Language and education: the missing link

How the language used in schools threatens the achievement of Education For All.

Why are children’s learning levels in many countries so far below expectations? Why do so many children fail to complete school, despite efforts to improve the quality of education? Could there be something missing from our understanding of what it will take to deliver on Education For All, and the Millennium Development Goals? A range of experts argue that how language is used in schools for delivering the curriculum is an important factor in whether or not children succeed in education. In recent years much greater and clearer evidence on school language role in education has emerged, from a larger range of contexts.

This report is intended for senior Ministry of Education officials and national leaders concerned with education in linguistically diverse countries, as well as donor agencies supporting basic and post-basic education in low and middle income countries. The report considers the extent to which the language used for teaching and learning can be a key barrier or enabler in achieving national and international education commitments. It examines the most appropriate policy and investment actions for national governments, and discusses the challenges which might be experienced in pursuing good practice around school language. The report assesses the extent to which donor agencies are supporting or undermining efforts to address problems with school language, and presents recommendations for international collaboration to produce more strategic action to remove the language barriers which keep many children from progressing through education.

© CfBT and Save the Children Alliance copyright 2009

Helen Pinnock and Gowri Vijayakumar
© CfBT and Save the Children Alliance copyright 2009