Making school work in a multilingual world

In many multilingual countries, teachers, families and  governments know that the way language is used in education is not working…Children know this best of all, struggling through hours at school trying to make sense of a torrent of unfamiliar words, or taking a test they will not pass because they do not understand the questions. Some children never go to school, knowing that their language and identity will not be welcome.

-From the introduction of
Closer to Home

(September 2013) Why are children’s learning levels in many countries so far below expectations? The authors of a new book pinpoint one major factor influencing learning outcomes around the world: issues surrounding the language used for classroom instruction. If the language of instruction is unfamiliar to students, even the most well-equipped classroom cannot provide a quality learning experience. Closer to Home: How to Help Schools in Low- and Middle-Income Countries Respond to Children’s Language Needs, provides helpful direction for adapting school programs to better serve all students.

Publication of the book was made possible through the partnership of several organizations which share a commitment to equitable learning opportunities and believe that providing instruction in a language that students understand is a key component of equitable learning. The book was co-authored by a team of education specialists, including Dr. Catherine Young of SIL, and published by Save the Children and the Council for British Teachers (CfBT). SIL partnered with Save and CfBT to translate the book into French and Spanish.

Closer to Home was recently used as one of the texts for an SIL training program, the Institute for the Development of Languages and Translation in Africa (i-DELTA). Language development practitioners who participated in i-DELTA will apply the principles in their home countries of South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. As part of their training, participants developed their own advocacy materials to take home and use. 


i-DELTA participants and instructors




i-DELTA participants and staff used Closer to Home in a recent session of language development training.

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