Wednesday, October 11, 2017

One's campaign for girls' education, & mother tongue-based teaching

Photo from One's girls' education petition webpage
Today is the International Day of the Girl Child, and the NGO One is using the occasion to highlight the fact that 130 million girls are not in school and promote a petition campaign to urge funding by world leaders.

This is an important issue and a laudable effort. It is also an issue that exists alongside the lack of instruction in first languages - and arguably efforts to increase the number of girls in school could work well in tandem with efforts to expand mother tongue based (and multilingual) education. One's campaign seems to miss this dimension.

Medium of instruction important for girls' education

In many countries in Africa school instruction is only in a Europhone official language (from day 1, or from early in primary school). This poses difficulties for all students, and also introduces a linguistic divide between daughters and mothers, who more often than fathers tend not to have facility in the school language.

A pair of UNESCO documents in 2005 for example spotlighted connections between girls education and first language instruction: "the learner's mother tongue holds the key to making schooling more inclusive for all disadvantaged groups, especially for girls and women." These are:

The toughest places

One also has produced a report "The Toughest Places for a Girl to Get an Education" which found that 9 of the 10 most difficult countries were in Africa (starting with the most difficult): South Sudan; Central African Republic; Niger; Afghanistan; Chad; Mali; Guinea; Burkina Faso; Liberia; and Ethiopia. This report, however, also does not mention language of instruction.

Education is one of the sectors in multilingual Africa in which the linguistic dimension of policy and action has been relatively well discussed - even if the quality of debate and policy results may vary. The question of language(s) of instruction is certainly also related to the issue of getting and keeping more girls in school, and it deserves explicit attention from outside organizations seeking to increase that number.

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