Mother languages are essential to providing quality education, which in turn supports the achievement of the new global development agenda, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said on the International Mother Language Day, marked on Sunday. The annual Feb. 21 observance was established by UNESCO in November 1999, to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world.
Marking this year’s International Mother Language Day on the theme, “Quality education, language of instruction and learning,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova emphasized that “mother languages in a multilingual approach are essential components of quality education, which is itself the foundation for empowering women and men and their societies.” She underscored the need to recognize and nurture this power, in order to “leave no one behind” and “craft a more just and sustainable future for all.”
Bokova noted that Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focuses on quality education and lifelong learning for all, to enable every woman and man to acquire skills, knowledge, and values to become everything they wish and participate fully in their societies. This, she said, is especially important for girls and women, as well as minorities, indigenous peoples, and rural populations. UNESCO's Education 2030 Framework for Action, a road-map to implement the 2030 Agenda, or the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) encourages full respect for the use of mother language in teaching and learning, and the promotion and preservation of linguistic diversity, noted Bokova. “Multilingualism is essential to drive these objectives forward – it is vital for success across the 2030 Agenda, regarding growth, employment and health, as well as sustainable consumption and production, and climate change,” she said.
UNESCO brings the same focus to advancing linguistic diversity on the Internet, through support to relevant local content as well as media and information literacy, explained Bokova. Through the Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme, UNESCO is highlighting the importance of mother and local languages as channels for safeguarding and sharing indigenous cultures and knowledge, which are vast reservoirs of wisdom.
The Feb. 12 date of the International Mother Language Day recalls the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh. (Source: UN)