This commentary was written by Barbara Trudell, Director of SIL Africa Learning & Development, and Peggy Dubeck, Senior Literacy Researcher at RTI International

One of the acknowledged benefits of standard global curricula for the primary grades is that they provide all students with appropriate and equal knowledge, facilitating each student’s academic development and readiness for further schooling. Yet millions—yes, millions—of children around the world are being expected to learn primary-grade curriculum content with no mastery whatsoever of the language being used to teach that content. This is not only vastly unfair but also pedagogically disastrous.

Students’ mastery of the language of instruction is a crucial component of successful learning, particularly when it comes to acquiring foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN) skills. Communicating with and understanding the teacher, as well as reading and understanding texts and examinations, are central to successful classroom learning.