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«© UNESCO 2007 Second Printing January 2009 Published by the UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education 920 Sukhumvit Rd., Prakanong ...»

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Mother Tongue-based

Literacy Programmes

Case Studies of Good Practice in Asia

Mother Tongue-based

Literacy Programmes:

Case Studies of Good

Practice in Asia

Mother Tongue-based Literacy Programmes: Case Studies of Good Practice in Asia. Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok,


viii + 166 pp.

1. Mother tongue instruction. 2. Bilingual education. 3. Literacy programmes. 4. Asia and the Pacific.

ISBN 92-9223-113-8

© UNESCO 2007

Second Printing January 2009 Published by the UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education 920 Sukhumvit Rd., Prakanong Bangkok 10110, Thailand Chief Editor: Caroline Haddad Design/Layout: Sirisak Chaiyasook Front cover photo: © ONFEC Printed in Thailand The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout the publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning its frontiers or boundaries.

APL/08/OP/081-200 Foreword Education for All Goal 6 focuses on the quality of education. Quality education also involves imparting universally recognized moral values to the individual and integrating these with the ethnic-specific eco- centric values, cultural norms, and worldview. If these are not in place in an education system, a gap between the education system and the society will arise. This gap is often a result of using a language other than the language of the society in providing education. Curricula, syllabi, teaching methodologies and lesson contents that are not suited to the community situation and a society’s needs contribute to this gap. The outcome is often an increase in the school dropout rate among minority linguistic and less- privileged communities.

Realizing the importance of mother tongue/bilingual education to improve the quality and reach of education, the Asia-Pacific Programme of Education for All (APPEAL) at UNESCO Bangkok has been supporting eleven countries to establish mother tongue/bilingual literacy programmes throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Countries undertaking pilot projects include Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam, Malaysia and Afghanistan.

In a number of participating countries, the project is showing promising results following work done to develop orthographies for the different languages, create socio-cultural- specific curriculum and teaching-learning materials, and organizing classes for adults and children. The country experiences from the project show that the classes are very effective in transferring knowledge, skills and attitude to learners and the learner can learn desired skills faster in their mother tongue.

This publication, “Mother Tongue-based Literacy Programmes: Case Studies of Good Practice in Asia” presents success stories from mother tongue-based literacy programmes in seven Asian countries. It is divided into two parts. Part Iprovides a synthesis of the seven case studies as it discusses the different situations, strategies used and activities undertaken.

Part II features a more detailed study of each of the projects. Project organizers, themselves, have contributed these country project studies, which has allowed for the inclusion of much greater experiential insight into the projects. Part II covers elements such as selection of project sites, orthography development, curriculum and materials development, teacher training, organization of classes, resource mobilization, community participation, project impact, and future directions. It should thus be of particular interest to policy makers, planners and programme implementers from both formal and nonformal education department, as well as those individuals from non-governmental organizations who are involved in mother tongue/bilingual literacy activities.

People learn to read - to become literate - only once, and they build on that experience to learn other languages. It is our hope that this publication will help to create more literacy programmes that open the doors of education to much greater numbers of people.

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India ZSS Zilla Saksharata Samiti (District Literacy Society) TLC Total Literacy Campaign PLP Post Literacy Programme CE Continuing Education IPCL Improved Pace and Content of Learning GZSS Goalpara Zilla Saksharata Samiti SRC State Resource Centre UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization NGO Non-Governmental Organization SHG Self-Help Group RCH Reproductive and Child Health China MT Mother Tongue PRC People’s Republic of China TPR Total Physical Response Cambodia RGC Royal Government of Cambodia NFE Non-Formal Education MoEYS Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports ICC International Cooperation for Cambodia YWAM Youth With a Mission NTFP Non-Timber Forest Products POEYS Provincial Office of Education, Youth and Sports EFA Education For All Thailand NPKOM Northern Pwo Karen Bilingual Education Project at Omkoi District ONFEC Office of the Non-Formal Education Commission DNFE Department of Non-Formal Education CLCs Community Learning Centres CBO Community-Based Organization Nepal NFIN Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities NFDIN National Federation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities ARNEC All Round National Education Committee NESP National Education System Plan NEC National Education Commission

–  –  –

Bangladesh NFPE Non-Formal Primary Education NETZ a German donor agency SDC Swiss Agency for Development & Cooperation NOVIB OXFAM Netherlands UPA- ZILA a sub-district NCTB National Curriculum & Text Book Board PEDP Primary Education Development Programme RT Research Team R & SD Research and Staff Development PO Programme Organizer TADP Tribal Adolescents Development Programme PTI Primary Training Institute RDRS Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (an NGO) SSC Secondary School Certificate [ vii ] Part I © UNESCO/O. Sandkull Mother Tongue Literacy Programmes in Asia A Review of Selected Case Studies T he Asia-Pacific region hosts several thousand languages. Linguistic diversity, which is characteristic of many countries of the region, presents a variety of challenges for the education system.

What languages should children learn? Even more important: What language should be used for imparting instruction in schools? What factors direct the policy makers in formulating language policies? What would be more appropriate in pedagogical terms? These questions need careful examination for understanding the current state of language use in education for different countries of the region. Indeed, the central role played by language in processes of cognition and learning is a well established fact. Researchers and thinkers have unreservedly endorsed the crucial value of competence in the mother tongue, which children acquire in the most natural fashion as they grow and develop, for further learning and education. It is in the context of such assertions and mounting empirical evidences on the value of mother tongue in education that UNESCO emphatically stated: “…it is important that every effort should be made to provide education in the mother tongue … On educational grounds, we recommend that the use of the mother tongue be extended to as late a stage in education as possible.

In particular, pupils should begin their schooling through the medium of the mother tongue, because they understand it best and because to begin their school life in the mother tongue will make the break between home and school as small as possible.” (UNESCO, 1951) Subsequently, the endorsement acquired the status of a “right” with its incorporation into the internationally established Convention on the Rights of Children. This Convention advocates education in the mother tongue at least through the initial years of schooling as a basic right of every child.

Apart from the issue of protecting children’s right to learn through their mother tongue, mother tonguebased instruction is fundamental to achieving the Education for All (EFA) and Millenium Development Goals (MDG). It is true that within any country, linguistic groups outside the framework of the common or national language are relatively small in number and quite often consist of many heterogeneous subgroups. Logistical difficulties involved in providing education through the mother tongue are often the alibi for thrusting the national/common language on these children. Yet, taken together across countries, the number of children belonging to linguistic minority groups runs to several million. Ignoring their educational needs would undoubtedly jeopardize progress towards EFA. The question to be examined is, therefore, not ‘Why isn’t mother tongue-based education being pursued in all countries as a right of the child?’. Rather, the need is to understand and address through empirical work the question of ‘How do we implement mother tongue literacy programmes given the existing socio-political and educational contexts?’. It is with the latter purpose in view that the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Programme of Education for All (APPEAL) supported research for case studies of seven mother tongue literacy projects in Asia. What follows is a brief description of how seven of these projects were conceived and carried out.

As the contexts for these relatively small-scale action projects were significantly different, no attempt has been made to draw generalizations or to combine them in a common comparative framework. Rather, the approach has been to present snapshots of the contexts, methods and processes adopted by the projects, followed by a broad synthesis of the lessons emerging from these experiences.

Providing Quality Education for All The modern school system - with its externally prescribed curricula, group-based instructional setting, and external examinations at various stages of education - tends to assume that children possess homogeneous backgrounds and experiences. This is particularly true with respect to the language of instruction that children may or may not know when they begin schooling. To what extent will such a [4] system accommodate diversity in language experiences? The answer to the question is often decided outside the school framework by political leadership. Language policy in a country is not necessarily linked directly to concerns of learning and cognition in schools, but they definitely define the contours of language learning and use in schools. Language choices are made by governments, both for practical and political reasons, and are not necessarily based solely on concerns for providing effective education.

In multilingual societies, where the medium of instruction chosen is that of the majority, the needs of other language speakers are also an issue. Countries have to consider at what point or whether to introduce other national, regional and international languages into their educational systems. Their decisions will determine who has access to education, the quality of that education and whether minorities are treated equitably. Language choice is important, especially for basic education, because it is the basis for all further learning. (UNESCO 2000) Many policy makers and scholars alike have expressed serious concerns over the negative impact of forcing children to learn through a language different from their mother tongue. This concern, coupled with intensive advocacy for the issue at various forums, has led to the articulation of the “rights of the minority language groups.” In a strict sense, the right to education that the Jomtien Declaration purported to guarantee for every individual should be interpreted as an obligation of the State to ensure provision of facilities for learning through mother tongue for every child. From this point of view, all governments and international agencies are bound to implement programmes that guarantee education through mother tongue for all children, irrespective of their majority or minority status. However, in multilingual settings, decisions about the relationship between language and education are not straightforward;

instead, serious consideration is needed to determine which languages to use in education and literacy programmes. The same holds true in the Asian context. Most nations of the region are linguistically diverse and, thus, the issue of using different languages for imparting learning is of critical importance.

(Kosonen, 2005; Shaeffer, 2005) The concept of linguistic minority group rights has a long history grounded in the project of modernity during the nineteenth century, when having a national language became a defining principle of the nation-state. In providing the medium through which the narrative of the nation could be constructed, told and retold in literature, myths, rituals and symbols, the language by which the nation defines itself has played a key role in the social construction of a national cultural identity. The adoption of a common language is seen, generally, as providing an important means by which discrete groups of people living within the confines of the nation-state can be integrated into a common cultural value system (Rassool, 2000). With legitimization in national policy, these common languages are culturally validated through mass communication, educational practices and processes, and other administrative mechanisms (Hobsbawm, 1990). The link between modernization and use of a common language runs very deep. The concept of modernization grounded in the idea of rapid technological and scientific development demands that common languages are implicated in this process in the pivotal role of spreading ‘technologies and ideas through education and mass media’ (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1990: 25).

This link, however, represents a double-edged sword. In addition to its potent symbolic value in the nation-building process, the notion of a common language also serves an instrumental purpose: it has an exchange value within the labour market. Thus, polices determining language use in education cannot be determined independent of political and economic consideration in any country.

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