Young girl in school

Mother language for effective learning

Many primary school children in low-income countries cannot read at grade level. Around 40 percent of those who learn to read are taught in a language they do not speak or fully understand. Children who do not learn to read well will not thrive in school and likely will not be able to participate fully in increasingly competitive workplaces and economies.

In Ghana, FHI 360 is promoting learning in mother languages, which can boost reading and overall success in school. We are working with a consortium of partners to develop a phonics-based reading program in 11 local languages. In the past, mother language materials were predominately written in English and then translated. Linguists are using a computer program to analyze each of the 11 languages of instruction to determine how to teach letters and syllables in a sequential manner that allows children to start reading words as soon as they know three or four letters. Authors will use the analyses to write pupil books, teacher’s guides and stories in each language, which will improve the accuracy and effectiveness of reading texts.

The rollout of this program in 2016 began with instruction in Dagbani, a language spoken largely in northern Ghana. To successfully instruct in Dagbani, teachers received intensive training through face-to-face workshops, multimedia support, an online course and school-based coaching, all of which enhance the project’s sustainability.

Now that students are learning in Dagbani, a language they understand, they are more able to engage with school materials and participate in classroom activities. Similar results are expected in other languages. The project is working with more than 22,000 teachers from more than 6,700 schools and is expected to reach 1.1 million primary students by 2019.

Reading instruction in mother language inspires entire communities in Nigeria

The Reading and Numeracy Activity (RANA) project, funded by the U.K. Department of International Development through the United Nations Children’s Fund and implemented by FHI 360 and its local partners, is providing the materials and trainings necessary to teach literacy in the mother language.

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Girls in classroom

Photo credit (top): Arne Hoel/The World Bank/CC BY-NC-ND | Photo credit (bottom): Nurudeen Lawal/FHI 360