Language and the Learning Crisis: Evidence of Transfer Threshold Mechanisms in Multilingual Reading in South India

Pooja Reddy Nakamura, Thomas De Hoop, and Chinmaya Udayakumar Holla

Published in The Journal of Development Studies, July 30, 2018.

Despite significant progress in school enrollment numbers, improvements in students' learning achievement have lagged behind in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately 250 million children across the world are not acquiring basic reading skills, even though about half of them have spent at least four years in school.

This paper examines when local language-speaking children in South India are ready to begin literacy acquisition in English (a second or later acquired language). In one of the first studies to empirically examine this question in India, the authors found that there is a “threshold” point—that can be measured by teachers and other education stakeholders—at which a child is ready to benefit from the introduction of English instruction. The study has implications for education programming and policy decisionmaking in India.

Pooja Nakamura
Principal Researcher and Program Area Lead, International Education
Image of Thomas de Hoop
Managing Economist and Program Area Lead, Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition