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Mother tongue education essential to bolster multilingualism: UN

 

Bhubaneswar,

Last updated 06 Jul 2016 01:02 IST

  International Mother Language Day, UNESCO, Education

Mother tongue education is not only a force for quality learning, it is also essential to bolster multilingualism and respect for linguistic and cultural diversity at a time when societies are transforming quickly and many languages are under threat.

 

On the International Mother Language Day, celebrated every year on February 21 since the year 2000, the United Nations (UN) once again highlighted the importance of the mother tongue of target communities in spreading and promoting education.

“Mother tongue education is not only a force for quality learning, it is also essential to bolster multilingualism and respect for linguistic and cultural diversity at a time when societies are transforming quickly and many languages are under threat,” the UN said emphasising that the post-2015 development agenda must focus on advancing quality education for all while promoting the preservation of languages.

UNSECO Director-General Ms. Irina Bokova defined the year 2015 as a turning point year as it marks the 15th anniversary of International Mother Language Day and also the year of deadline for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The focus for the post-2015 agenda must fall on the priority of advancing quality education for all -- widening access, ensuring equality and inclusiveness, and promoting education for global citizenship and sustainable development. Education in the mother language is an essential part of achieving these goals -- to facilitate learning and to bolster skills in reading, writing and mathematics. Taking this forward requires a sharper focus on teaching training, revisions of academic programmes and the creation of suitable learning environments,” She added.

As per the UNESCO, more than 50 per cent of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world are likely to die out within a few generations, and 96 per cent of these languages are spoken by a mere 4 per cent of the world's population. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.

Stressing on the importance of mother tongue to all educational efforts, to enhance the quality of learning and to reach the unreached, Bokova said, “Every girl and boy, every woman and man must have the tools to participate fully in the lives of their societies – this is a basic human right and it is a force for the sustainability of all development.”

   

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Half of the world's population speak the 13 most populous languages, including Mandarin, English and Hindi. It is estimated that there are 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, but around 2,000 of those have fewer than 1,000 speakers.

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“Languages with their unique ability for communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and planet,” said the UN while expressing its concern by adding, “Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether.”

As Lydia Smith of the International Business Times UK noted, “Half of the world's population speak the 13 most populous languages, including Mandarin, English and Hindi. It is estimated that there are 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, but around 2,000 of those have fewer than 1,000 speakers.”

Stating that International Mother Language Day is a moment for all of us to raise the flag for the importance of mother tongue to all educational efforts, to enhance the quality of learning and to reach the unreached, the UNESCO alerted saying that “when languages fade, so does the world's rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression — valuable resources for ensuring a better future — are also lost.”

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