Research Article 2

The effectiveness of a mother tongue based education to improve learning outcomes and second language acquisition in public primary schools of Zone 3, Mauritius

Preeya Daby

University of Leicester


If Blommaert (2012) enumerates the richness of multilingualism in a global economy, Brand (2006) emphasises the injustice and the discrimination occasioned upon imposition of dominant (European) languages in the education sector. Language can become paradoxically a barrier when students are not familiar with the school language and this impacts negatively on their studies (Malone, 2012); as well as a bridge through the mother tongue (MT) to facilitate learning. International organisations like UNESCO have always promoted mother tongue education which is a powerful way to fight discrimination. Education in a multilingual context such as that of Mauritius is a complex issue when English, the official language of instruction of all prescribed contents in the primary curriculum, is hardly spoken by most of the students while the MT: the Creole language is relegated to an inferior position. Reports from official bodies such as the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate, responsible for all examinations taking place in the country, continually account for the declining academic level of students.

The present paper focuses on the literature review as a fundamental part of a research project conducted in primary schools of Zone 3[1] to be aware of current linguistic practices and choices in class between teachers and students during the process of learning and communication. In this context, 62 teachers participated in an online survey and their attitudes, beliefs and experiences were evaluated. Findings show that the school language represents a barrier to the academic achievements of students at primary level. English is foreign to most of them; they are least exposed to this language at home and even in the media where the preponderance of French is noted. Most learners usually communicate in the Mauritian Creole and this tendency seems to continue inside classrooms. Most teachers acknowledge lesser use of English while Creole alongside French are more present during teaching, explaining lessons and other classroom’s activities. Moreover when English as the medium of instruction, limits the comprehension faculties of learners, Creole is often looked upon as the sole support.

Based on the experience of the surveyed teachers, the effectiveness of the MT in supporting meaningful learning and enhancing learning abilities is established. The MT factor is one among those variables, if given full recognition at academic level, may bring considerable change in the Mauritian education and in most developing countries.

Keywords: mother tongue; mother tongue based education; foreign language; language of instruction; attitudes; perceptions; effectiveness; learning abilities.