First langage / bilingual ed. in Cameroon
- FYI, from the SIL Cameroon pages at
Research Project Being Planned to Assess the Effectiveness of Mother Tongue
Researchers Dr. Steve Walter and his wife Kelly are preparing to examine the
effectiveness of mother tongue education. Over the next four months, the
couple will carry out field research in Cameroon's Kom speech community, a
language that began to be developed in 1989. The research design replicates
a similar study done in the US.
One goal of the Walters' research is to determine if the findings of the US
study will hold in a developing country. The primary objective of the
research, however, is to document the benefits of mother tongue education.
The subject is of great interest to international educators who are looking
for the best strategies for improving the quality of education in developing
countries. The study is also of interest to SIL International as SIL
administrators and consultants around the world often find themselves being
asked for advice about the best approach for educating linguistic
The research project is something that Dr. Walter takes personally, "I have
an interest in knowing what really works and what does not in educating
children who speak primarily African languages." The research project is
primarily a quantitative study that will rely heavily on the use of test
scores as a measure of academic achievement. In many cases, the needed test
results already exist. In other cases, it may be necessary to prepare and
administer special tests to get a complete picture of the effectiveness of
the educational models currently in use in the research area(s).
The research will seek to measure the effects of the full educational
experience of children through the completion of secondary school. Ideally,
researchers would track specific cohorts of children over the span of a 12
year period. Methodologically, however, it may be possible to reduce the
time frame of the project. The mother tongue educational programs in the
target areas have been functioning for at least 12 years. If it can be
established that the education programs have been relatively constant for
the past 12 years, then it may be possible to treat the performance of
children in advanced grades as proxies of the performance, several years
from now, of children just beginning Grade 1. This strategy depends, of
course, on having a large research sample.
How many schools are involved in the research? It's too early to say. But
Dr. Walter's short answer is, "as many schools as possible over the next
four or five months."
While here, the couple will set up data gathering structures and will
identify individuals to collect data for them. By the end of the year, the
Walters will know better how to carry out further research.
Steve Walters holds a PhD in Linguistics and is an associate professor of
language development at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics
(GIAL). From 1988 until 1999, he was SIL International's Literacy
Coordinator. Kelly, Steve's wife, worked in Cameroon as a literacy
specialist among the Denya and Kenyang language communities from 1995 until
2002. During this period she also served a couple of years in the SIL
Cameroon Literacy Office, helping with training. Presently, she is assigned
to the Literacy Office of SIL International. She earned her M.A. in Teaching
English as a Second Language (TESOL).
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