3 examples of mother tongue education to improve learning
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.
February 21, 2019 by GPE Secretariat|
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A preschool textbook. Mnyimbi TuTu Center, North province, Zanzibar. Tanzania, April 2017.
CREDIT: GPE/Chantal Rigaud

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.

Children in class in Ghidae, Eritrea. October 2017. Credit: GPE/Fazle Rabbani
Children in class in Ghidae, Eritrea. October 2017.
CREDIT: GPE/Fazle Rabbani

Eritrea

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.

Students from the Preschool #7 in Mallaboy village, which is located 180 km from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, holding reading books. Credit: Mirzobek Ibragimov/World Bank.
Students from the Preschool #7 in Mallaboy village, which is located 180 km from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, holding reading books.
CREDIT: Mirzobek Ibragimov/World Bank

Uzbekistan

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.

To date, over 507,000 3-6-year-old children benefitted from early reading activities and are learning in their mother tongue, which will certainly help improve their school achievement.
Children point to the word
Children point to the word "Baku" on their classroom chalkboard. The Gambia, March 2013.
CREDIT: GPE

The Gambia

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.

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