Medium of instruction

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A medium of instruction (plural: usu. Mediums of instruction, but the archaic media of instruction is still used by some) is a language used in teaching. It may or may not be the official language of the country or territory. Where the first language of students is different from the official language, it may be used as the medium of instruction for part or all of schooling. Bilingual or multilingual education may involve the use of more than one language of instruction. UNESCO considers that "providing education in a child's mother tongue is indeed a critical issue".[1]

Media of instruction in different countries and regions[edit]


  • In Tanzania, Swahili is used in primary schools and adult education, whereas English is used in secondary schools and universities.[2]
  • In Zimbabwe, use of English, Shona and Ndebele is established in education until the fourth grade; from the fourth grade, English is the medium of instruction[3]
  • In South Africa, students are primarily taught in their home language from Grade Zero (Reception Year) up to Grade 3. From Grade 4 onwards, English is the default language of learning and teaching, except for a minority of schools where Afrikaans is used. The national curriculum requires that all students study at least two official languages as separate subjects, one of which must be studied at home language (HL) level and the other at least at first additional language (FAL) level. The most common home language among the school population is isiZulu.[4]

The Americas[edit]


Every public school uses Brazilian Portuguese as the medium of instruction, but no law prohibits the use of other languages in private schools. Many schools use other European languages (mainly because of the country's European heritage) such as English, German, Italian or French. Public schools also have mandatory English and Spanish, but only once or twice a week.


United States[edit]

American English is used, but in some schools, Spanish, French (in Louisiana), Hawaiian (in Hawaii) and local Native American/ American Indian languages are used as well.

  • The Cherokee Nation instigated a 10-year language preservation plan that involved growing new fluent speakers of the Cherokee language from childhood on up through school immersion programs as well as a collaborative community effort to continue to use the language at home.[5] This plan was part of an ambitious goal that in 50 years, 80% or more of the Cherokee people will be fluent in the language.[6] The Cherokee Preservation Foundation has invested $3 million into opening schools, training teachers, and developing curricula for language education, as well as initiating community gatherings where the language can be actively used.[6] Formed in 2006, the Kituwah Preservation & Education Program (KPEP) on the Qualla Boundary focuses on language immersion programs for children from birth to fifth grade, developing cultural resources for the general public and community language programs to foster the Cherokee language among adults.[7] There is also a Cherokee language immersion school in Tahlequah, Oklahoma that educates students from pre-school through eighth grade.[8]


  • In Azerbaijan, Azeri is the main language of instruction. Instruction in Russian and to a lesser extent in English at both secondary and post-secondary level is also offered in some educational institutions. Georgian is the language of instruction in secondary schools in the Georgian-populated northern regions. Education was conducted in Armenian in some secondary schools until the Nagorno-Karabakh War.
  • In Bangladesh, Bengali and English are used as mediums of instruction.[9]
  • In the People's Republic of China (PRC), Mandarin is used as the medium of instruction in most schools. In elementary and secondary schools for ethnic minorities, the minority languages - such as Mongolian, Tibetan and Korean - are also used.[10]
  • In Georgia, most schools conduct education in Georgian. The number of Azerbaijani schools is being reduced.[11]
  • In Hong Kong, either English or Cantonese is the medium in most schools at the primary and secondary level. EMI schools adopt English as the medium of instruction for almost all classes. CMI schools generally adopt Cantonese as the medium of instruction, however, a significant number of CMI schools use English for high school courses. English is used almost exclusively at the tertiary level.
  • In Israel, Hebrew is the medium in most schools, while Arabic is the medium in elementary and secondary schools for the Arab minority. Hebrew is used almost exclusively at the tertiary level.
  • In India, the medium of instruction varies among English, Hindi, and the respective states’ official languages. Private schools usually prefer English, while public (primary/secondary education) schools tend to go with one of the last two. However, the medium of instruction in colleges and universities is always either English or a regional language.
  • In Japan, Japanese is used in most schools (including Universities and Colleges).
  • In South and North Korea, Korean is used in most schools (including Universities and Colleges).
  • In Macau, Cantonese is used as the medium of instruction in many schools. Portuguese is used in Portugal-backed schools. English, which is not an official language of the region, is also used in a lot of schools.
  • In Pakistan, most public schools use Urdu while private schools have English as medium of instruction[citation needed]. English was made medium of instruction in 18 colleges in 2008.[12]
    • Government of the Punjab vide Notification No. PS/SSE/Misc/2009/176 dated 18-09-2009 required that the subjects of Science and Mathematics will be taught in English in each school.
  • In Taiwan, Mandarin is used as the medium of instruction in most schools.

South East Asia[edit]

  • In Philippines, the learner's first language should be the primary medium of instruction at least until grade three. From grade four onwards, Filipino and English are primary medium of instruction.[13]
  • In Singapore, in pre-schools children learn in two languages: English and a mother tongue, Chinese, Malay or Tamil;[14] the medium of instruction is English in all schools following the national curriculum, except in "mother-tongue" subjects. International and private schools may use other languages. See also Special Assistance Plan
  • In Cambodia, Khmer is the medium in most schools including universities.
  • In Vietnam, Vietnamese is the medium in most schools and universities.
  • In Thailand, Thai is the medium in most schools including universities.
  • In Laos, Lao is the medium in most schools including universities.
  • In Malaysia, Malay is the medium of instruction in most schools. However, there are also Chinese and Indian schools serving the respective communities, and these schools are allowed to use Mandarin and Tamil respectively as a medium of instruction, though Malay is still required to be taught as a subject. English-medium schools were present during the colonial period, though these were slowly phased out after independence and today, all the former English-medium schools have since been converted to Malay-medium schools. Nevertheless, English continues to be a compulsory subject in all Malaysian schools

Australia and Oceania[edit]

  • In Australia, most schools use English. However, in the State of Victoria (known for its many Greek and Italian settlers) there are a number of schools that teach in Greek and Italian. A number of schools also teach in French, Irish, Chinese, Arabic and Japanese.
  • In New Zealand, English is used in many schools, but a growing number of kohanga reo (kindergarten) and kura kaupapa (primary and secondary school) are using Māori instead.
  • In Vanuatu, English and French are principal languages of education.[15]


  • In Belarus, Russian is the main language of instruction. While Belarusian language schools comprise 53%, they are located mostly in rural areas and the share of students who receive instruction in Belarusian is as low as 18%.[16]
  • In Belgium, Dutch and French (and German in some parts of Eastern Belgium) are used.
  • In Croatia, besides Croatian-language education, Education of the representatives of national minorities is carried out in 24 elementary schools, where the program is conducted in the language and writing of a relevant national minority, while 61 elementary schools have classes with such program.[17]
  • In Estonia, as of 2011, there were 463 Estonian-medium schools, 62 Russian-medium schools and 36 mixed medium schools. 25% of vocational education is in Russian while the remainder Estonian. In higher education 90.2% is in Estonian, 7.8% in Russian and 1.85% in English.[18]
  • In Finland, Finnish is the language used in most schools, but Swedish, which is also an official national language, is used in a number of schools along the coast and Abo Akademi. The right to education in Swedish is based in the constitution. There are also a few schools where education is given to some extent in Sami in the north. See also Mandatory Swedish.
  • In France, legislation restricts languages other than French in state schools. Other languages of France are the medium of instruction in non-state schools such as Diwan Breton language-medium schools and the Calendretas in the south that use Occitan. See Language policy in France
  • In Ireland, English is used in most schools with a growing number of gaelscoileanna (10%) using Irish.
  • In Italy, while Italian is official language throughout the territory, French is co-official in Valle D'Aosta and German in South Tirol
  • In Latvia, Latvian is used in most schools. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, education is available in eight national minority languages – Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Hebrew and Romani.[19] Boriss Cilevičs, former chair of PACE sub-commission on minorities, notes that all minority schools (except the Russian and Polish ones) offer education in either Latvian or Russian, with corresponding minority language and culture taught as subjects.[20] The network of Russian-language schools is being reduced. Some Polish-language schools were created after restoration of independence. Education in public minority high schools is conducted mostly in Latvian since 2004, despite wide protests (Russian School Defense Staff).
  • In Lithuania, as at 2004/2005, 91.3% of pupils studied in Lithuanian, 5.3% in Russian and 3.6% in Polish in general education schools[21]
  • In the Republic of Macedonia, the state is obliged by Ohrid Agreement to provide university level education in languages spoken by at least 20 percent of the population[22] (Albanian)
  • In Moldova, Moldovan (Romanian) is used but Russian is slowly being introduced[citation needed].
  • In Norway, the medium of instruction is Norwegian. The state undertakes to provide a substantial part of pre-school education in Sami at least to those pupils whose families so request and whose number is considered sufficient.[23]
  • In Romania, the medium of instruction is mostly Romanian, but the state undertakes to provide education in minority languages up to the following level: in Russian — a substantial part of pre-school education at least to those pupils whose families so request and whose number is considered sufficient, in Bulgarian, Czech — a substantial part of primary education, in Croatian — a substantial part of secondary education, in Serbian, Turkish, Ukrainian and Slovak — secondary education, in German and Hungarian — higher education.[23]
  • In Russia, Russian language is dominating in education. Approximately 6% of students learn at school in minority languages.[24] Besides, some tertiary education establishments use Tatar as a language of instruction alongside Russian.[25]
  • In Slovakia, education in minority languages has to be provided in municipalities where Slovak citizens speaking respective language constitute more than 20% of population: higher, technical and vocational education - in Hungarian, a substantial part of technical and vocational education - in Ruthenian and Ukrainian, substantial part of pre-school education for those pupils whose families so request and whose number is considered sufficient — in Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, German, Polish and Roma.[23]
  • In Slovenia, the general medium of instruction is Slovene. In the area populated by the Hungarian ethnic minority, bilingual instruction in Slovene and Hungarian is compulsory. In the Italian ethnic community area, basic education can be provided either in Slovene or in Italian.[26]
  • In Switzerland, German, French, Italian, and/or Romansh are used in most schools.
  • In Ukraine, mediums of instruction in pre-school education are Ukrainian, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian, Moldovan, Crimean Tatar, English, Polish and German, in general education — Ukrainian, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian, Moldovan, Crimean Tatar, Polish, Bulgarian and Slovak, in vocational training — Ukrainian and Russian, in higher education — Ukrainian, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian[27]
  • In the United Kingdom, English is mostly used.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Results of the 7th consultation of member states on the implementation of the Convention and Recommendation against discrimination in education. Para. 41
  2. ^ Kiswahili Tanzania National Website
  3. ^ 5.1.9 Language laws // Zimbabwe. International Database of Cultural Policies
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Native Now : Language: Cherokee". We Shall Remain - American Experience - PBS. 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Cherokee Language Revitalization". Cherokee Preservation Foundation. 2014. Retrieved April 9, 2014. 
  7. ^ Kituwah Preservation & Education Program Powerpoint, by Renissa Walker (2012)'. 2012. Print.
  8. ^ Chavez, Will (April 5, 2012). "Immersion students win trophies at language fair". Retrieved April 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ Olinda Hassan Education in Transition: English based learning in Bangladesh today Forum, The Daily Star
  10. ^ Minglang Zhou, Hongkai Sun (2004). Language Policy in the People's Republic of China: Theory and Practice Since 1948. Springer. pp. 119–120. ISBN 9781402080388. 
  11. ^ Alternative report on the implementation by Georgia of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in the region of Kvemo Kartli — p. 59
  12. ^ 18 colleges declared 'English medium'
  13. ^ Enclosure No. 1 to Department of Education Order No. 74, 2009
  14. ^ Pre-school Education
  15. ^ Constitution of Vanuatu Article 3
  16. ^ Почему белорусcких школ становится всё меньше? Белорусский Партизан 2010(Russian)
  17. ^ Elementary Education Ministry of Education of Croatia
  18. ^ National system overview on education systems in Europe, Estonia (PDF). EURYDICE. 2011. 
  19. ^ Minority education: statistics and trends
  20. ^ Comments by Mr Boriss Cilevics, Member of the Latvian Delegation Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 2006 — Para. 13
  21. ^ Education in Lithuania. Facts and Figures pp. 42-43
  22. ^ Part 6 Ohrid Agreement
  23. ^ a b c List of declarations made with respect to treaty No. 148 Council of Europe
  24. ^ Об исполнении Российской Федерацией Рамочной конвенции о защите национальных меньшинств. Альтернативный доклад НПО Москва, 2006 — § 331 (Russian)
  25. ^ Сулейманова Д. Языковая ситуация в Республике Татарстан 2009(Russian)
  26. ^ Compulsory basic education in Slovenia Ministry of Education and Sport of Slovenia
  27. ^ Third report submitted by Ukraine pursuant to Article 25, Paragraph 2 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities pp. 42-43

External links[edit]