Mother tongue-based education

Mother-tongue-based education

The United Nations has finally accepted that every child has the right to be educated in his or her home language. Now, after centuries of trying to erase the languages of some speech communities within their borders, some countries are now reversing their policies. After witnessing the failure of past policies, many former colonies have already been exploring ways of implementing “mother tongue-based education” and sharing their insights on how to make it work.

  • What do we mean by “education in the home language” (or “mother tongue-based education”)? Does it mean we no longer get to learn English?
    • No, it doesn’t. It means that we will still study English during English class. But we will learn our Math, Science, Social Studies, Health Studies, and all other “content areas” in our native language.
  • How long will this learning in our native language last? We have several options.
    • We could go for the option with the shortest period of native language learning, that is, at least 2 years before we switch to education in English only.
    • We could continue education in the home language all the way up to university level, with English as a second language. This is the ideal and will give the most benefit.
    • Or we could go for an in-between option with the programme lasting longer than 2 years but stopping somewhere before university.
  • What are some of the benefits of education in our native or home language? Reports from those who have tried education in the home language list the following benefits.
    • Children do better at exams
    • Children even do better at learning another language.
    • Fewer children drop out of school.
    • Fewer children have to repeat classes.
    • Children are happier, more enthusiastic about school and about learning.
    • Children are more confident.
    • Children are more motivated to learn
    • Children are more creative
    • Children become more patriotic, more civic-minded
    • Children are more innovative, more willing to look for local solutions to problems
    • Children become more interested in their own history and culture
    • Parents are more involved in their children’s education
    • Parents are more comfortable talking to their children’s teachers
    • Parents participate more in school activities
    • Some parents themselves begin to take classes to improve their own education
    • Children learn about their own language and about those of their classmates (Home language and education in the developing world)  (Why & how Africa should invest in multilingual education)



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