The proposal for an International Mother Tongue Day was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and since then there has been a growing understanding of the important role of the mother tongue for individuals and societies, a rising awareness that multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way. However, we still have a long way to go because, according to UNESCO, every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.Despite the important role of mother tongue particularly in education, 40% of the population globally does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. Nevertheless, progress is being made in mother tongue-based multilingual education with growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life.

Specifically, the importance of mother tongue in education is due to that:

  • It is the best medium for the expression of one’s ideas and feelings, and hence the most potent agent for mutual communication and exchange of ideas.
  • It is through the mother tongue that individuals form themselves into social groups.
  • It is the best medium for acquiring knowledge and instrument for intellectual development.
  • It is an instrument of self-expression, emotional development and individual growth of the pupil.