There is a great deal more attention given to the languages used in children’s education these days. This attention is a result of a growing realization that starting children in a foreign language such as English is significantly less productive than beginning them in their mother tongue.  While many governments and aid groups are working hard to provide universal primary education for all children across the globe, ignoring the language issue means those efforts often result in less effective education. Children need to begin their learning through a language they understand and speak every day. Using their mother tongue, or first language, enables children to understand the teacher and comprehend the lesson. Building on learner’s everyday experiences and home culture also aids learning considerably. Literacy in the mother tongue has a significantly positive impact on developing literacy in any other language subsequently. Children thrive when their mother tongue is used in school. Beginning with the mother tongue also helps them achieve higher proficiency in second and third languages, like their national language and English.

This post from Australia indicates that mother tongue-based bilingual education contributes toward inclusive and equitable quality education for all learners and particularly for speakers of non-dominant languages. For the full story click here.

Likewise, Indonesia is addressing the same issue of inclusive and equitable quality education for minority language speakers. Educators state that when the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, is used in schools children cannot follow what the teacher is saying because they don’t hear that language at home. They become embarrassed that they don’t understand and keep quiet in class as a result, essentially remaining disengaged. For the Indonesian story click here.

Likewise Bangladesh is struggling to implement mother tongue-based multilingual education as an effort toward addressing human rights issues. When children are educated in their mother tongue they learn better and read better, empowering them in multiple ways. See their story here.

Many countries around the world are working hard to strengthen education programs by adjusting language policies from dominant language education to mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB MLE). Celebrating all languages in the classroom is a strong means of supporting and valuing diversity.