United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) celebrates International Mother Language Day (IMLD) on February 21, 2017.This is done under the theme 'Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education'. UNESCO says, to foster sustainable development, learners must have access to education in their mother tongue and in other languages, and It is through the mastery of the first language or mother tongue that the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy are acquired. Unfortunately, UNESCO says, most of the Asia-Pacific region's education systems fail to recognize or understand the role that bi/multilingual education can play in increasing enrolment, retention and achievement.
This year's International Mother Language Day (IMLD) theme is 'Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education'.
'Multilingual education facilitates access to education while promoting equity for populations speaking minority and/or indigenous languages, especially girls and women:
It emphasizes the quality of teaching and learning with a focus on understanding and creativity;
It reinforces the cognitive aspect of learning by ensuring the direct application of learning outcomes to the learner's life through the mother tongue
It enhances dialogue and interaction between learner and teacher by allowing genuine communication from the beginning.
It facilitates participation and action in society and gives access to new knowledge and cultural expressions, thus ensuring a harmonious interaction between the global and the local'.
Multilingual communities are among the most vibrant in Asia-Pacific and yet education systems in many countries rarely reflect this rich cultural and linguistic diversity in their classrooms, says UNESCO in one of its Multilingual Education (MLE) toolkit. Children who are forced to learn in a language other than their mother tongue often face significant difficulties in accessing, completing and benefitting from formal education, it added.
According to UNESCO, full access to inclusive quality education in the learner's first language is an essential condition for peace, sustainable development, poverty reduction, economic growth, decent employment, gender equality and responsible global citizenship.