By sylviahammond, 22 February, 2016

The UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) Policy Paper 24 has been released - timed with International Mother Language Day yesterday (21 February).

The paper assesses the value of children learning in their mother tongue. It identifies that approximately 40% of the global population do not learn in a language that they understand.  The report highlights the difficulty particularly for developing nations with many languages. 

A number of South African projects are mentioned favourably in terms of how technology may be used to overcome these problems:

"... the Breadbin Interactive Project provides a cost-effective way of disseminating large quantities of open license digital content from a hard drive via digital dispensers. These can be connected directly to schools’ computer systems or made available through electronic kiosks where materials are printed as required. Schools do not need internet connections to access the digital material.

Further strategies are needed to support distribution to remote rural schools, however, as they rarely have even the most basic infrastructure for information technology. Outside the classroom, the Nal’ibali initiative supports volunteer-run reading clubs by producing colourful bilingual supplements with stories, ideas for literacy activities, and reading tips, available in English, and Xhosa or Zulu (Butcher, 2011; Nal’ibali, 2013; Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa, 2013; Welch, 2012)." (page 7).

The report proposes 6 years of mother-tongue education - and of interest to South Africa right now - the report also points out how imposition of education in a national language in multi-ethnic societies may lead to wider grievances "... linked to wider issues of social and cultural inequality".

The full PDF report is available on this link: 


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