Education in a multilingual world: UNESCO education position paper

Education in a multilingual world: UNESCO education position paper

UNESCO has an essential role to play in providing international framework for education policy and practice on key and complex issues. Language and in particular the choice of language of instruction in education is one such concern and often invokes contrasting and deeply felt positions. Questions of identity, nationhood and power are closely linked to the use of specific languages in the classroom. Language itself, moreover, possesses its own dynamics and is constantly undergoing processes of both continuity and change, impacting upon the communication modes of different societies as it evolves. Educational policy makers have difficult decisions to make with regard to languages, schooling and the curriculum in which the technical and the political often overlap.

While there are strong educational arguments in favour of mother tongue (or first language) instruction, a careful balance also needs to be made between enabling people to use local languages in learning, and providing access to global languages of communication through education. The purpose of this position paper, therefore, is to consider some of the central issues concerning languages and education and to provide related guidelines and principles. In doing so we are conscious of the need for a clear statement on language policy in relation to education, particularly within the context of Education for All and in terms of Dakar goals of ensuring that by 2015 all children have access to quality primary education and that there is a 50 per cent increase in adult literacy by the year 2015.

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Education in a multilingual world: UNESCO education position paper 

UNESCO, 2003, 35p. (ED.2003/WS/2)