It’s an undisputable fact that children learn better if they understand the language of instruction. When the school curriculum is delivered in a language that students are familiar with, and through which they can receive support from their parents, the potential to achieve better learning outcomes increases.
There are many benefits associated with mother tongue instruction. In addition to children learning better and faster, mother tongue education can also increase school access while reducing repetition and dropout rates.
GPE supports mother tongue education as a key component of the foundation of learning. On International Mother Tongue Day we review how three partner countries—Eritrea, The Gambia and Uzbekistan—with help from GPE, are implementing mother tongue programs.
Recognizing the benefits of mother tongue instruction, the government of Eritrea is determined that all children should receive their elementary education in their mother tongue. GPE supported the country’s efforts with a US$25.3 million grant, which had as an overarching goal to improve the access and quality of education.
The lack of textbooks in local languages and of qualified teachers were two key challenges that hindered Eritrea’s ability to deliver mother tongue education. What’s more, teachers lacked the pedagogy training to teach in local languages or were not familiar with the orthography system of the ethnic languages.
To help Eritrea overcome these challenges, GPE helped train 186 teachers on mother tongue education to enhance their competencies. Additionally, GPE financed the reprinting and distribution of over 1 million textbooks and teachers’ guides; these included materials for math, science, English, and mother tongue studies in nine languages. Nearly 214,000 children have benefitted from this initiative, which also contributed to reducing the high student-textbook ratio.
In addition, a peoples’ language committee for respective native languages was established to ensure the effective application of mother tongue instruction. The committee is in charge of conducting public campaigns to raise awareness on the importance of learning in mother-tongue languages; gathering technical terminology, vernacular sayings, grammar and new words, as well as studying differences in dialects in the languages to name a few.
Investing in early childhood education (ECE) has become a priority for the government of Uzbekistan. The government recognizes that in order to improve education quality, efforts should focus on giving children a solid foundation in reading.
With support from a US$49 million GPE grant, Uzbekistan has been taking steps to ensure more children are better prepared for primary school by improving early reading in the children’s mother tongue.
To achieve this goal, GPE is supporting the distribution of storybooks to parents of young children who are not enrolled in formal ECE programs and live in rural areas.
It is expected that by the end of the GPE program in mid-2019, 200,000 parents of young children will have received at least 3 books per child. These books feature plenty of illustrations, simple story lines, and are durable. Produced in Uzbek, Russian and Karakalpak, they cover the mother tongue of 98% of all children enrolled in pre-primary education in the country.
With the goal of improving reading in the early grades The Gambia, with support from a US$6.9 million GPE grant and a US$11.9 million World Bank grant (2014 - 2018), aimed to enhance reading skills in children’s mother tongues while providing a foundation for learning to read in English.
To ensure all children could read with fluency and comprehension, the government of The Gambia embarked on an ambitious reading reform.
In 2011, the Early Literacy in National Language (ELINL) was introduced in 125 grade 1 classes in 108 schools. Through this program, students learned to read in their national languages by ensuring that at least one hour a day was spent on this activity.
To reach students that weren’t enrolled in the ELINL program, two additional programs were launched: the Jolly Phonics and the Serholt Early Grade Reading Ability. Given the success of these programs, the ministry of Education developed a new early literacy program, which integrates elements of all three reading programs, and ensures a unified approach to improving children’s reading abilities.