What is a Mother-tongue Education literacy program?

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A Mother-tongue Education literacy program uses the mother tongue for formal education, and this education is the primary medium of local literacy.


A Mother-tongue Education program takes you into the domain of formal education. This normally involves some direct relationship with the local, regional, or national government. Involvement in formal education also raises questions of funding, program scope, language policy, and extensive curricula. Beginning such a program is a serious undertaking.


Many developing nations are taking a look at Mother-tongue Education because they have not been successful with a more traditional model of education based on an official language. Mother-tongue Education programs are complex, long-term, and require not just an individual commitment but an institutional commitment to professional support.

Indicating conditions

Here are some conditions that indicate the choice of a Mother-tongue Education literacy program:

  • A formal request from a local body or government agency requesting assistance in developing a mother-tongue education program
  • A government policy which allows, supports, or mandates mother-tongue education
  • A multiethnic context where it is politically important to avoid the implications of mandatory education in the language of one people
  • An official desire to experiment with new models of education
Program goals

Here are some typical program goals of a Mother-tongue Education literacy program:

  • To provide more effective formal education to children, building on the language skills and aptitudes they have already developed at home
  • To maintain the local language and culture through educating the children
  • To reduce attrition rates from the local schools
  • To improve the efficiency and yield of the local education system
Possible strategies and activities

Here are some recommended strategies for a Mother-tongue Education literacy program:

  • Support mother-tongue education initiatives with

    • materials
    • curriculum
    • teacher training
    • consulting, and
    • evaluation.
  • Most Mother-tongue Education programs are best implemented on a pilot-project basis, scaling up slowly and gradually after gaining experience.
  • Determine the need for transition to or from LWC literacy, and develop an appropriate biliteracy strategy.
See also

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Page content last modified: 27 July 1999

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