Education in mother tongue

Posted by Rozenn Milin on October 24, 2010

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So here we are, the Sorosoro blog is starting as an actual blog, a space for discussion, a space you are all welcome to take a part in either by submitting your own articles, or simply by joining your comments to other users’ opinions.

For a start we’re throwing in a discussion on mother tongue-based education, which should last over a few weeks and trigger number of reactions. Crucial subject indeed: developing countries are often the ones bearing the widest linguistic diversity, in addition to bearing the need to improve literacy among their populations. Any thoughts on the issue, examples, experience, figures… please feel free to drop a line, whether you’re a researcher or just a language lover.

Let us set the basis of the present debate: studies conducted across the world by various organizations have proved that providing literacy to a child in their native language generally shows excellent results, whereas imposing instruction in national language or in a foreign language right from the start often leads to failure.

The World Bank itself claims the case in the Sourcebook for Poverty Reduction Strategies (2001), following a 1999 UNICEF report: (…) there is ample research showing that students are quicker to learn to read and acquire other academic skills when first taught in their mother tongue. They also learn a second language more quickly than those initially taught to read in an unfamiliar language.

Linguists Thomas and Collier (1997) have led extensive research on the subject, and come up even more precise: they’ve observed that children from linguistic minorities having received most of their primary school education in mother tongue also had the best results … in national language, on the national standardized tests led in highschools.

These results are very clear, and one could even argue they’re only a question of common sense, although some still find it hard to admit. It’s a shame these facts and figures aren’t taken into better account, considering that success at school conditions all possible chances to improve the living standards of millions of children’s: successful literacy stands yet as the best asset to avoid globalization casualties.

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1 comment

  1. giridhar Rao says:


    See, for example, my blogpost “From mother tongues to many tongues”

    Giri RAO

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