Multilingualism in education. A story of many people. A topic that creates new challenges and new insights in all corners of the world. In November 2020, experts from Vietnam, South Africa and Belgium met virtually to exchange knowledge, experiences and inspiration. 

Couldn't you be there or did you miss something? (Re)watch the recordings here!
From 17 to 26 November, over 450 pre- and in-service teacher trainers, (student) teachers and school leaders from different parts of the world tuned into our first Digital Learning Week for 1,5 hour sessions on multilingualism in education.

Hanan Challouki was the host and opened the first live stream session. We started with talks about multilingualism and education in Vietnam, South Africa and Belgium. Three countries, three different contexts, but many common challenges. Anh Phuong Ha, Global Teacher Prize top 10 finalist 2020, stressed in her keynote the importance of the role of teachers.
During the following days, participants were able to deepen their knowledge and get inspired during various thematic sessions in which we gave the floor to even more speakers from Vietnam, South Africa and Belgium. They shared their expertise on material development, reading for meaning and professional development. After all, how do you learn a language without books and stories or without well-trained teachers?

Not only the speakers but also participants shared stories about how they deal with multilingualism in education. At the end of each session, participants received a practical task on which they elaborated the following week during the thematic work sessions.


It were days full of good practices and tips. What we remember is that multilingualism in education is a story of many people, where cooperation is key. We need everyone: political leaders, school leaders, teacher trainers, parents, the whole community ... and, of course, the teachers. They play an enormously important role in creating a safe, meaningful and positive language learning environment.

The importance of the mother tongue

When a learner feels safe and is allowed to use their mother tongue in the classroom, they will feel more confident and will be able to learn both their mother tongue and the language of instruction faster and better. It is not necessary for the teacher to understand the mother tongue, but by building a bridge between the different languages, you give recognition to the mother tongue and the identity of the learner.

Language is power

Some languages are considered more powerful than others and, for example, there are many ethnic minority languages that are considered less valuable. This is something we should be aware of and also pay attention to in the classroom. Because every language is equally valuable and enriching.


Kira Boe from Oxfam Ibis concluded with a keynote in which she emphasised the importance of multilingualism in education for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal Quality Education (SDG4).

Key take-aways

A creative interpretation

The illustrations were made by Nilu Kuhpour. She gave her own interpretation of what she heard during the opening and closing session. You can have a look at all her creations at the bottom of this page.

Spoken word artist Sarah Bekambo closed both live streams with touching words about her experience with multilingualism and multiculturalism.

This is what some participants remember after their participation:

“I learnt plenty, but especially that we share these challenges and that we stand stronger together”, read one participant’s feedback. “Multilingualism is a must”, read another, “and it’s important to learn from each other and adapt."

Couldn't you be there or did you miss something? (Re)watch the recordings!Watch the individual presentations

Illustrations by Nilu Kuhpour