Scientific research has long shown that skills such as math and reading are more effectively taught to schoolchildren in their mother tongue than in a second language. This usually entails a bilingual approach, the second language being the official one of the nation in which the students reside. Recent advances in the understanding of brain development go even further, concluding that learning a second language as a child, preferably before the age of five but also before the age of ten, is associated with more advanced gray matter in the brain in comparison to those who learned later.
Expanding bilingual education and revitalizing languages are useful strategies for reaching children who are excluded due to their ethnic, cultural, or religious origins or identity. The political, economic, and technical obstacles, however, are enormous. Regarding countries such as Nigeria -- with more than 400 languages -- which languages should be chosen for teaching, and why? In general, how are school systems to provide bilingual education to all pupils, and do so in an effective and affordable manner? The answers will impact significantly upon those 476 million members of the world's illiterate population who speak minority languages.
This dilemma aside, it remains possible to provide multicultural education to all, in which every student has his or her culture and language identified, recognized, and affirmed. Within a multicultural approach, students are taught analytical and behavioral skills that enable them to develop tolerance and even appreciation for other cultures, and to enhance their ability to relate equitably and respectfully across cultural lines. This not only strengthens bilingualism, it benefits entire societies and the world community." Read More