Do you remember looking down when your teacher asked the class questions? I do!
But can you imagine what would have happened if you were expected to answer the teacher’s question in Cantonese or Danish.
This is the reality faced by millions of children who never hear English at home or in the streets but are sent to schools where English is the primary language of instruction.
We plea for Ministries of Education to offer mother tongue education wherever parents would prefer this option.
The evidence from research around the world is overwhelmingly in favour of mother tongue education because
- Children are more likely to want to read books provided by schools in their own language thereby increasing the potential for each child to develop inquisitiveness and a love of books and reading – the keys to successful education.
- Children understand new concepts more easily in mother tongue.
- Students get much better test results when they answer in their home language. This promotes self-esteem and a sense of success and enjoyment of learning. Everyone wants to be respected and to be a winner.
- After 12 years of education which has included English as a second language most young people have sufficient command of English to succeed in business and tertiary education.
We fully support the right of each parent to decide on the language in which his/her child should be educated but suspect that many parents choose English language education because they mistakenly believe they will be ensuring their child will ultimately enjoy a better future.
Parents need to be informed that their child will have a higher probability of succeeding at school if educated in mother tongue providing English is taught from year 1 as a second language.
Parents should be told the truth that when children don’t succeed in the classroom, they are more likely to fail and dropout of school to join the ranks of the youth who are both unemployed and largely unemployable.
The views expressed in this article are supported in a World Bank Newsletter published on the 15th July 2021 entitled “Teaching young children in the language they speak at home is essential to eliminate Learning Poverty“.