Narrowing the language gap for Africa's learners

A pathway for change model


  • Leila Schroeder SIL


language transfer, orthographic distance, linguistic distance, equal access to learning, L1 reading, late exit models, disempowerment, oral language development


Even a quick glance at international data reveals something troubling: There is an increasing economic and educational gap between Africa and the rest of the world. If we look just a bit deeper, we find that economic and educational stagnation may simply be the inevitable outcomes of broad educational failure for millions of rural African children. Behind that educational failure is a “gap,” a chasm that most African learners must leap in order to succeed academically to benefit the entire continent. I suspect it is linguistic to its very core.  

This research follows a backward trail all the way from university level to the point of entry for early grade teaching across Africa. It asks three questions: 1) Why isn’t L1 reading instruction giving students success in the primary school years? 2) Why are students not gaining adequate oral L2 for use as medium of instruction beyond primary?  And 3) How might a reading transfer curriculum close the final gap, providing meaningful access to L2 textbooks for all African students? As these questions are answered by current research, the findings suggest solutions. I propose a series of three language-related strategies aimed at closing the education gap—a yawning chasm—for all African youth.