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How To

The information below provides an overview of steps that different stakeholders--including program implementors, educators and donors--can take to "make the case" for MTB-MLE programs. Actions range from conducting advocacy with parents to conducting a community needs assessment. Ways in which donors can also support MTB-MLE programs are also noted.

How to make the case for MTB-MLE

Often, policymakers, education officials and parents are unaware of the advantages of mother tongue-based education. Advocacy is necessary with each group to help them understand the benefits of MTB-MLE and to get their support for a proposed program. Key resources on this topic include:

Before you begin your advocacy, it is important to be prepared.

How to build parent and community support for MTB-MLE

Many parents send their children to school so they can learn a foreign or “official” language, so they may not see the need or purpose for their children to learn in their own language. Indeed, they may actually be opposed to children learning in their home language. This is usually because they do not necessarily understand the difference between learning in a foreign language and learning the foreign language as a subject. As a result, parents need to be informed about the advantages of MTB-MLE and that learning in one’s mother tongue does not preclude—but actually enhances—learning a second or third language.

How to conduct a needs assessment

Making the case for MTB-MLE will require an in-depth understanding of your community’s current language use, both in and out of school. The first step in conducting a “needs assessment” will include identifying language use in the community. Questions you should be able to answer include:

  • How many languages are spoken and by which groups?
  • Do children grow up learning only one language or do they learn more than one?
  • Based on the languages used in your community, what might be appropriate languages to use in school?

A “needs assessment” also will include gathering evidence as to whether the current education system is working well for children in your community.

How national leaders can take steps to provide basic education in mother tongue languages

Leaders at the national level can take several steps to integrate appropriate language policies and practices into the education system. These include:

  • Communicating to teachers that use of the mother tongue can help students to perform better, including in a second language;
  • Identifying teachers’ language skills and identify whether these language skills overlap with those that children use;
  • Providing teacher training in local languages;
  • Estimating the number of primary school-aged children without access to education in their home language;
  • Prioritizing areas where current language policy is not suitable to the languages spoken in the area and where education outcomes are poor; and
  • Working with publishers to develop appropriate teaching and learning materials in local languages, as well as materials for teaching foreign languages as appropriate.

Additional information on steps that national leaders can take to support appropriate language policies and mother tongue-based education can be found here: Language and Education: The Missing Link, a study published by Save the Children UK, 2009.



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