Teaching of Literacy in First Grades in Zambia and Norway: Exploring Some Similarities and Differences
Keywords: Literacy teaching, language policy, local language, language of instruction, initial literacy, first grade learners
AbstractThis article presents the findings of the study conducted in Zambia and Norway on the teaching of literacy in the first grades. The aim of the study was to broadly reflect on the language of instruction and initial literacy situation in three grade one multilingual classrooms in both Zambia and Norway, and possibly highlight on the similarities and differences in the teaching of literacy between the two countries. Apart from reflecting on pedagogical and the general implementation in the classroom, other salient features and themes surrounding the topic were also highlighted. This was a qualitative study as data was collected through face to face interviews with two school managers (one from Zambia and one from Norway) from the two selected schools in the two countries. Four grade 1 classroom ( two in Zambia and two in Norway) observations were also conducted. The data collected was analyzed thematically and the findings revealed that there were several similarities and differences between the two countries. Among the noted ones were that both countries are multilingual with the language policy that demand the use of local languages as media of instruction as well as languages of initial literacy. The only difference was that for Norway, Norwegian is used as language of instruction at all levels (grades 1-13) in all public schools, including the University level, while for Zambia a local language is used as medium of instruction from Grade 1 to Grade 4. The other feature was that in both countries some parents supported the language policy whereas, others wanted their children’s mother tongue to be used as both language of instruction and language of initial literacy. In addition, teachers in both countries taught constrained finite skills such as alphabetic letters, letter-sound relationships and how one sound blended with others to form syllables, and slow learners were taken care of by receiving remedial work. Another similarity was that there were talking walls and teaching and learning materials in both countries although for Zambia, serious inadequacy of teaching and learning materials was noted. On the issue of helping children from different language backgrounds other than Cinyanja, results showed that there was no specific policy in Zambia that explained how teachers should be helping pupils in schools that were not speakers of language used to teach initial literacy, while Norway has a sounding policy of helping the minority speaking pupils without sufficient language skills in Norwegian. In both countries there was mutual collaboration between the schools and the community. Finally, the paper commended the working collaboration that exist between the two countries, and recommended for continuity and support from both parties in aspects of good pedagogical practices. Zambia should also emulate Norway in formulating inclusive language policies that do not disadvantage the minority languages in terms of teaching initial literacy.