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Millennium Development Goals > Promote gender equality and empower women > Mother-tongue literacy class improves school comprehension

Meeting Millennium Development Goals
through local languages

Goal 3. Promote gender equality and empower women
SIL views local language development as essential to achieve this goal.

Nearly two-thirds of the world's 875 million illiterate people are women. In ethnolinguistic communities, boys are often encouraged to interact with others in languages of wider communication. Girls, however, are typically expected to stay close to home where the local language is often the only language used. Research shows that girls and women who are educated in languages familiar to them stay in school longer and achieve better results than those who do not get mother-tongue instruction.

Mother-tongue literacy class improves school comprehension

Fah (left) is on the cover of the Advocacy Kit for Promoting Multilingual Education: Including the Excluded, a collaborative publication of five booklets  by UNESCOBangkok and SIL. Fah (left) is on the cover of the Advocacy Kit for Promoting Multilingual Education: Including the Excluded, a collaborative publication of five booklets by UNESCO Bangkok and SIL.

Raised in Huay Chompuu village in Northern Thailand, Fah is the youngest of five children. She grew up speaking her mother tongue, Bisu, and Northern Thai, as well as listening to the Central Thai language on television. When Fah started school, however, she struggled with reading and writing Central Thai.

Then Fah attended a literacy class in her village and learned to read and write Bisu using a Thai-based script. Her Central Thai reading and writing skills improved dramatically, her confidence rose and her grades at school improved. Her sister, a teacher, is convinced that it was the mother-tongue literacy class that made the difference.