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Kathmandu, March 11, 2009- The Multilingual Education (MLE) experts have pointed out the necessity of clear MLE policy for the effective implementation of Multilingual Education in Nepal.

In a programme titled 'Seminar on MLE Policy and Strategy Development' organized by the Department of Education, Multilingual Education Program, on Wednesday in the capital of Nepal, they highlighted the need and importance of mother tongue-based multilingual education for non-Nepali speaking children of different indigenous and minorities peoples.

Presenting the paper on "Multilingual policy and strategy Development" international MLE expert Dr. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas of Denmark stated the necessity to have a country wide campaign about MLE to raise awareness about its significance in a multilingual Nepali society. Dr. Skutnabb-Kangas explained the United Nation’s and UNESCO's provision for mother tongue education as a human right.

"Mother tongue-based MLE is necessary for maintenance of linguistic and cultural diversity on earth and for creativity, maintaining traditional ecological knowledge, and for the maintenance of biodiversity." she said.

Citing examples of positive implementation of mother tongue education in Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia, she said," Nepal can provide mother tongue-based MLE education up to 8 grade."

It is also stated that the dominant language medium education for Indigenous and Minority children can cause serious physical and mental harm and transfer children into the dominant group.

"This also prevents access to education thus violating the right to education and leading to the extinction of Indigenous tribal and local languages" she added.

She further said the political will for the implementation of existing laws regarding linguistic human rights are mostly lacking.

The paper went on to say that about 90-95% of the world's languages may be seriously extinct or endangered by the year 2100 if the present scenario is not counteracted seriously and immediately.

Another renowned MLE expert, Professor Dr. Ajit Kumar Mohanty of Jawaharlal Nehru University presented a paper asserting that the state must include MLE policy in the constitution and work for its effective and immediate implementation.
''As Nepal is going for federal structure where the issue of language matters a lot, you must move ahead positively to establish language policy in the constitution and in its implementation."
Stating that India has no comprehensive language policy until now, he said "it is good to see that Nepal is much more ahead in this issue."

"We should adopt such policy which can address existing language problems." he added.

National Technical Advisor of MLE programme, linguist Amrit Yonjan-Tamang also presented a paper on 'MLE Development in Nepal'.

He informed the audience that in an active participation and coordination of students, teachers, school management committee and local linguistic groups, teaching materials based on local subject matters in eight languages have been prepared so far.

According to him, MLE Program has currently 7 pilot schools in 6 districts - Rasuwa, Palpa, Dhankuta, Kanchanpur, Sunsari and Jhapa and is working with 9 languages.

"These experiences and achievements will hopefully support the development of national MLE policies and strategies in education." said Yonjan.

The Secretary of Education Ministry Ram Sworup Sinha, who chaired the first session, shared his experience that MLE is a completely new subject for Nepal.

"Politically, socially and academically we need MLE but we have to be ready to face the challenges and the protest while implementing it" stated Sinha, adding, "at first we should decide which MLE model is suitable for Nepal as we can only take suggestions from the international MLE experts and cannot adopt the models applied in their countries."

He revealed that according to the new National Curriculum Framework, grades 1 to 8 would be basic level and grades 9 to 12 secondary level.

He expressed his commitment to continue MLE in the country and urged sensitivity about its future.

In the second session, Dr Shuahan Acharya and Dr. Yogendra Yadav presented papers on 'MLE Education Policy in Nepal' and 'MLE Implementation Strategy in Nepal' respectively.

Many participated in the ensuing discussion. The presenters answered questions raised by the participants and accepted suggestions for future use.

Chairperson of the second session, Joint Secretary of Ministry of Education , Janardan Nepal agreed to take the presented suggestions and views seriously and committed to work for the continuity of MLE.

-Sangmo Yonjan-Tamang in Kathmandu

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