Impact / Blog

WHY DO WE TEACH IN LOCAL LANGUAGES?

September 29, 2020

ELLEN SMITH

4 mins

Did you know – there are 27 languages spoken in Cambodia, 122 languages spoken in Nepal and 120 languages spoken in Myanmar?

Multilingual countries across the globe face difficult decisions about which language to teach in schools. The more languages spoken within a country, the more complex the challenge to provide free education for all. This means indigenous ethnic minority groups often disproportionately miss out on education due to the language factor – there simply isn’t the option to attend school and receive an education in a language they understand.

The communities we work with in South Asia make up some of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world. The remote communities with whom we work in CambodiaNepal and Myanmar are mostly made up of ethnic minority groups whose first languages are not the national language. Myanmar alone is home to over 100 indigenous ethnic groups, all of whom have their own dialects.

We believe that education is a right for everyone, and we are working towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 to ensure inclusive and quality education for all. This is why we train teachers from the communities with whom we work, who are able to teach children in a language they understand.

It is estimated that 40% of the world’s population do not have access to education in a language that they speak or understand.

The challenge of providing education in many languages means that even highly multilingual countries often only teach in the “national language.” When indigenous language speakers are taught in a language they do not understand, they understandably struggle. These children are placed at a disadvantage compared to other children who speak the national language as their first language. By employing community teachers in our schools who speak the same languages as the children, we help our students learn the national language whilst also protecting indigenous languages and cultures.

It is for this work promoting mother-tongue education, particularly in remote regions of Myanmar, that we recently won the prestigious UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize. Matthew Lodge, UK Ambassador to UNESCO, said:

MEET ONE OF OUR LOCAL TEACHERS

ALL POSTS NEXT Blog