Children Learn Better in Their Mother Tongue | Global Partnership for Education

Children Learn Better in Their Mother Tongue

Advancing research on mother tongue-based multilingual education

Credit: Michelle Rahn, Dominican Republic

Globally, there are 50-75 million ‘marginalized’ children who are not enrolled in school. Children whose primary language is not the language of instruction in school are more likely to drop out of school or fail in early grades. Research has shown that children’s first language is the optimal language for literacy and learning throughout primary school (UNESCO, 2008a). In spite of growing evidence and parent demand, many educational systems around the world insist on exclusive use of one or sometimes several privileged languages. This means excluding other languages and with them the children who speak them (Arnold, Bartlett, Gowani, & Merali, 2006).

The risks of a foreign language of instruction

It is not hard to grasp all that is at stake:  parents not enrolling their children in school at all, children not able to engage successfully in learning tasks, teachers feeling overwhelmed by children’s inability to participate, early experiences of school failure, and so on. Some children do succeed, perhaps through a language transition program that helps them to acquire the language of instruction. But there is the risk of negative effects whereby children fail to become linguistically competent members of their families and communities and lose the ability to connect with their cultural heritage.

While some children continue to develop proficiency in their first language while succeeding in school in a second language, this does not happen automatically.

Increasingly, it leads to an inability to communicate about more than mundane matters with parents and grandparents, and a rapid depletion of the world’s repository of languages and dialects and the cultural knowledges that are carried through them.

Preserving mother tongues

Many linguistic groups are becoming vocal about the need to ensure that the youngest members of their communities keep their linguistic heritage. Some governments, such as in the Philippines, have recently established language-in-education policies that embrace children’s first languages. A compendium of examples produced by UNESCO (2008b) attests to growing interest in promoting mother tongue-based education, and to the wide variety of models, tools, and resources now being developed and piloted to promote learning programs in the mother tongue.

Children learn better in their mother tongue

UNESCO has encouraged mother tongue instruction in primary education since 1953 (UNESCO, 1953) and UNESCO highlights the advantages of mother tongue education  right from the start: children are more likely to enroll and succeed in school (Kosonen, 2005); parents are more likely to communicate with teachers and participate in their children’s learning (Benson, 2002); girls and rural children with less exposure to a dominant language stay in school longer and repeat grades less often (Hovens, 2002; UNESCO Bangkok, 2005); and children in multilingual  education tend to develop better thinking skills compared to  their monolingual peers (e.g., Bialystok, 2001; Cummins, 2000; King & Mackey, 2007).

Some educators argue that only those countries where the student’s first language is the language of instruction are likely to achieve the goals of Education for All. Research also suggests that engaging marginalized children in school through mother-tongue based, multilingual education (MTB-MLE) is a successful model (Benson & Kosonen, 2013; Yiakoumetti, 2012). We are beginning to get answers to some key questions: Under what circumstances and with what resources can education in the mother-tongue combined with multilingual education be an effective approach whereby children become proficient in their home language while laying the foundation for learning in additional languages? What are the costs and benefits of alternative approaches directed at the individual, family, community, school, region, and nation? What are meaningful yet efficient ways to measure costs and benefits? What are the implications of MTB-MLE for recruiting, educating, and mentoring teachers and teacher assistants and for creating and evaluating curricula in diverse language classrooms? What are the contributions of family and community in formal and non-formal MTB-MLE, and how can these be measured?

More research needed

Investment in a coordinated program of research could advance knowledge about these kinds of questions in order to inform national language in education policies, teacher training, and local approaches.

More research is needed on steps that can be taken in the early years and during the transition to school to prepare children for the mix of language(s) that will be used in primary school.

Questions need to be explored about what are the most important outcomes and how best to measure them in various teaching and learning contexts. How should assessment of pedagogical effectiveness take into account the different pace of children’s growing competence in core skills including reading, writing, numeracy and problem solving when they learn through multiple languages?

There is also a gap in research on effective approaches for successful transitions of mother-tongue educated children to secondary school in a dominant language.

Family members play an important role as children’s ‘first teachers’ and research should explore the roles of informal and non-formal education and family interaction in promoting literacy, numeracy, and higher order cognitive skills using the mother tongue.

We need to involve community members with diverse language skills in formal school and train teachers with varying language capacities and levels of education to be effective in MTB-MLE classrooms.  As knowledge develops, we must get better at communicating research findings so that practitioners, policy makers and donors are informed and motivated by evidence about how the potential of MTB-MLE can be harnessed to achieve Education for All.

References

Arnold, C., Bartlett, K., Gowani, S., & Merali, R. (2006). Is everybody ready? Readiness, transition and continuity: Reflections and moving forward. Background paper for EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007.

Benson, C. (2002). Real and potential benefits of bilingual progammes in developing countries. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 5 (6), 303-317.

Benson, C., & Kosonen, K. (Eds.) (2013). Language issues in comparative education: Inclusive teaching and learning in non-dominant languages and cultures. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Bialystok, E. (2001). Bilingualism in development: Language, literacy, and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cummins, J. (2000). Language, power and pedagogy. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Hovens, M. (2002). Bilingual education in West Africa: Does it work? International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 5 (5), 249-266.

King, K., & Mackey, A. (2007). The bilingual edge: Why, when, and how to teach your child a second language. New York: Collins.

Kosonen, K. (2005). Education in local languages: Policy and practice in Southeast Asia. First languages first: Community-based literacy programmes for minority language contexts in Asia. Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok.

Malone, D. L. (2003). Developing curriculum materials for endangered language education: Lessons from the field. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 6(5), 332.

UNESCO (1953). The use of the vernacular languages in education. Monographs on Foundations of Education, No. 8. Paris: UNESCO.

UNESCO (2003). Education in a multilingual world. UNESCO Education Position Paper. Paris: UNESCO.

UNESCO Bangkok (2005). Advocacy brief on mother tongue-based teaching and education for girls. Bangkok: UNESCO.

UNESCO (2007). Strong foundations: Early childhood care and education. Paris: Author.

UNESCO (2008a). Mother Tongue Matters: Local Language as a Key to Effective Learning. Paris: UNESCO.

UNESCO (2008b). Mother tongue instruction in early childhood education: A selected bibliography. Paris: UNESCO.

Yiakoumetti, A. (Ed.) Harnessing linguistic variation to improve education. Rethinking Education Vol. 5. Bern: Peter Lang.

Comments - Join the Conversation

Ensuring MLE

Country with various language is the most threaten position for ensuring education by using mother language.But if any country try to establish a efficient research for mother language it will be encouraged every people of small group.Globally their is a same scene for Indigenous language that almost measured quality and attentiveness through national language.In these way the dominant language always close to the children silently to use national language in the school and outside.We should need MLE in education to express inter and intra relation.

every child should learn in their mother tongue only...

if he doesn't know the meaning of one english word how can he disast that word..and brain will be working as much as fast and heat and struggeled when this happens...
So please save the mother language and share the sweet of fruit (mother language) to our coming generations...
Thank you.....

Yes the child's home language is important but..

In a society where there are three national languages and the home language is one of them; this gives the child a strong early start in education. It is also an opportunity for him or her to learn and use his home language in education in the early key stage years. There are many benefits for the child; for instance it helps him or her to navigate the new environment and bridge their learning at school with the experience they bring from home. It means that the learner gets more involved in the learning process and speeds up the development of basic literacy skills. It also enables more flexibility, innovation and creativity in teacher preparation and when it comes to content the child better understands and develops a more positive attitude towards school.

However, in the view of a global world the child needs to be exposed to the other two national languages, for instance English and French, at an early age too. He needs to understand that there are similarities and differences between all three. So this shows that the teacher is at the heart of the child's learning and should always tell the child what he or she is going to learn and why. Repetition and access to all three languages in his every day life are important too.

Problem arises when an expatriate child joins in this type of linguistic setting, the adult (the teacher) finds it hard to instruct him or her. The question of intercultural comes into play. The teacher does not always see this as an opportunity to learn the new child's language. As for the other children this is not really an issue, because they interact easily, how they manage well it is hard to explain.

Education

Opportunity in Mother Tongue education makes children strong

Education through Mother tongue is the rights of every one. It makes children strong in mental as well social bonding.
This also makes them to enjoy life long !

ind languages

Some learners in urban and some cosmopolitan settings speak and understand some English by the time they join primary school!. However, learners in the rural areas enter school probably understanding only their home language e.g. Shona or Ndebele only. For these learners, using the mother tongue in early education leads to a better understanding of the curriculum content and to a more positive attitude towards school. As known, learning does not begin in school. Learning starts at home in the learners’ home language. Although the start of school is a continuation of this learning, it also presents significant changes in the mode of education. The school system structures and controls the content and delivery of a pre-determined curriculum where previously the child was learning from experience.

Education

The use of L1 and target language should be seen as complementary, depending on the characteristics and stages of the language learning process" overuse of L1 will naturally reduce the amount of exposure to L2.
Therefore, attempt should be made to keep a balance between L1 and L2 use.

advantages of education in mothertoung

the child can learn better if the medium of instruction is mother tongue. then the grasping is better and imagination power is also increased. it being , well informed fast in decision making.

English

Very helpful

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