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MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Great Ideas Change the World

The importance of native languages in education
Improving outcomes for Haitian students by teaching in Krèyol

 



This video provides a short overview of the science and data that show why children's native languages are necessary for learning to read and write — and everything else. In the case of Haiti, Haitian Creole ("Kreyòl"), as the native language of all Haitians, should be the cornerstone of literacy and public education projects.

In the first part of this video, Professor Stanislas Dehaene at the Collège de France provides an overview of findings from neuroscience about “pillars” in the human brain that help us learn how to read. In the second part of the video, MIT Professor of Linguistics Michel DeGraff analyzes the implications of these findings for Haiti, especially regarding how Haitian children are learning (or not learning) how to read.

One conclusion is that Kreyòl is an indispensable tool for learning to read in Haiti, although for generations most Haitian children have been taught in French, a language that they do not know. Such efforts to teach Haitian children in French are, by and large, unsuccessful — unsurprisingly so, given the cognitive science that is explained in this video.

In July 2015, in response to efforts catalyzed by MIT Professor Michel DeGraff and colleagues, Haiti’s government announced a new policy to educate students in Kreyòl, the native language of most Haitians, rather than French, the language traditionally used in schools.


Suggested links

Michel DeGraff's website

MIT-Haiti Initiative

MIT Linguistics

SHASS Archive: “Haitian educators, MIT faculty develop Kreyòl-based teaching tools”

3 Questions with Michel DeGraff on Haiti's new policy for teaching in Kreyòl
In July 2015, Haiti’s government announced a new policy to educate students in Kreyòl, the native language of most Haitians, rather than French, the language traditionally used in schools.