The medium of instruction and its impact on students at the Open University of Tanzania.

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University of Dar es Salaam
The predominance of English-medium education in Tanzania has been under considerable criticism by educationalists and linguists who argue that the students cannot learn effectively in a foreign medium and hence suggest a switch-over to Kiswahili medium. The present study investigates this problem by examining (i) the impact of English and Kiswahili on students' performance, (ii) language difficulties encountered by students when using English on one hand and Kiswahili on the other, (iii) students' ability to interpret questions and instructions, and (iv) students' and lecturers' views on the language of instruction. The English and Kiswahili assignments on a similar topic written by 34 First Year OUT students were used to determine the impact of English and Kiswahili on the students' performance. These assignments were then analyzed linguistically to establish the students' linguistic competence and the students' ability to correctly interpret the questions and instructions. In addition the questionnaire method was also used to solicit students' and lecturers' own understanding of their language competence; views on the language in which students and lecturers would tike to use as a medium of instruction; and views on the language in which students would perform better. The t-test indicates that, the difference between performance in English and Kiswahili is insignificant at 5% level and 1 °!o level. All the same when the students' scores were examined according to University grades, it was learnt that most students performed better in the Kiswahili test. Case studies and error analysis of the students' assignments displayed that almost all students lacked communicative competence when writing in English. Hence in addition to problems in essay writing, students would also find it difficult to argue, discuss or explain competently when writing essays in English. This, however, is not to say there were no errors in using Kiswahili as a medium in writing essays. Few errors were detected in this language. Furthermore, it was ascertained that students had more interpretation problems in English language than in Kiswahili. When asked to show their language preferences, half of the lecturers (50%)were in favour of practicing bilingual education at OUT whereas slightly more than half of students preferred to use English medium only though they were not proficient in it. Nevertheless, most students thought that they would perform better if they had used Kiswahili as a medium of learning. Having carefully analyzed the study findings, the study recommends that for short-term purposes i.e.during the transition period the OUT policy of being bilingual should be practically implemented. However for long-term purposes the study suggests that Kiswahili should be used as a medium of instruction and English should be retained as a compulsory subject throughout since most of the respondents have shown an interest of learning it. To achieve this, the following are some of the recommendations advanced: - lecturers at OUT should be trained to use Kiswahili as a medium; teaching and learning materials must be written in Kiswahili or translated into Kiswahili and widely disseminated to the relevant users; coining and dissemination of new Kiswahili terminology should continue; Kiswahili academic register should be developed and taught as a subject; A special Kiswahili program for foreign students should be devised to enable them follow studies in the new proposed medium; and a special program aimed at changing students' attitudes towards Kiswahili should be mounted.
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Language usage, English language, Distance education, Tanzania
Sigalla, R. J. (1998). The medium of instruction and its impact on students at the Open University of Tanzania. Master dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. Available at (