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Friday, May 22, 2009

On Language and Learning

Here is a link to a well-written article on Uganda's policy that local languages be the medium of instruction in the first three years of primary school, switching to English in P4. 

The issues are extremely relevant to Bundibugyo:  teaching primary literacy in Lubwisi and Lukonjo has long-term potential to enhance the neural connections that will allow students to love reading and become life-long learners.  However in the immediate future, it could put our students at a disadvantage when competing with children who have a multi-year jump start on English.  Last night we invited a few friends for dinner.  One of our sponsored medical students described his primary school experience learning to read in Lukonjo.  He is a bright and poised man who is headed towards leadership and responsibility.  His colleague, another sponsored student, also talked about how he walked over the mountains each school term to attend a better primary school on the other side, also in Lukonjo.  But we also had seated at the table a child of a CSB teacher whose primary language is English, his parents choosing to ground their children in that tongue since infancy.  And the teacher herself has spent much of her career in the field of linguistics, with a great interest in the connection between language and learning.  

Certainly my kids spend HOURS of their days on break absorbed by books.  I can't imagine the impact on their lives if all the printed material available to them was in a language they struggled to understand.  Sobering and fascinating.

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