Africa

Teaching young children in the language they speak at home is essential to eliminating learning poverty

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Teaching young children in the language they speak at home is essential to eliminating learning poverty

Children learn more and are more likely to stay in school if they are taught first in a language they speak and understand. However, it is estimated that 37 percent of students in low- and middle-income countries must learn a different language, which places them at a significant disadvantage throughout their school life and limits their learning potential. According to a new World Bank report Loud and Clear: Effective Instructional Language Policies for LearningEffective language of instruction (LoI) policies are critical to reducing learning poverty and improving other learning outcomes, equity, and inclusion.

Instruction is developed through language, written and spoken, and that children learn to read and write is essential to learning all other academic subjects. The loud and clear The report puts it simply: too many children are taught in a language they do not understand, which is one of the most important reasons why many countries have very low levels of learning.

Children most affected by these policies and options are often disadvantaged in other ways: they are in the bottom 40 percent of the socioeconomic ladder and live in more remote areas. They also lack the family resources to address the effects of ineffective language policies on their learning. This contributes to higher dropout rates, repetition rates, higher learning poverty, and lower learning overall.

The devastating impacts of COVID-19 on learning are putting an entire generation at risk,” He says Mamta Murthi, Vice President of Human Development at the World Bank.Even before the pandemic, many education systems put their students at a disadvantage by requiring that children learn in languages ​​they do not know well and, in too many cases, in languages ​​they do not know at all. Teaching children in a language they understand is essential to recovering and accelerating learning, improving human capital outcomes, and rebuilding more effective and equitable education systems.

The new LoI report notes that when children are first taught in a language they speak and understand, they learn more, are better able to learn other languages, can learn other subjects such as math and science, they are more likely to remain in school and enjoy a school experience appropriate to their local culture and circumstances. Also, this lays the strongest foundation for learning a second language later in school. As effective LoI policies improve learning and school progression, they reduce country costs per student and thus enable more efficient use of public funds to improve access and quality of education for all children.

Linguistic diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa is one of its main characteristics: while the region has 5 official languages, there are 940 minority languages ​​spoken in West and Central Africa and more than 1,500 in Sub-Saharan Africa, which makes educational challenges even older. pronounced,” He says Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Regional Vice President for West and Central Africa. “By adopting better policies on the language of instruction, countries will allow children to get a much better start in school and get on the right track to build the human capital they need to maintain long-term productivity and growth of their economies. “.

The report explains that while prior to COVID-19, the world had made tremendous progress in schooling children, near-universal enrollment in primary education did not lead to near-universal learning. In fact, before the outbreak of the pandemic, 53% of children in low- and middle-income countries lived in learning poverty, that is, they could not read or understand an age-appropriate text at 10 years of age. Africa, the figure was closer to 90 percent. Today, the unprecedented twin shocks of prolonged school closings and the deep economic recession associated with the pandemic threaten to make the crisis even more severe, with early estimates suggesting that learning poverty could rise to a record high. 63 percent. These poor learning outcomes are, in many cases, a reflection of inappropriate language of instruction policies.

The message is loud and clear. Children learn best when taught in a language they understand, and this offers the best foundation for learning in a second language.,” stressed Jaime Saavedra, Global Director of Education at the World Bank. “This deep and unfair learning crisis requires action. Investments in education systems around the world will not produce significant improvements in learning if students do not understand the language in which they are taught. Substantial improvements in learning poverty can be achieved by teaching children the language they speak at home. “

The World Bank’s new policy approach to the language of instruction is guided by five principles:

1. Teach children in their first language beginning with Early Childhood Care and Education services through at least the first six years of primary education.

2. Use the student’s first language for instruction in academic subjects beyond reading and writing.

3. If students are going to learn a second language in elementary school, introduce it as a foreign language with an initial focus on oral language skills.

4. Continue teaching the first language even after a second language becomes the primary language of instruction.

5. Plan, develop, adapt, and continually improve the implementation of the language of instruction policies, in accordance with country contexts and educational goals.

Of course, these instructional language policies must be well integrated within a broader policy package to ensure alignment with the political commitment and instructional coherence of the system.

This approach will guide the World Bank’s financial and advisory support for countries to provide high-quality early childhood and basic education to all of their students. The World Bank is the largest source of external financing for education in developing countries: In fiscal 2021, it broke another record and committed $ 5.5 billion of IBRD and IDA resources to new operations, and also committed $ 0.800 million in new donations with the GPE. financing, in a total of 60 new educational projects in 45 countries.

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