D. Language issues
14. The cultural importance of introducing mother tongues and national languages into educational systems was cited by numerous delegates. Language, it was observed, is the most evident and pervasive manifestation of culture and is often the central point in establishing and maintaining the cultural identity of a people. Hence, policies concerned with culture and cultural identity must be closely linked to the language policies pursued in the educational system. Many delegates referred to their national language policies and goals. Several of them noted that increasing efforts were being made to introduce initial education in the mother tongue of the learners, both in primary schools and adult literacy classes. Others spoke of measures to ensure the wider use of national languages as vehicles not only of literature and history but also of science and technology. The development of technical dictionaries was cited as an example of measures being undertaken to this end. The use of national languages for basic education and international languages for higher levels of instruction, particularly in scientific and technical subjects, was seen as contributing to an unhealthy separation of education from culture and an undesirable division of education into distinct parts, with those perceived as most prestigious being precisely those furthest removed from the national culture.
15. A delegate from an industrialised country referred to the importance his country attaches to maintaining the vitality of four languages, used by cultural groups of very different sizes, and to the essential role of education in this process. Another delegate from a developing nation discussed the need to make wider use of an international language for promoting dialogue between linguistic groups without according a privileged position to any of them and the resulting need to expand instruction in this language. Other delegates cited the need to develop and implement multilingual policies in which initial instruction was offered in the mother tongue, while a national language of wider usage is introduced, at an early stage, as a second language. At more advanced levels of schooling, the national language becomes the language of instruction and an international language is introduced as the 'second' language. Indeed, the majority of presentations to the plenary meetings included references to various aspects of language policy in education.
16. Many speakers stressed the multicultural role of education in their countries in awakening young people to the distinctive features of their own and other cultures. Some speakers used the term 'intercultural' so as to emphasise communication between cultures and the goal of raising the young to be tolerant of other cultures in a spirit of international understanding. In fact the whole question of intercultural communication, in particular the learning of languages other than the mother tongue, emerged as one of the central themes of the debate.
17. Several speakers, remarking that they came from small and linguistically homogeneous countries, considered that the teaching of foreign languages was imperative in their countries in order to avoid cultural isolation.
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