International Mother Language Day 2016
“An estimated 40% of the global population do not receive education in a language that they speak or understand.”
However, even these numbers, underestimate the situation in pockets of disadvantage.
Governments are less happy to monitor this situation and certainly less happy to publicise this data.
Even in reports on achievement, people are still surprised that children entering grade 1 without the language of instruction are underachieving at grade 3 -which should be quite obvious,being taught in a ‘foreign’ language. It is also usual for grade 1 teachers not to have training to teach bilingually or at least training to understand the difficulties inherent in teaching children of diverse backgrounds (i.e. inclusive education).
National languages have a political dimension, quite often, with a search for ‘national identity’ so the argument about children’s underachievement, somehow gets lost, particularly if it may be to do with an ethnic minority or relatively small groups living in poverty.
Awareness without action may be self defeating. Some say that the figures in the report, quoted above, are high, but I think, even these numbers, underestimate the situation in many pockets of disadvantage.
Another example of how language is used and misused by politicians, this time in South Africa:
The Soweto uprising is probably one of the most impactful demonstrations for language and learning rights to take place across the globe. It placed the anti-apartheid struggle on an international platform and presented a massive shift in gear for the struggle for a free South Africa. These events took place 40 years ago. We should remember them as we celebrate International Mother Language Day this week.
Students gathered in Soweto 40 years ago to protest the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in black, but not white schools. The new language education policy was enforced through the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974, which stated that Afrikaans and English should be used in a 50-50 mix as the medium for instruction.