Mother tongue key to future learning

RESEARCH has indicated that mother tongue education is essential, especially for the early stage development of children's learning ability.

RESEARCH has indicated that mother tongue education is essential, especially for the early stage development of children's learning ability.

According to Molteno Institute for Language and Learning chief executive Masenya Dikotla at issue today is no longer why African languages must be integrated into the curriculum, but how.

"This position is informed not only by research conducted by Unisa, among others but also by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco)," Dikotla says.

It is at the early stage that mother tongue instruction is most important, as this lays the foundation for future learning, Dikotla adds.

He stresses that this should not be at the expense of the lingua franca.

"In tandem with their home language children should also be exposed to a second language - English and Afrikaans - at a very young age. You do not want a situation where the child is learning a second language for the first time only in Grade 4 or later," he says, pointing out that such a situation would similarly compromise the child's development and ability to perform.

But there are challenges. Parents tend to believe that instruction in a mother tongue is inferior to instruction in English.

Teachers, even those who are mother tongue speakers of any particular African language, are not necessarily equipped for or able to teach in the medium.

And, says Dikotla, for mother tongue education to become a reality it has to be prescriptive.

"We have made submissions to the Education Ministry and are also working with, for example, the Department of Arts and Culture, to introduce a well-rounded perspective on the importance of mother tongue not only to effective literacy instruction, but also on its contribution to maintaining cultural tradition."

Among the projects that Molteno is rolling out is "Book Wagons". These are mobile libraries that instantly equip schools with reading material.

Dikotla has confirmed that these are provided with a range of publications in African languages, supporting the institute's commitment to furthering education in home languages. - Molteno Institute

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