Sunday, 21 September 2008

Indigenous languages help to fight illiteracy

JAKARTA (JP): The Education Ministry said the use of indigenouslanguages during a pilot project for teachers instructingstudents in informal schools had been conducted with somesuccess.

Dendy Sugono, the Ministry's language center director, told aforum here Monday the pilot project had included illiterateadults and had focused on reading and writing in BahasaIndonesia. He said the project had shown students could more easily learnto read and write in Indonesian if classroom teachings wereconducted in their "mother tongue".

The illiteracy rate in Indonesia was sitting at 7.2 percent,or some 11 million people in 2007. The government has aimed to reduce this figure by threemillion people in 2009, in line with the United Nation'sMillennium Development Goals to eradicate illiteracy by 2015. "We are running a pilot project in Subang, Banten, which seesadults learn Indonesian in Sundanese," Dendy said.

The forum was co-organized by the ministry, the United NationsEducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the embassies of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The event was inline with International Mother Tongue Day, which falls every Feb.21. The use of indigenous languages as a mean of instruction wasinitiated by UNESCO, which also aims to preserve cultural andlinguistic diversity in education and to face the threat of locallanguage extinction.

Dendy said the use of local languages as a mean ofinstruction, however, was faced with challenges because of thelimited vocabularies of those languages.

"We have 746 indigenous languages and only very few are welldeveloped with enough vocabulary to express what we mean," hesaid. (lln/**)

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