International Mother Language Day 2018

21 February 2018

UNESCO promotes multilingual and multicultural education in the context of Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship Education from the earliest years of schooling. It raises awareness on this issue during the International Mother Language Day which takes place on February 21.

2018 theme of the Day is on preserving linguistic diversity and promoting multilingualism to support the Sustainable Development Goal on quality education and its target 6: "Ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy..


To foster quality education, learners must have access to education in their mother tongue and in other languages. It is through the mastery of the first language and mother tongue that the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy are acquired. Turning to multilingual education ensures sustainable development as envisaged in Sustainable Development Goal 4, target 6 that seeks to ensure that by 2030 all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women achieve basic literacy and numeracy.

What is multilingual education?

Multilingual education facilitates access to education while promoting equity for populations speaking minority and/or indigenous languages, especially girls and women:

  • It emphasizes the quality of teaching and learning with a focus on understanding and creativity;
  • It reinforces the cognitive aspect of learning by ensuring the direct application of learning outcomes to the learners life through the mother tongue
  • It enhances dialogue and interaction between learner and teacher by allowing genuine communication from the beginning.
  • It facilitates participation and action in society and gives access to new knowledge and cultural expressions, thus ensuring a harmonious interaction between the global and the local.

Devoted to the mother language and multilingual education, UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau in Bangkok developed Mother Tongue Based - Multilingual Education Resource Kit for three specific stakeholder groups: policy makers, programme implementers and community members. The five booklets in the Kit provide a big picture of successful Mother Tongue Based - Multilingual Education programmes and suggestions for the roles each group can take as they plan, implement and maintain their programmes.

In 1999, the General Conference of UNESCO proclaimed the International Mother Language Day to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

A regional workshop on multilingual and multicultural education in Kazakhstan was recently held in Shymkent from 4 to 8 December 2017 organized by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) in cooperation with the National Center for Professional Development ORLEU Kazakhstan, the UNESCO Almaty Cluster Office for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and UNICEF in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Full article, please see here.

Message from Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day
education transforms lives

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