Education techniques are evolving and the mother tongue as a medium of teaching is a method being advocated by some.
The choice of a medium of instruction in education is a critical decision that significantly impacts the learning outcomes of learners. One approach gaining increasing attention is using the mother tongue as the medium of teaching.
The mother tongue, or native language, refers to the language a person learns from birth and is most proficient in. One of the priceless assets that children inherit is language. The foundation for all subsequent communication advancements is laid by the first language. Early childhood educators, parents, and other family members play a critical role in forming and preserving the first language.
In this article, we will explore the effectiveness of using the mother tongue as a medium of teaching. Additionally, we will examine its impact on cognitive development, academic achievement, and overall educational outcomes.
How Effective is Teaching with Mother Tongue
A UNESCO study (UNESCO, 2005) discovered that a child’s understanding of one language can help them understand how other languages function. The first language, or home language, is especially crucial for a child’s development and a positive self-concept.
When studying English as a second language, kids who have the opportunity to keep using their native tongue can advance cognitively. Studies indicate that learning in the mother tongue enhances academic achievement and learning outcomes while also playing a significant role in inclusive education and high-quality learning.
Mother tongue-based multilingual education programmes have been established in many minority language communities around the world. Most teachers, principals and parents of children in that program have found that students who begin learning in their home language have more confidence in themselves as learners. Thus, they participate more actively in classroom discussions, ask more questions, and demonstrate a deeper understanding of the subjects.
Additionally, they learn to read and write more easily understand what they read and express themselves better. Children who read and write in their mother tongue before learning another language not only are more successful in the second language but also excel more quickly than their peers who did not become literate in their first language (UNESCO, 2006).
Above all, mother tongue-based multilingual education enables learners to participate fully in most societal activities. It promotes understanding amongst people and aids in the preservation of the rich cultural and traditional legacy that is ingrained in all languages worldwide.
Globally, progress is being made in multilingual education based on the mother tongue, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life.
Advantages of Teaching in Mother Tongue
1. Cognitive Development
One of the key advantages of using the mother tongue in education is that it builds on the cognitive foundations laid during early childhood. Research suggests that children who learn in their mother tongue develop a stronger understanding of foundational concepts, leading to enhanced cognitive abilities.
Teaching in the mother tongue facilitates language development. Learners are more likely to acquire advanced language skills when learning in a familiar language, as it allows for a deeper understanding of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. This, in turn, positively influences cognitive development across various domains.
2. Academic Achievement
Learning in the mother tongue enhances subject mastery. When students are taught in a language they are comfortable with, they are more likely to grasp complex concepts, leading to improved academic performance. This is particularly evident in subjects that require a nuanced understanding of language, such as literature and social studies.
Using the mother tongue reduces the cognitive load on learners, allowing them to focus on understanding the content rather than struggling with language comprehension. This is especially beneficial in the early years of education when foundational knowledge is crucial for future academic success.
Teaching in the mother tongue fosters effective communication between learners and teachers. Clear communication is essential for successful learning, and using a familiar language ensures that students can express themselves confidently, ask questions, and actively participate in classroom discussions.
3. Cultural Relevance
- Preservation of Cultural Identity:
Emphasizing the mother tongue in education helps preserve cultural identity. It allows learners to connect with their heritage, fostering a sense of pride in their cultural background. This connection positively impacts motivation and engagement in the learning process.
- Enhanced Cultural Understanding:
Learning in the mother tongue promotes a deeper understanding of cultural variations embedded in language. This understanding can contribute to a more comprehensive education, preparing learners to navigate a diverse and globalized world while maintaining a strong connection to their roots.
Challenges and Considerations
Regardless of the advantages of learning in the mother tongue, it has some attending challenges worthy of critical consideration.
1. Limited Resources
In some regions, limited educational resources in local languages can pose challenges to implementing mother tongue-based education. Efforts must be made to develop and standardize educational materials in various mother tongues to ensure equitable access to quality education.
2. Transition to Other Languages
While emphasizing the mother tongue in the early years is crucial, a thoughtful transition to additional languages, such as the national language or English, is essential for broader educational and career opportunities. Balancing the use of the mother tongue with exposure to other languages is key to holistic language development.
Before ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get an education in their mother tongue, there is considerable work to be done. The majority of learners in most nations receive instruction in a language different from their mother tongue. Thus, hindering their capacity to learn.
Today, there are roughly 7,000 languages spoken in the world, and an estimated 40% of people on the planet do not have access to an education in a language that they can comprehend or communicate. But as languages perish at an alarming rate, linguistic diversity is coming under more and more threat.
Furthermore, a language brings with it a whole cultural and intellectual legacy. As education systems evolve, a balanced approach that integrates the strengths of the mother tongue with the broader linguistic landscape is crucial for fostering well-rounded individuals prepared for success in an interconnected world.
Researched by Olamide Opebiyi