Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education (MTB MLE) is a methodology designed to help the speakers of minority languages to bridge the gap that separates them from effective learning. It is a methodology that is child centered and is based on the well established educational practice of taking the learner from what he/she knows to what he/she doesn’t know.
Children in minority language areas know their language and understand the community around them. MTB MLE starts with these points that the child knows and uses them to begin the development of the cognitive processes so essential for success in today’s society. Children learn to solve problems, numeracy and literacy using what is familiar to them. Thus, the child will have a basis in what is familiar to them to learn what is unfamiliar, i.e. using the known to learn what is unknown. Bridge materials will help the child to bridge from his known mother tongue (MT) to the national language of instruction (LOI). In this way, the children learn Arabic as a foreign language and gradually shift from the LOI being the MT to the LOI being Arabic. Thus, by the end of primary school the child will be fully functioning in Arabic as the LOI, and can easily begin secondary school with an academic understanding of Arabic.
As UNESCO has pointed out, children from minority language groups all over the world face similar problems:
a) High repetition and dropout rates because they cannot learn in a language they do
b) Loss of confidence in themselves as learners because they do not achieve according
to their teachers’ or parents’ expectations.
c) Loss of their language, loss of their love for their heritage culture and loss of respect
for their home community because the message they get in school is that only the
dominant language, culture and society are important.
d) Failure to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to get a good job.
Studies from all corners of the world are showing the following results when children are able to learn with understanding through an MBT MLE approach:
a) Children have more confidence in themselves as learners and participate more actively in classroom discussions.
b) Children learn the national language, both written and oral, more easily and with greater understanding.
c) Children demonstrate a deeper understanding of all subjects.
The Aun El-Sharief Gasim Centre for Sudanese Languages has teamed up with the Ministry of Education of the Red Sea State and the Beja Cultural Studies Center of the Red Sea University to engage in research among rural Beja children. This pilot project will start with a Kindergarten 1 in 3 rural school areas and follow the children through MBT MLE up through grade 8. The results of this ground breaking research in Sudan can be used as a guide for other minority language groups in the country. It is our sincere desire that no child be left behind academically because of a language barrier, but that all children have a right to an excellent education that respects their language and culture.