Full Immersion Bilingualism And Child Education: The Case Of Some Selected Schools In The Mfoundi Division
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Bilingualism is the mastery and use of two languages. This study seeks to investigate the place of full immersion bilingualism in the education of the child. It is based on schools in the Mfoundi division. The research was conducted with the review of related literature, which enabled the researcher, come up with research instruments as well as research questions and hypotheses. Five research questions were raised; Does bilingual education encourage child interaction and socialization? Does full immersion bilingualism ensure cognitive development in learners? What are the various forms of bilingual education practised in Cameroon? What are teachers’ attitudes towards full immersion bilingualism? What form of bilingual education can best help child education?
The two hypotheses were;
- The impact of full immersion bilingualism on the education of the child is an impetus to language learning.
- The teaching of English and French merely as subjects does no enhance true bilingualism.
Questionnaires were administered to teachers from four schools working with a population of 1902 pupils which makes up the sample population.
From the findings of respondents, it was found that full immersion bilingualism stands the most appropriate model for bilingual education. Children interact, socialize and develop cognitively, thus gaining mastery of their first and second languages. The researcher made some recommendations to teachers, educational authorities and researchers, advocating for massive and collective adoption of the full immersion bilingualism model for the education of children in Cameroon.
Bilingualism is the ability to, speak, read and write in two languages. In Cameroon, it is considered an important aspect of national integration. The two official languages are English and French. But how bilingual are the children we teach? What form of bilingual education is practised in our schools? This study intends to make findings whether “Full immersion bilingualism will help the learners we teach in primary schools to come out truly bilingual.
Background to Study
Bilingualism is the perfect mastery of two official languages. Cameroon is often described as one of the most fascinating examples of a bilingual nation, with English and French being the two official languages. Cameroon was first a German territory. Just after the First World War, this German colony was divided into two separate territories to be governed by France and Britain. French Cameroon obtained its independence earlier in 1960. The ‘’République du Cameroun” as it was called, adopted French as the official language alongside so many national languages. However, in 1961 British Cameroon which had adopted English as its official language became independent by reuniting with ‘’La République du Cameroun”. The New and reunited territory now called the Federal Republic of Cameroon adopted English and French as its two official languages.
The Federal Republic of Cameroon was in 1972 renamed the United Republic of Cameroon with French and English remaining the two official languages(George Echu, 1999). Since then successive governments and legislatures have enacted laws, ordinances and decrees to make bilingualism a reality in Cameroon. Most prominent of these ordinances is the 1996 constitution of Cameroon which clearly states that French and English shall be the two official languages of Cameroon and both languages shall be given equal status.
Nonetheless, the practice of bilingualism does not match the theory. There are so many things that happened that prompt one wants to conclude that one of the languages is of higher status as compared to the other: Public figures addressing the population always in one language (French) even when the population does not master the language. Public notices and radio announcements made only in French. This makes co-habitation and socialisation amongst the Anglophones and francophone a problem. In most public offices and ministries, you would easily be attended to if you express yourself in French.
Most Cameroonians think that bilingualism is meant for those who need to study and sit for official exams. Little or no effort is made to master the other language. However, the government of Cameroon has made tremendous efforts to encourage citizens to learn, speak and write in both official languages: Pilot centres under the patronage of the Presidency of the Republic have been opened in some major towns, for bilingual training. Schools have been created with the status of bilingual primary and bilingual secondary schools. French and English have been made compulsory in most official exams. A national Bilingualism week has been instituted and observed every year in February.
Most of all, Bilingual Teacher training colleges are opened and some monolingual ones transformed into bilingual training schools. Despite these good intentions of the government, it is crystal clear that the implantation of bilingualism ordinances has been a problem. The manner in which bilingual education is carried out in Cameroon needs to be revisited. Bilingual education exists in many forms; hybrid bilingualism, partial immersion bilingualism, late-exit or developmental bilingualism and of course full-immersion bilingualism.
It would appear the nation Cameroon has spent so much time in the first three forms and either neglected the third or deliberately decided not to implement the third because of its high cost. This is one of the reasons why this research is conducted. To find out whether full immersion bilingualism and not hybrid and partial bilingual education can help child education today in Cameroon. When a child is truly bilingual, can this not develop in him or her cognitive and then social qualities?
The use of full immersion bilingualism as a system of education is not recent. This has been practised in many countries in the world like the USA, Canada and even Cameroon. In Cameroon, it started as far back as the early 1970s. However, very few schools practise it. pupils upon graduation(end of the cycle) could choose to sit for the francophone exam ‘Certificate d’Etude Primaire (CEP) or the First School Leaving Certificate(FSLC) irrespective of the fact that they are francophone or Anglophone. Full immersion bilingualism entails English speakers studying in an environment where the target language (French) is used exclusively and they are taught content (other subjects) in the target language. On the other hand, French speakers in environments where English is the target language, study content in English. English and French are therefore not taught as subjects only but used to teach other disciplines. Anglophones are taught other disciplines in French and vice versa. Four schools with a population of 1902 pupils make up the sample.
This study is an attempt to find out whether the present form of bilingualism in our primary schools is yielding fruits. Presently the two subsystems of education, the Anglophone and the francophone subsystems exist side-by-side. French and English are taught as school subjects. The Anglophones study contents (other subjects) in English while the francophone study in French. Educationists have attempted forwarding reasons why learning population of this study. I shall equally from each school.
Statement of the Problem
fails. One of the reasons forwarded is communication difficulty e.g.: the child’s inability to read and understand the content. Some think that a solution to this is to develop particular skills like speaking, listening and reading early enough in the learner. Others think that giving the young learner a chance to understand the content in a second language will ignite cognition and inference. A third group thinks that teaching children more than one language is overloading them. This research is out to investigate whether bilingualism can help education. If yes, what form is most appropriate? Is it the partial bilingual education, the hybrid bilingualism or the full immersion bilingualism?
General Objectives of the Study
This study is aimed at finding out how bilingualism functions in the primary schools in Cameroon. How children are taught the two official languages of English and French (the case of Mfoundi Division).
1 -It seeks to investigate the forms of bilingualism put into use as well as the ones that enhance child education most?
2-It also seeks to find out whether educationists and teachers are familiar with ‘’full immersion” bilingualism.
This research, therefore, attempts finding out:
- Whether the use of the two separate systems of education (Anglophone and francophone) solves the problem of bilingualism in Cameroon.
- Whether children of primary schools who have studied in any of these two subsystems, upon completion of the cycle can speak, read and write in English and French.
- whether full immersion bilingualism permits learners in our primary schools in Cameroon to speak, read and write in both English and French
To attain these objectives, the following questions were formulated.
Research Questions and Hypotheses
1) Does bilingual education encourage children interaction and socialization?
2) Does full immersion bilingualism ensure cognitive development in learners?
3) What are the various forms of bilingual education practised in Cameroon?
4) What are teachers’ attitudes towards full immersion bilingualism?
5) What form of bilingual education can best help child education?
- Full-immersion bilingualism” is an impetus to language learning.
- The teaching of English and French as subjects to either Anglophones or francophone does not enhance true bilingualism.