World Vision’s efforts are to provide children with access to developmentally appropriate reading materials in the local language to foster foundational literacy skills as well as develop the habit of reading in the early years.
Mother tongue is the language that a person has grown up speaking from his/her early childhood. It is a person’s native language, therefore, the medium of communication that a person is most familiar with. This familiarity with the local language can be tailored to better children’s learning and education. However, not all countries around the world have been able to promote the local language despite the fact that children learn best in their local language.
The learning achievement of children in early grades is far below the expectation set by the national curriculum. As per the National Assessment for Reading and Numeracy 2020 Report, the reading and listening comprehension of the third graders is 48.76% and 47.18% respectively. More than 10% of school-going children enrolled in grade three could not read a single word correctly. While most of the children do not have adequate learning resources at home, the reading comprehension of children who do not have any reading resources at home is 43.27%. Among these, children who have at least some reading materials are found to have achieved significantly better in their studies than students who do not have any reading materials at home. One of the reasons for this under-achievement remains the language of instruction which is other than the mother tongue.
The right to get a school education in the mother tongue is a fundamental right as guaranteed by the Constitution of Nepal in 2015. Besides, several research across the globe have highlighted the fact that instruction in the mother tongue has greater results than using other languages as a medium of instruction. However, mother-tongue-based instruction has not been well established in the context of Nepal for several reasons and one of them is of course inadequate reading materials developed in the local language.
School education in one official language is often considered a barrier to the promotion of local languages. In Nepal, mother tongue education began after the reestablishment of democracy in 1990. Mother tongue education began in Nepal after the reestablishment of democracy in 1990. The then constitution made a provision, "Each community shall have the right to operate schools up to the primary level in its own mother tongue for imparting education to its children" (Constitution of Nepal 1990, Article 18, 2).
With the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2015 the right for each community to conduct teaching-learning activities at the primary level of school education in the student’s mother tongue has been ensured especially in schools where there are monolingual students. Not only the constitutional provision but also other reasons the mother tongue education system was introduced in Nepal. Some of the reasons for using mother tongue education at the school level mentioned by many researchers are to help children learn by breaking barriers of language in the school and preserving and promoting endangered languages through education. Many efforts have been made to scale up this initiative.
World Vision International Nepal has been working in close coordination with the Government of Nepal at all levels as well as other stakeholders to support the government in meeting its Sustainable Development Goal targets abiding by the Constitution. World Vision has been working with an objective to lay solid foundations for real, lasting community development and ensuring quality and inclusive education to all aligning with the inclusive curriculum. World Vision’s Unlock Literacy Programme has further added a milestone that extends into many dimensions like Reading Assessment, Teachers’ Training, Community Action, and Teaching Learning Materials Development.
Building interactive and resourceful classrooms by creating a print-rich environment is a fundamental approach to World Vision’s education program. World Vision intends to ensure interactive and effective learning in the classroom using various age and developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant teaching-learning materials. Unfortunately, many schools don’t have sufficient teaching materials in the classroom and the teachers are not trained to develop teaching materials as expected by curriculum.
To fill the gaps in mother-tongue-based reading materials, WVI Nepal initiated a pilot program to develop a series of reading materials in Tharu language. The reason to choose Tharu is that 6.2% of the total population consisted of Tharu ethnicity while the population of Tharu people speaking Tharu language is 5.88% (Census Report 2021). Through the intervention, a group of local writers were trained and engaged to write 10 books of different genre in Tharu language in close collaboration with the local governments. As a part of this initiative, a series of 15 books have been developed in the local Tharu language through Story Development Training for local writers and teachers. These books include story books, pictorial books, and decodables and are developmentally appropriate for early graders.
These activities are aligned with the NEGRP modality of the Government of Nepal. According to the 2021 census, . Of the total percentage of the Tharu ethnic people approximately 17.3% of are residing in Sudurpaschim province followed by 15% in Lumbini, and 5% and 4% in Madhesh and Koshi province respectively.
The teaching-learning materials in the Tharu language are the first of their kind in Nepal and aim to promote effective and quality learning among the primary-level students of the community. National Education Policy 2019 states that education in the mother tongue is crucial to making Nepal a fully literate country and developing a lifelong learning culture. The literacy rate of Nepal is still 76.2% as per census report 2021 whereas the literacy of women (69.4%) is comparatively lower than male. Mothers do care for children and at home there are very limited books for children especially there are limited books in the mother tongue. So, the books in the Rana Tharu language will be very helpful to children from the Rana Communities.
The books consist of cultural legend stories, pictorial story books, and decodable story books which are structured with early grade curriculum and language used for age-appropriate children.
World Vision has been actively engaging in the Education Technical Working Group for the Early Grade Reading Programme in Nepal and has contributed to developing a minimum package on EGRP and has made a commitment to apply those standards and packages in its programme implementation areas. It is anticipated that by the end of fiscal year 2023, children will utilize 90,939 reading materials with a variety of content. So, it intends to equip schools with age and developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant teaching and learning materials in the local language to promote the habit of reading in early grade.