Children learn better in their mother tongue

Having worked in countries such as Vietnam, Tanzania and Zambia recently, I have come to realise the importance of early education in a child’s mother tongue. It is not hard to understand why children taught in what is ,in effect, a ‘foreign ‘ language do not achieve as well as others who are taught in their mother tongue. Governments are slow to react to international research, for political reasons, not educational reasons, but it is time to take this issue more seriously. Zambia has recently moved to early grade learning in mother tongue – other countries in the region should follow….

Children learn better in their mother tongue
Jessica Ball, Professor in the School of Child and Youth Care, University of Victoria

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).

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