Reports from countries and regions involved in the Out-of-School Children Initiative have indicated that children from communities marginalized because of ethnicity face significant barriers to education. For example, children from marginalized ethnic groups in Bolivia, Ecuador, India and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic are up to three times more likely to be out of school than children from other groups.

Language is one the main reasons children from marginalized groups do not attend school. According to some estimates, as much as 40 percent of the global learners do not have access to education in a language they speak or understand.

In many education systems, national and international languages dominate, leaving some children excluded from many learning environments. Materials in non-dominant languages, bilingual learning opportunities and adequately trained teachers are limited.

Research has indicated that providing instruction in a child’s mother tongue is instrumental to educational achievement, especially in the early years. At least six years of mother tongue instruction is needed to reduce learning gaps for minority language speakers.

The cost of providing teachers, materials and curricula in the languages children speak at home can be formidable. However, the financial resources need to be balanced against the social costs of out-of-school children.