If you don't understand, how can you learn?

published 3 March 2016 updated 3 March 2016

This new GEM policy paper, released for the International Mother Language Day 2016, reveals that as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to education in a language they speak or understand. The challenges are most prevalent in regions where linguistic diversity is greatest such as in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia and the Pacific.

The  paper argues that being taught in a language other than their own can negatively impact children’s learning. According to evidence presented in the report, at least six years of mother tongue instruction is needed to reduce learning gaps for minority language speakers. It shows the importance of teacher training and inclusive supporting materials to improve the learning experience of these children, and provide them with a resilient path of achievement in life.

Poverty and gender amplify educational disadvantages linked to ethnicity and language. With a new global education agenda that prioritizes equity and lifelong learning for all, the policy of respecting language rights is essential and deserves close attention.

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