Bilingual education and its effectiveness have been a considerable issue in countries regardless of their level of social and economical development and the aim of its implementation that can be either the multinational structure of society or the colonial background. However, a type, of system implemented, varies according to the government policy and public attitude towards bilingual education (Močinić, 2011, 176). The aim of this paper is to examine the current system of bilingual education in Nigeria and identify the extent of its efficiency, considering the colonial background and a developing country dimensions that create strong premises to the unbalanced bilingual education in the country. If one regards pupils’ monolingualism as the most significant evidence of country’s inability to successfully implement bilingual education, the one must side with Igboanusi (2008, 730), who considers current Nigeria’s system of bilingual education as inefficient. Moreover, the paper will further discuss the beneficialness of the bilingual education system in Nigeria in terms of its sufficiency to achieve the aim of its implementation.
A brief description of the country of Nigeria mainly focused on its population and linguistic indicators follows demonstrating its relevance to the bilingual education issue. Nigeria is a country in West Africa with population of 166.6 million (World Bank, 2012). Being under British dominance since 1800 till 1960, Nigeria adopted English as an official language and Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa remained as major languages.
Currently, Nigeria implements transitional bilingual education, which implies children using their mother tongue in the initial stages of training, i.e. in primary school, whereas the second language is adopted as a language of instruction from the 4th grade (Salami, 2008, 93). Here English appears as the second language (L2) and indigenous languages as the first language (L1). Moreover such significant feature as code switching (CS) takes places in the program under study, which means that teachers shift the language used in classroom with a particular purpose, e.g. students encouragement, or explaining unclear points (Baker, 1993 and Setati et al., 2002 cited in Salami, 2008, 95).
There are several considerable drawbacks in the way transitional bilingual education is implemented in Nigeria. Firstly, the early switch to the second language, which is conducted as a part of the transitional program prevents pupils from a complete assimilation of knowledge and understanding the main concepts in their mother tongue before the second language introduction. This also causes further failure in successful English and subjects perfomance (Dzinyela & Miskey, 2000 quoted in Salami, 2008, 94).
As Salami (2008, 107) shows in his research, according to his recent study, based on questionnaire survey, another disadvantage in bilingual system in Nigeria and CS practise is that “very low percentage of the teachers seemed to...