Closer to Home: How to help schools in low- and middle-income countries respond to the language needs of children

Why are the levels of children's learning far below expected in many countries? Why do many children not finish schools despite efforts to improve the quality of education? Many children around the world see education as something impossible because they are taught in a language that they do not understand.

The language of the school is the foremost barrier to education success in developing and middle-sized income countries. An estimated 221 million children around the world speak local languages, while most schools usually teach in the official language of the country. What can be done to transform education so that language is not a barrier to learning? There is a lot of new evidence suggesting better ways to use language in child education. However, these solutions have not received adequate attention from governments of countries with linguistic diversity, nor by the international community.

These guidelines are for anyone working in education in low-income or medium-income countries, where the language of the school is generating problems in learning. This guide should be particularly useful for officials of the Ministry of Education and its staff. The experts in education working for universities, donor agencies and national or local NGOs, also find this guide useful.

The guide provides advice on how to make education systems in low- and middle-income countries work better in today’s multilingual world. This means adapting the school to languages that children understand and use in their homes, and use them as the basis for learning new and unknown languages. Bringing home education in this way will make learning familiar and simple for children, increasing learning outcomes for all. In many cases, adopting this approach will involve various changes in the educational system. This guide provides practical and realistic ideas about how to can carry out these changes.

Published 2018-08-02