Language of Instruction

Helpdesk Query:

What evidence is there of the impact of language of instruction, i.e. mother tongue or second language, on literacy and learning outcomes? Is there a difference in learning outcomes between children that become literate in their mother tongue as opposed to second or third language?

How should teaching practice be adapted for learning in a second language?  Is there evidence of programmes that have successfully improved the learning outcomes of second language learners?


This report gives an overview of the best evidence available on whether mother tongue is the most effective language of instruction for children.  It provides evidence of the impact of language of instruction on learning outcomes, international assessments of learning and provides data on the cost effectiveness of mother tongue instruction.  It also reports a lack of longitudinal evaluation studies of mother tongue programmes and contemplates the best strategies for instruction in a second language.

The report has the following sections:

  1. Key readings
  2. Arguments and evidence around school language
  3. Literacy and language
  4. Second language teaching and learning
  5. Mother tongue based multilingual education programmes
  6. Practical strategies to help multilingual education succeed
  7. Other useful resources


One comment on “Language of Instruction

  • May 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    These issues are so important for learning and very under-represented. We had a great response from those working in this area recommending papers and commenting on these issues – their passion and enthusiasm was really valued and shows the importance of pushing these issues up the agenda.


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