Reap the benefits of mother language education, multilingualism, says FEDSAS in celebration of International Mother Language Day

21/02/2022 - Fedsas

The benefits of mother language education can only be unlocked when children receive a quality education in their mother language.

“There are still too many dysfunctional schools in South Africa. For many parents, the quality of education weighs more than educating their children’s mother language. This why parents often choose to enroll their children in a school that is not closest to home; they weigh distance, additional costs and often education in the child’s second language against poor education in the child’s mother language in a school close to home.”

This is according to Dr Jaco Deacon, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS), in the run-up to the celebration of International Mother Language Day on 21 February. The day has been celebrated for nearly 20 years and the goal is the promotion of multilingualism and the importance of mother language education. This year the focus is on the role of technology in promoting mother language education and multilingualism.

Deacon says another challenge for sustainable mother language education in South Africa is the lack of schools. “There are simply not enough schools to make mother language education in all eleven languages a reality. The challenge to the National Department of Basic Education and the provincial education departments is to build schools and to fund existing schools properly.”

Deacon says however the challenge of quality mother language education is not only one for the State. “Every role-player involved in education should do their part to ensure that dysfunctional schools start to function properly. If we can get all the existing schools on the same level it would already make a huge contribution to especially children’s early education. Quality education in their mother language in primary school will contribute to better performance in high school better matric results and more learners who complete their school career.”

According to the United Nations language diversity and multilingualism are important for sustainable development. “Our eleven official languages are a huge asset for South Africa, with most people who are least bilingual. This is a source of human capital which is not nearly exploited to full capacity. For example, multilingualism contributes to creative thought, which in turn forms the basis for unique solutions for problems.”

While quality mother language education in especially primary schools remains an important goal, FEDSAS is encouraging school communities to think about ways in which the benefits of multilingualism can be reaped in order to enhance education.

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