Report on the use of language in the classroom - Learnings from Nepal

There is far too little research done on the impact of the choice of medium of instruction that is South Asia based. It is therefore worth noting a recent study done in Nepal on that issue. Data was collected from local government executives, head teachers, teachers and parents, Ministry officials etc. The study is affirming some of the things that the experts have been preaching (e.g. using the local languages increases engagement and learning), but also pointing at an important gap: There is a need for creating more clarity for teachers on how to use multiple languages in the classroom!

A recent study was undertaken by UNICEF Nepal, CEHRD (Center for Education and Human Resource Development), UNESCO and the British Council in 2023. The full report  of this study called ‘Understanding the Impact of Languages and Language Policies on Children’s Learning Outcomes in Nepal’  was released by the British Council in December 2023. The study was aimed at understanding how languages used in schools impact student’s learning with regards to the use of an unfamiliar language or the mother tongue in education practices in Nepal. It has a nice concise summary at the beginning followed by more details for those who want to dive deeper.

Key Findings

The report has presented the following findings, which reflect the use and benefits of a multilingual practices in a classroom :

  1. There is more active participation and engagement when children, (especially early grades), are able to interact and learn in their mother tongue.

  2. Children, especially from early grades, develop stronger learning foundations when they learn in their mother tongue or a familiar language. They are not able to perform to the best of their ability when taught in an unfamiliar language.

  3. Children achieve  better in assessments and exams when they are taught in their mother tongue or a familiar language.

  4. When monolingual teaching practices are prioritised over multilingual ones the learner, teacher and families are put at a disadvantage as learning suffers.

  5. Learning improves when teachers use their own or their students' familiar language rather than English or another unfamiliar language . 

  6. Many times when the schools under pressure change the language of instruction to English, decreasing overall learning, engagement, and student outcomes. 

  7. When schools are given clear guidance and resources such as  curriculum materials, teacher training, advice, guidelines, and translation for a multilingual set up, the quality of education improves. (Page 8)

Key recommendations

Based on the learnings of this study stated above, the report goes on to make recommendations at the policy level and at the implementation level as well on how to promote multilingualism in education in Nepal. 

  1. Advocate and create dialogue – The endorsement of  multilingualism also requires resource allocation and research for multilingual teaching practices. 

  2. Use language/s of instruction that learners understand-This would mean creating a space for the use of multiple languages instead of one and would and should  also include assessment practices.

  3. Invest in piloting multilingual education programmes-  As pilot projects can demonstrate the learning benefits of using a multilingual approach. 

  4. Develop guidelines and resources to support multilingual education -The report endorses that a multilingual pedagogical approach must be implemented at all levels of education.

  5. Implementing Recommendations:

  1.  For implementation the report calls for a proper definition of multilingualism and its benefits  to education.

  2. It also calls for a national framework or a policy on multilingual education along with budget allocation and a schedule for implementation. 

  3. Good monitoring and documentation and sharing of good practices is also recommended.


Based on first hand, primary data that was collected in 2023, this report clearly shows that multilingual teaching benefits the learners. It challenges the push towards English as the preferred language instruction. The benefits of a multilingual education such as better learning outcomes, classroom engagement  of children, especially in early childhood has been documented well in this report.  At the same time the report makes clear that more clarity needs to be created on how multilingual Education should work out in the classroom. A lot of multilingual teaching is happening accidentally rather than planned which shows a lack of clarity.

We certainly hope that the recommendations of this report will influence change in the language policy and implementation for education in Nepal and the whole region. This will not only benefit the students in this country immensely  but also our wider learning about good practices for multilingual education.


Karsten, in collaboration with Upasana Lepcha


1.20240219 Understanding the Impact of Languages and Language Policies on Children's Learning Outcomes in Nepal

Photo source: Page 1(20240219 Understanding the Impact of Languages and Language Policies on Children's Learning Outcomes in Nepal)