“Early Literacy and Multilingual Education in South Asia” analyses the varying language situations in South Asia and the existing policies and practices of using languages as medium of instruction (MoI) and as subjects in primary education curriculum. It outlines a set of research-driven principles and guidance of multilingual education and appropriate approaches in varying sociolinguistic contexts. The study is based on literature review on early literacy and multilingual education, surveys of students’ literacy achievements in primary grades, analysis of sociolinguistic situations, and policy and programme documents from the countries in the region. The research presents a typology of school sociolinguistic situations, highlighting the importance of using mother-tongue-based multilingual education. The study further indicates that when children study through their first language (home language or mother tongue) for several years, they are likely to perform better at learning additional languages and other subjects, compared to the children who study through a second or unfamiliar language as the MoI. While challenges remain, the study explains the opportunities brought in by a paradigm shift in policy and practice in early literacy teaching and learning and multilingual education. The roadmap for policy interventions and programmatic actions for early literacy teaching and learning are identified in the study with the emphasis on the positive attitudes towards multilingualism and non-dominant language in the education system. It calls for government leadership as well as involvement of partner agencies, international and national organizations and private sector to promote early literacy and multilingual education to ensure inclusive and equitable learning for all.
UNICEF. Regional Office for South Asia
Asia and the Pacific
Language and education
Literacy and reading