Minority languages for instruction: A comparative study of teachers’ perspectives in Tanzania and Brazil


Jean Antunes

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Lilian Vikiru

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Shelley Jones


Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


Research has pointed to the benefits of children learning in their mother tongue, and much has been discussed and done to assert the rights of ethnic minorities toward the use of their language in education. However, it has also been shown that there are instances in which education in the mother tongue is not preferred. This has many implications for the education systems of multilingual countries such as Tanzania and Brazil that have to deal with a multiplicity of languages in the school. Education stakeholders face these issues on a daily basis. In view of these implications this study set out to explore and compare teachers’ perspectives of minority languages for instruction in Tanzania and Brazil. This qualitative research focused on a primary school in rural Tanzania, and in a primary school in an indigenous community in Brazil. Both schools are located in communities where the minority languages are widely spoken. The data collection methods used consisted of interviews, observations, and document analysis. This study found out that the teachers in the Tanzanian school do not view minority language for instruction positively. For these teachers the current use of Swahili as language of instruction is appropriate because it is the language that allows communication in the country and unites Tanzanians. The indigenous teachers in Brazil see the minority language for instruction positively as a way of ensuring that their culture is preserved and their traditions maintained. The complexities of these contexts are explored and the implications of these findings are discussed.

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