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Home language and education in developing world: Background paper prepared for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2009

This report analyzes the relationship between the language spoken at home and educational attendance and attainment for 26 developing countries from all regions of the developing world. The authors have constructed country profiles that show the percentages of the population belonging to the major linguistic groups and the variation in adult educational attainment and children’s educational attendance among the these groups. The profiles reveal for most of the countries substantial variation in educational attendance and attainment according to home language. This variation is present both for men and women and in urban and rural areas. To gain insight into the causes of the variation in attendance of children, two multivariate analyses are performed. The first analysis focuses on the variation within the countries. It shows that in most countries a substantial part of the variation in attendance among linguistic groups is due to variation in household wealth, parental education, gender, and urbanization of place of living of the members of the groups. In the second analysis the authors use multilevel models to study (for 153 linguistic groups) whether the variation in attendance of children is related to variation in the availability of mother tongue-based multilingual education, in concentration of the groups in rural areas, and in the country’s degree of linguistic fractionalization. Educational attendance is higher when there is mother-tongue instruction in the language spoken by the group and it is lower for groups concentrated in rural areas. The positive effects of mother-tongue instruction are stronger for groups concentrated in rural areas, thus highlighting its potential for improving the situation of groups in more difficult circumstances. Group size and linguistic fractionalization of the country have no effect on attendance and the effects of mother-tongue instruction are about equally strong for girls and boys.


Smits, J., Huisman, J., & Kruijff, K. (2008). Home language and education in the developing world. (Background paper prepared for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2009, Overcoming Inequality: Why Governance Matters). Nijmegen, NL: Nijmegen Center for Economics.

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