17.02.2012 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Wanted: A clear and coherent language policy

©UNESCO/M. Hofer - Children learn much better in their mother tongue.

The introduction of national languages in schools of Senegal has been on governments' educational agenda for decades. Several experiments have been carried out but without real success. Today, the use of national languages is still not a reality.

It is generally accepted that the use of mother tongue in schools is a powerful remedy against illiteracy.

In her message on the occasion of International Mother Language Day, on 21 February 2012, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO stresses how "linguistic diversity accelerates the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, in particular the objectives of Education for All".

Panel discussion in Dakar

To celebrate the 13th edition of the International Mother Language Day, UNESCO's Regional Office for Education in Africa, based in Dakar, and the Ministry of Education of Senegal are bringing together experts to discuss bilingual education in Senegal.

The discussions will revolve around the theme Use of mother tongues for inclusive education.
Urgent need for language policy

Experts from the Senegalese Ministry of Education, universities and civil society will review the difficulties of introducing national languages in Senegal's education system. They will also propose solutions to move forward.
"The goal is to see together how best to install multilingualism in Senegalese schools," says Yao Ydo, Chief of Peace Education and Sustainable Development in UNESCO Dakar.

"We know that a child who first learn to read and write in his or her mother tongue has a much greater chance of succeeding in school and it makes it easier to read and write in a second language," he added.

"It is therefore urgent to define a clear and coherent language policy that allows the national languages to play their rightful role in the progress towards implementing Education for All," Ydo says.

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