3 examples of mother tongue education

Learn how GPE supports learning in local languages in Madagascar, Rwanda and Zambia

Masindray community school, Madagascar. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

Today, we celebrate International Mother Language Day. Wherever possible, GPE supports mother tongue education as part of providing a quality education. Let’s have a look at three countries where GPE provides support.

In Madagascar, distributing textbooks in Malagasy and French

The two students on the photo above attend the Masindray community school in Analavory Commune, Madagascar. They proudly show us their new textbook. It’s in Malagasy, their mother tongue.

Last September, the school received 54 textbooks thanks to a GPE-funded program. It’s not enough, but it’s a good start toward reaching the goal of 1 textbook for every two students that the program supports, compared to 1 textbook for up to 30 students in the lower grades in 2015.

In Madagascar, children learn to read in Malagasy and learn other subjects in this language until grade 3, after which they switch to French, the country’s second official language. From grade 4, French is used as the language of instruction and Malagasy is a subject until high school.

Ensuring that children can learn initially in a language they understand makes a huge difference in their schooling achievement.

In Rwanda, children start learning in their mother tongue

Jean de la Mennais preschool in Rwanda. Credit:  GPE/Alexandra Humme

Jean de la Mennais preschool in Rwanda.

Credit: GPE/Alexandra Humme

These two boys at the Jean de la Mennais preschool in Rwanda’s Burera district are enjoying looking at picture books. They don’t know how to read yet, but Kinyarwanda, their mother tongue, is the language in which they will learn.

Teaching reading, writing, math and critical thinking in the language that the child speaks and understands is one of the most effective ways to reduce school failure and drop out in the early grades.

Zambia: going back to local languages

With support from a US$35.2 million GPE grant, the local authorities in Zambia’s Chavuma district have reintroduced Luvale, one of the local languages, into the school system from grades 1 to 4. Parents and grandparents are enthusiastic because they say it will strengthen the links between generations.

Schools like Sanjogo Primary School challenge students to learn to read in both Luvale and English. Since implementing the program, authorities have noticed a significant increase in test scores in literacy and numeracy in the lower grades from the previous two years.

The review covered only a sample of schools, but it is encouraging to see more children in early grades able to read and count in both their mother tongue and English. 

Learn more about GPE’s work in Madagascar, Rwanda and Zambia

Sub-Saharan Africa: Madagascar, Rwanda, Zambia


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