiswahili with English as a language of leaning and teaching from Grade 5 onwards.

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