Broken Chalk calls for recognition of the importance of access to education in the mother language

Written by Luzi Maj Leonhardt, Dooyum Stephanie Tseke, Sara Rossomonte

Today, on the International Day of the Mother Language, the acknowledgement and advancement of the mother language in education, and social and cultural development are inevitable.  

International Mother Language Day was first introduced by the UNESCO initiative of Bangladesh, at the 1999 General Conference. Since then, it was established by the UN General Assembly, and its importance was formalized as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

However, limitations in access to education in the mother language remain, as approximately 40% of the global population lacks this fundamental right. In some regions, these numbers even go up to 90% of the population, according to the UN.  Access to education in the student’s mother language fosters an inclusive learning environment, which welcomes indigenous and minority groups and leads to better learning outcomes, especially in the early stages of education.  Broken Chalk recognises the need to address the issue of a lack of native language representation in education in many countries worldwide. Especially the educational sector in countries with a colonial or foreign administrative past continues to be strongly influenced by their language of instruction.  Broken Chalks strongly supports the creation of accessible and high-quality educational materials in the native languages of various countries.

The importance of mother language in education cannot be overstated. In most sub-Saharan African countries, approximately 85% of students receive instruction in a language other than their native tongue (UNESCO, 2017). Nigeria, a nation with over 600 different languages, solely employs English as the language of instruction in primary schools, prohibiting the use of local languages that are deemed informal.

Similarly, many Asian societies, formerly under colonial rule, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Indonesia, only began actively promoting their national languages after World War II. In Sri Lanka, Tamil was officially recognised as an official language in 1978, yet English has become the predominant language in recent years.

The absence of mother tongue instruction in education leads to knowledge gaps, particularly at the primary and secondary levels, hindering effective learning and exacerbating inequality and discrimination against diverse cultures, resulting in low student enrolment rates. Broken Chalk calls for urgent investments to lower the educational gaps of children with speak in their mother language.

Ethiopian schools have introduced instruction in students’ native tongues, resulting in significant improvements, including a half-year increase in education attainment and a 40% rise in the likelihood of students reading complete sentences (Rajesh, 2017). Similarly, the Bolivian Campaign for the Right to Education (CBDE) advocates for inclusive educational approaches, particularly for the indigenous population. Broken Chalk believes that education is crucial to working towards the elimination of discrimination against indigenous populations.

Children benefit from embracing both their own and others’ cultural identities while using the same language, as exemplified in Zimbabwe, where the government has prioritised mother tongue education. However, challenges persist globally, including inadequate funding for minority language education, lack of standardised teaching materials, and qualified teachers for indigenous languages. Colonial language policies contribute to linguistic inequality and marginalisation, necessitating governments and educational institutions to prioritise mother languages in curriculum development and teacher training programs. Funding is essential to preserve endangered languages and promote multilingualism through bilingual education initiatives. Broken Chalk calls for the allocation of more funding to promote multilingualism in education.

At Broken Chalk,celebrating World Mother Language Day reaffirms our commitment to cultural diversity and acknowledges the value and heritage of all languages. In addition to efforts being made globally, Broken Chalk will continue to publish articles in different languages to encourage and advocate for Cultural and Language Diversity.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect. 


Broken Chalk 

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