March 2, 2016
Written by Chantal Rigaud, Communications Officer, Global Partnership for Education
Children learn better in their mother tongue.
This was the title of one of our most popular blog posts, topping our monthly lists ever since it was first published in February 2014.
It would seem obvious that children can understand better what they are being taught if their teacher speaks the same language they’ve been hearing at home since they were born.
But in many developing countries, especially those where the number of different languages is high (did you know thatPapua New Guinea holds the world’s record, with 820 languages?), the curriculum is usually developed in one of the national languages.
And when children first go to school, they may not understand a word their teacher says. Or worse, a teacher may not speak well enough the official language of instruction and thus may not be able to teach the children how to read successfully.
This is changing though, and some countries have embraced teaching in the children’s mother tongues during the early grades, with good results. Children who learn to read in their mother tongue first are usually able to transfer these skills to a second language a few years down the road.
The Global Partnership for Education supports mother tongue education as part of quality improvements in literacy. Because learning to read is a foundational skill that children need to master to be able to continue learning.
Here are a four examples from GPE partner countries.