On the occasion of Mother Language Day, UNESCO has published its new ”Global Education Monitoring Report”, 29 February 2016, Paris

What are the educational or labour market opportunities for a student who is unable to understand what is being taught in class due to language barriers? Very scant, most probably. Yet, according to the global monitoring report published by UNESCO’s Education For All (EFA) program, as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to education in a language they speak or understand. The most endangered areas are Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

International and regional learning assessments confirm that when home and school languages differ there is an adverse impact on school performance. In many western African school systems, for example, French continues to be the main language of instruction, which causes difficulties for the vast majority of children: students who speak French at home have 30 percent higher chance to achieve well on assessments than students who speak another language in their families. Similarly, the ratio is also around 30% in Honduras (native Indians) and in Turkey (Kurds). One can find such examples in high income countries, too. In Australia, approximately two-thirds of indigenous students reached the minimum benchmark in mathematics in eighth grade between 1995 and 2011, as compared with almost 90% of their non-indigenous peers.

(Source: Global Education Monitoring Report by UNESCO)

The implementation of an inclusive education paying attention to individual differences requires complex policy and organizational changes. UNESCO emphasizes the importance of guaranteeing the necessary conditions of quality education for everyone at an early childhood stage, disregard of minority or cultural background. Furthermore, bilingual or multilingual education programmes should be offered to ethnically diverse communities to ease the transition to the teaching of the official languages. In addition, teachers should receive adequate preparation for managing social heterogeneity and cultural diversity, while curricula and teaching materials need to address issues of inclusion to enhance the chances of students from marginalized backgrounds to learn effectively.

András Hlács

Global Education Monitoring Report published by UNESCO’s EFA