There have been reservations about the lexical capacity of indigenous languages to

express the realities of modern science and technology and thus be effective in classroom
instruction. Critics also note local languages’ limited geographical significance, lack of
standardization and orthography of most of them and the proliferation of dialects (Prah, 2009). In
considering the use of local languages for instruction, however, their subjective and objective
characteristics must first be considered, in line with Stern (1983). The objective characteristics of
a language medium have to do with its standardization. That is, to make a suitable language of
instruction (LOI), a local language should be codified – organized into a system or code – to
minimize its variations; elaborated to enable it to be adapted to a wide range of functions; and,
written down so people can have material to read in it. The higher up in an education system a
language is to be used, the more standard it needs to be. The subjective characteristics of a
language are: the language should be considered suitable by users and worth the effort to
acquire; it should be teachable to the required standard with sufficient resources for its
dissemination; and, it should be experienced in use in a natural, informal, undirected language
environment such as the home. In most cases, an L2 meets these criteria better than an L1.
However, L1s can be developed to satisfy these criteria.
Hailey (1938) notes that the lexical capacity of indigenous languages can be increased
and that even with dialectal differences, most languages have similar structures that can be
standardized. An education system that utilizes L1 enables the development of agreed
orthographies in order to transmit curriculum content to learners. These agreed-upon writing and
spelling systems will however need to accurately represent speech patterns acceptable to
speakers of the language and be easy to transcribe in order to produce reading materials. This

ethnicity. Thus. and … mother tongue-based schooling can be properly implemented” (Benson 2004). But even if minimally implemented.requires collaboration between linguists. educators. . it can only work where “basic human needs are being met so that schooling can take place. merely changing the language of instruction without addressing pressing political and social issues in a country will not significantly improve educational outcomes. 2009). because language cuts across issues of race. publishers and local community members (Young. While there is a vast array of evidence showing an L1-based system can improve education in developing countries. an L1-based system has the potential to reach those traditionally left behind or marginalized. gender and poverty.