It is high time we introduce teaching foreign languages in the country besides English and specifically start with French as long as there are qualified teachers.
Dr Mwajuma Vuzo of the University of Dar es Salaam says French language should be additional foreign language because Tanzania for a long time has been focusing on English.
Vuzo, a lecturer in Language Education Department of Education Psychology and Curriculum UDSM, was commenting on “Tanzania’s education vision of 2025 to have at least two foreign languages.”
“French is foreign in the Tanzanian context, hence if all preparations for teachers and methodological issues are taken care of most of the students will be successful,” says Dr Mwajuma.
On here part Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) Director of Curriculum Development and Review (CDR) Angela Katabaro says between 2004 and 2005, there was a review to introduce French language at primary school.
According to her this was to be done through ‘communicative approach’ in language teaching to enable students master the language effectively.
“Tanzania education vision of 2025 is to have at least two foreign languages and we decided to start with French and later on other languages will be taught,” adds Katabaro, Director of Curriculum Development and Review.
Katabaro pointed out that poor implementation of the current curriculum at primary education level is key factor for poor performance of students, particularly in English, which is foreign language.
Meanwhile, Nicholous Asheli, Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics, at UDSM maintains that the government must have clear policy on language and be keen in language projects.
He says the government should think about sustainability of language projects because a big problem currently is for donors to support projects for a while and then abandon them.
“As for French, I don't know the purpose of the programme… what we are lacking in Tanzania is defining our purposes. Otherwise, we do not need to waste resources on projects that will not bear fruits,” says Nicholous.
He advises the government to be careful in determining its goals before embarking on language projects.
Dr Kitila Mkumbo Senior Lecturer School of Education at UDSM is of the opinion that French is not a priority because Tanzanians are still ‘backward’ in English language compared to Kenya and Uganda.
He explains that Tanzania’s nearest competitors are East African Community members who speak better English while Rwanda and Burundi are in efforts to improve the language.
“I am not happy with this French programme, we should strengthen English first by increasing books, language experts and language laboratories,” says Mkumbo.
The argument is if the government has failed to strengthen English language which has been used for years it is difficult to attain its goals of introducing French in primary schools.
Reacting, Kizito Lawa curriculum specialist charged with French language subject at TIE says the government has trained enough teachers through French project support. He adds that there are enough facilities including language laboratories and the society should expect a good product.
“Students are taught by well trained on teachers who use communicative approach and not the structural approach that was used in the previous curriculum,” explains Lawa. Katabaro admits there are challenges but it is too early to evaluate the success or failure of French language programme in primary schools.
Lawa says they have trained 100 teachers; 80 of them have qualified and are now teaching the subject in various schools.
Katabaro adds: “You can’t make evaluation in education within a short time people need to understand that, otherwise, we won’t focus on development projects if we want to see product in a short time.”