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National language and book policies

This page provides links to language and book policies in developing countries, and research on the impact of national book policies for content creators and publishers.

Language policy in education and the role of English in India: From library language to language of empowerment

This chapter explores language policy-making processes in the Indian context, implementation issues and the place and role of English in school education. Language in education policy derives from the Indian Constitution which guarantees linguistic rights to all citizens; most importantly, members of minority groups (both religious and linguistic) are granted a special right to be educated in their mother tongue. Despite this consensus, there have been numerous political and educational controversies regarding implementation of these constitutional provisions.

The national language policy for school education, the three-language formula recommended by the National Commission on Education 1964–1966, was incorporated into the national education policies of 1968 and 1986. Accommodating at least three-languages in school education has been seen as a convenient strategy, but concerns have also been expressed from various quarters about its ‘unsatisfactory’ implementation.

Language Education in Multilingual India

Given the complicated and dynamic language situation, the role of language in Indian education has been at the centre of both debate and controversy. The central issue in the last hundred and fifty years has been the medium of instruction. There is evidence to show that before the British rule there was a vigorous system of indigenous education with provision for both sectarian and secular education. However, learning of an elite standard language was always a part of the Indian education system. Before the British, the language of power was Persian, and before that is was Sanskrit. The British debated the issue for many years before deciding in favour of English as the medium of instruction in Indian schools, which accorded prestige to the English language. Even during the British rule, the controversy centred round the question of education through the Indian languages versus English. The entire question of which language was to be the language of instruction at the school level was naturally and intricately linked to the freedom struggle and national identity. The language issue took on a more serious connotation as it became linked to the question of identifying a national language for independent India.

India Language Education Policy

Every citizen has the right to education and culture. Their books must reflect their values and culture and must be relevant to their living circumstances. Only skilled local authors can address such needs. And only a publishing industry based on a multitude of local, autonomous, entrepreneurial publishers can develop the content that gives a nation a distinctive voice, to preserve and develop its own national identity.

Educational publishing is a key sector. Around the world, a healthy, vibrant and dynamic local publishing industry is unthinkable without an equally healthy, vibrant and dynamic educational publishing sector. Its health forms the economic basis for publishing as a whole. Throughout the developing world, local publishing is often threatened by misguided policies.

Basic Education Curriculum Framework (Kenya)

The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KIDC) developed the Basic Education Curriculum Framework in 2016, with a vision to enable every Kenyan to become an engaged, empowered and ethical citizen. 

Kenya is a multi-ethnic community where people speak various languages and dialects. The Constitution of Kenya, Chapter 2, Article 7 (3) commits the Government to promote and protect the diversity of languages of the people of Kenya and promote the development and use of the indigenous languages. These languages and dialects communicate valuable cultural values and norms, and indigenous language activities will be carried out in the language of the catchment area. This will enhance the acquisition of language and relevant vocabulary as well as the acquisition of foundational skills and knowledge in speaking, reading and writing in indigenous languages. 

The Basic Education Act No 14 of 2013 (Kenya)

This basic act enables the promotion and regulation of free and compulsory basic education. It also provides for accredition, registration and management of institutions of basic education.

The Language Policy for Schools in Namibia

After Independence in March 1990, the then Ministry of Education, Youth, Culture and Sport began reviewing the language policy for schools. The agreed policy was issued in the document Education and Culture in Namibia: The Way Forward to 1996 in 1991.

The policy goals include:

- The seven-year primary education cycle should enable learners to acquire reasonable competence in English, the official language, and be prepared for English medium instruction throughout the secondary cycle.

- Education should promote the language and cultural identity of learners through the use of mother tongue as medium of instruction in Grades 1-3 and the teaching of mother tongue throughout formal education. Grade 4 is a transitional year in which the mother tongue plays a supportive role in the teaching. Mother tongue should be taught as a subject.

- Schools must offer not less than two languages as subjects from Grade 1.

The Plurality of literacy and its Implications for Policies and Programmes: UNESCO Position Paper

Literacy lies at the heart of UNESCO’s concerns and makes up an essential part of its mandate, being entwined with the right to education set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. These concerns have to do with promoting the meaningful acquisition and application of literacy in laying the basis for positive social transformation, justice, and personal and collective freedom. Despite tremendous progress made over the past 55 years, universal literacy remains a major challenge for both developing and developed countries in terms of commitment and action. There are over 800 million illiterate adults in today’s world – a fi gure projected to remain unchanged in 2015 if current trends continue unabated. The present deliberation on literacy as a plural notion and its implications for policy and programme development represents a contribution towards helping solve this stubborn problem

The impact of language policy and practice on children's learning: Evidence from Eastern and Southern Africa

The language environment in the Eastern and Southern Region of Africa is rich and dynamic. Many African languages, including Amharic, Kirundi, Swahili, isiZulu, Kinyarwanda, Chichewa, Luganda, Kikuyu, Malagasy, Oromo, and Somali are spoken as mother tongues by millions of African citizens. Some may also serve as regional and national languages. In addition to these large language communities, are many hundreds of smaller and less wellrecognized African languages. Layered over this richly diverse linguistic environment are a handful of international languages, introduced to the continent as colonial languages and now more or less integrated into the language ecology of the continent.

The attitudes of Eastern and Southern Africa’s citizens towards their local languages are largely positive. More than 80 per cent of the region’s 400+ languages are used regularly in their speech communities and passed on to the children of those communities (Lewis, Simons and Fennig 2014). Though colonial rule resulted in the presence of prestigious international languages in many national systems, those languages have not replaced African mother tongues in the lives of the great majority of citizens of the region.

Kenya: The impact of language policy and practice on children's learning

National language policy mandates use of the language of the catchment area as the medium of instruction in Grades 1 to 3; in practice, however, English is used extensively as the medium of instruction even in Grade 1 classrooms. The national education agendas are motivated by economic progress and social advantage.

The Language Policy of Education in Ghana: A Critical Look at the English-Only Language Policy of Education

The language policy of education in Ghana has had a checkered history since the colonial era. In May 2002, Ghana promulgated a law, which mandates the use of English language as the medium of instruction from primary one (grade one) to replace the use of a Ghanaian language as the medium of instruction for the first three years of schooling, and English as the medium of instruction from primary four (grade four). This new policy has attracted a lot of criticism from a section of academics, politicians, educators, traditional rulers, and the general populace. This paper looks briefly at the historical development of educational language policy in Ghana, examines what necessitated the change in policy, and responds to issues raised. The paper then argues for the reversal of the new policy and proposes the implementation of a late-exit transitional bilingual education model.