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Language and Learning in Ethiopia

James, Zoe Cariad; (2018) Language and Learning in Ethiopia. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis examines the relationship between language of instruction policy and educational outcomes in Ethiopia. In 1994 Ethiopia introduced a mother tongue education policy which marked a move away from Amharic-only instruction, to the use of multiple local languages in primary schooling. This thesis investigates three key dimensions of this policy: (i) whether there is an advantage to being a ‘mother tongue learner’ in terms of learning outcomes; (ii) whether there are inequalities in learning progress between students learning in different languages of instruction, and if so, why; and (iii) whether the use of multiple mother tongues for school instruction can ensure access to essential languages of wider communication, and if not, with what implications. The mixed methods analysis finds that (i) there is an advantage to being a ‘mother tongue learner’ in Amharic language classes, but this advantage disappears when other indicators of educational experience are taken into account, and varies between linguistic environments/ contexts; (ii) that stakeholders support the use of mother tongue for reasons that relate both to pedagogy, and to the assertion of ethnolinguistic identity, emphasising the nonlearning-related benefits of the policy; (iii) that between-language of instruction inequality of learning outcomes are evident, with students learning in many of the newly introduced languages of instruction making less progress in mathematics than their counterparts in Amharic language of instruction classrooms; (iv) that these between-language inequalities in learning outcomes may be explained by variation in literate environments and linguistic development and standardisation, as well as heterogeneity of school quality between different linguistic communities; and (v) that stakeholders perceive important inequalities in opportunities to acquire languages of wider communication (Amharic and English) between students learning in different languages of instruction, raising important concerns about the extent to which the policy can translate into social and economic opportunity and mobility for all.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Language and Learning in Ethiopia
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10042137
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