Learning in a mother language (first language) is incredibly important to children’s further development and education. Early grade reading instruction should be in a language children speak and understand. When the instruction is in an unfamiliar language, an enormous amount of time must be spent first teaching children to understand, speak, read, and write that foreign language. This is difficult in low-resource contexts and wastes valuable time in the early grades. (USAID 2013)
Learning in a familiar language improves school outcomes, reduces repetition, and reduces dropout. Children with instruction in their mother tongue are significantly more likely to be enrolled and attending school. Children learn to read faster if they speak the language of instruction because they already have the vocabulary, knowledge of the construction of the language, and the ability to pronounce the sounds of the language. This knowledge facilitates children’s learning to read and understand what they read. (USAID 2013)
The challenging socioeconomic circumstances surrounding the state of Haitian education are furthermore aggravated by the historical retention of the colonial French language spoken fluently by an estimated 5% of the Haitian population. The French language is the official language of the education sector, all the didactic material and the related testing for graduation is in French. The Haitian population speaks Creole. (“Didactic” Greek didaktikos, from didaskein “to teach”)
Starting in early 2000′s under the policies of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide Creole became the official language of government. Under President Aristide, the Ministry of Education has promoted Creole as a language and an ongoing trend of learning in the native Creole language. Most classrooms in Haiti operate in Creole with none or low comprehension of the textbooks still written in French.
Teachers’ inability to access professional development at “Ecole Normale”, limited income, and the French language as the official language of education, are the primary reasons why most teachers are underqualified.
When teachers engage their students in a quality literacy circle in a culturally relevant environment it allows the student the opportunity to interpret from more than one perspective and point of view; be purposeful and reflective; and promotes curiosity, inquiry, and critical thinking.