Funding Language Education for Sustainable National Development in the 21st Century

Funding Language Education for Sustainable National Development in the 21st Century


Funding Language Education is important to achieving sustainable national development in this 21st century. For a state or society to attain a zenith in sustainable national development, the government must be ready to disburse adequate funds to this sector to improve the quality of its language education. In its modest contributions, this paper attempts to explain the concept of language, education, sustainable national development and language education in the 21st century. The paper provides insight into various challenges confronting education in the 21st century. It finally suggested ways to solve challenges confronting language education issues, providing useful recommendations.


It is not out of place to begin a term paper of this magnitude with language as its main thrust with working definitions. According to the renowned linguist Halliday(1964), language is a paternal social activity of human beings displaying patterns of substance (phonetics and graphics), form (grammar and lexis) and context. Language education can also be viewed as the process and practice of acquiring a second or foreign language.

From the above working definitions, one can see that because human beings as social animals need information and communication, there is a compelling need to fund language education to have a platform for communicating ideas, emotions etc., with the rest of the world.

Funding Language Education in this 21st century is a key issue for every nation that wants to attain the highest stage of national development. Funding language education will help to provide basic skills for employment, improve health and well-being, develop social skills, enhance unity and citizenship, and build international competitiveness (Little & Green, 2009). For third-world nations with high rates of poverty and relatively weak economies, it is often seen as a key strategy for improving the future of people in need. However, third-world nations have to make particularly difficult budgetary choices (Martin & Lomperis, 2002). Quality language education must be balanced with the need to improve critical basic infrastructure such as power generation and distribution, transport, housing, and safe water.

The literature on education and development is highly relevant to the lives of billions of people. Williams and Cooke (2002) provide an excellent overview to help language educators understand the foundations of development theory. They outline two different models for development. The first model of development they describe is primarily economic. They describe neoliberal and structuralist development as relying to a greater or lesser extent on creating access to global market forces for maximal economic growth and trickle-down wealth from the elite to the general populace. The second model focuses on meeting human needs and providing a healthy environment within which people can improve their material circumstances and general well-being requirements. This second sustainable development (SD) model includes a focus on building healthy local economies, environmental sustainability, human rights, education, and health care. It also includes more abstract forms of development, such as sociocultural and psychological well-being. The choice of which development model will be utilized is central to educational decision-making since it will help define the outcomes and priorities sought.

With this in mind, Williams and Cooke (2002) discuss the importance of language policy in development. They note that many developing nations are conducting their entire education in international languages such as English, French or German in an effort to promote economic growth, cultural cohesion, and international competitiveness. This can be a good tactic in some instances as it can provide a much-needed lingua franca for disparate groups and build bridges to the outside world. However, the authors argue that this can also create serious problems because if the students poorly understand the language of instruction, educational outcomes are also likely to be poor. Therefore, they conclude that the poverty cycle is sometimes actually reinforced by language education policy.

When this conclusion is related back to the choice of development model, it becomes apparent that there needs to be a questioning of language education policies rooted in development models that view facilitating a quick integration of the populace into the global marketplace as the raison d’être for education. It also suggests that an SD model that prioritizes long-term local needs over short-term access to global markets could give rise to better educational attainment and improved local economic growth.

Finally, Learning a foreign language gives us a different way of thinking; when we use a foreign language, we can communicate with more people. So, a foreign language education contributes to fostering global citizenship and sustainable development.


The Concept of Language

Language is a meaningful medium of sending a message to a receiver; the message may be an idea, feeling, desire, year, joy or sadness. Language, in general terms, can be instinctive (as in the animal) or non-instinctive (as in human beings). There is what we call animal and human language (Mannir 2001).

Animal Language

These consist of using signs such as cooing, barking, mewing, bleating, croaking, ticking, howling, chirping etc. Doves, lambs, dogs, frogs, cats, pigs, lions, and cooks make these sounds. These signs consist of sound or vocalization by the animals or objects. The value of these signs or sounds lies in the meaning, which is arbitrarily agreed upon by the animals using them. (Chinwe 1999).

Human Language

It is also a meaningful way of sending a message from a student to a receiver. Human language makes use of both signs and symbols, which have meanings arbitrarily agreed upon among the speaker of the language community. Boyer (1996), therefore, stated that man can both vocalize as well as verbalize. Most of the symbols used by man are words, while others are objects or colors‘. Man alone can use both signs and symbols. Language can be learned in two different ways.

Language learning: focuses on developing the ability to communicate in a second language with special emphasis on language rules and regulations.

Language learning is a language learned under the umbrella of the formed system of education.

Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language and produce and use words and sentences to communicate.

Language acquisition usually refers to first–language acquisition, which studies infants acquire from their native language. This is distinguished from second–language acquisition, which deals with the acquisition of an additional language.

In Nigeria, for example, in most suburban and rural areas, the native language of the child is also the medium of instruction. This language provision in the National Policy on Education (1988) stipulates that the language of the wider locality should be used as a medium of instruction in the first three years of primary education. Surveys and pilot studies in Nigeria revealed that this policy is impracticable.

The Concept of Education

Education can be conceived as the development of an individual’s cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains and abilities for optimal function and performance in society. The individual has to be helped to maximize his mental, emotional and psychological abilities, which will be beneficial to him and the society to which he belongs. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines education as the teaching and learning process, usually at school, college or university (Longman, 2007:501). Implicit in this are teaching, learning and training activities meant to impart information, knowledge, skills, and competencies for individual and societal improvements and development. Hence, Osuji (2004:5) posits that the essence of education is the harmonious development of the individual’s physical, mental, spiritual and social powers so that he or she is equipped to offer useful service to God and humanity; suffice it to say that “education is the acquisition of knowledge, the aggregate of all processes through which a person develops the ability, skills, attitudes and other forms of behaviour with positive value in the society in which he lives. (Ehiametoler in Okecha, 2008:21). Education is a lifelong process which frees a man from ignorance and superstition. Education enhances the quality of an individual and enables him to build up his personality in such a way that he is able to play an effective role in the development of the society to he belongs (Okecha, 2008:21)

There are three forms of education: formal education, which we receive in schools; non-formal education, obtained from a semi-formal setting such as being an apprentice in a carpentry workshop; and informal education, obtained from the streets, church, mosque, farm, market, peer groups, and family. These forms of education contribute to an individual’s overall personality and perception of the world around him. There is no barrier to education. This explains why an old English woman many years ago sat for and passed the ‘O’ level examination at the age of 90. She performed the feat after her son, a physics professor, had retired from a British University (Okecha, 2008:21)

Etymologically, education has twofold definitions. From these dual definitions, nature and nurture rear their polemic heads. Two schools of philosophy are involved in this, namely pragmatic or realistic and idealistic schools. One school sees education as coming from the Latin word educere, which means to lead out. The school that holds this theory is made up of idealistic like Plato. According to this school, a learner has innate ideas which need to be expanded (Nwubuisi, 2008:5)

The second school of thought believes that education originates from the Latin word educare, which stands for “to form”. It is the stand of this school that a child’s or learner’s mind is “tabula rasa”; it is the stand of this school that when a child is born, his mind is blank or is like an erased slate or board on which to write. The sensations that come from the external world put an impression on the mind and feed it with information and knowledge (Nwabuisi, 2008:5). This theory has not gone unchallenged. Some scientists maintain that the theory of tabula rasa should be rejected sometime before birth; the baby’s mind becomes in such a way that it can receive some information or data (Nwabuisi, 2008:5).

The Concept of Sustainable Development

The concept of sustainable development emerged as a response to a growing concern about human society’s impact on the natural environment. The concept of sustainable development was defined in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission (formally the World Commission on Environment and Development) as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (Brundtland, 1987). This definition acknowledges that while development may be necessary to meet human needs and improve the quality of life, it must happen without depleting the natural environment’s capacity to meet present and future needs. The sustainable development movement has grown and campaigned on the basis that sustainability protects both the interests of future generations and the earth’s capacity to regenerate. At first, it emphasised the environment in development policies, but since 2002, it has evolved to encompass social justice and the fight against poverty as key principles of sustainable development.

Language Education

The need for the successful construction of a social environment and its protection must be clearly understood and globally accepted. En route to the goal, one more need emerges for language education which would view a language used as a partner in negotiations and discussions over environmental issues and an interlocutor sensitive to environmental dangers. That is why language education, especially foreign language education, becomes a cornerstone of education for sustainable development viewed in a holistic way (cf. Skye, 2015). In order to reach mutual understanding and respect towards the interlocutor, it is essential to use the properly developed means of communication in negotiations. Misunderstanding is more dangerous for discourse and its final output than the lack of understanding. Hence, to foster the speaker and make him function at a variety of socio-cultural levels on both the micro and macro scale, we have to teach him how to communicate and be creative in expressing his thoughts. To achieve this goal, we have to design and carry out a language program of studies, which must be universal in the sense that it can offer the widest possible approach to language.

Depending on the learnerís age, experience, former education in general, and needs, we can use either the inductive or deductive approach. As the figure below presents, the goal to be obtained is the working knowledge of the studied language demonstrated by the learnerís socio-cultural competence as well as functional competence, allowing for making use of language functions, depending on the situation.

Most importantly, language education designed from the socio-linguistic and pragmatic point of view stresses practical consequences and values as standards by which concepts are to be analyzed, and their validity determined. Besides, the key issue of such designed education is to develop the learner’s productivity and make him use the power of the mind. A productive learner means a creative language user (cf. Chomsky, 2007). As a matter of fact, it is creativity which becomes a decisive factor in negotiations and communication in general.

Human contacts on the macro scale are only possible via language. Not only do human contacts enable the exchange of knowledge and experience, but they also develop people intellectually and make them creative as well as tolerant of culturally rooted differences and behaviors. Understanding each other better is a guarantee of sustainable development, which, in turn, contributes to human universality. Achieving sustainable development raises some queries, such as what we need to be fully developed and universal. Moreover, in what way can we achieve the state of equilibrium as the quintessence of human sustainability? At first, one might think about profound knowledge, especially in the social domain. If this is the right answer, it appears that to achieve the target; one needs to enter a global network of human contacts which, as mentioned above, give us knowledge and experience and develop those features of character which guide our behavior and manners. But we must remember that entering a global network of human contacts and functioning on the macro scale is impossible without a mutually shared means of communication.

Thus, the only correct answer to the above-presented questions is language, as this is the language we need for our development, including sustainability, and this is a language which contributes to the sharing of our knowledge and experience on the macro scale and, thus, contributes to building the world of sustainability (cf. Pullen, 2015).

Bearing in mind the building of the world of sustainability based on human contacts characteristic of understanding, equal opportunity, tolerance and respect, it is quite reasonable to pay more attention to the sociocultural sphere of sustainability with its focus on education (Badjanova, Ili ko, 2015).

Undoubtedly, knowledge, especially linguistics, is the key which opens all the doors of the world of universal experience. Therefore, the model presented below is an option to be taken into consideration by the socio-cultural sphere of sustainability to foster the human being who understands the social environment and its needs (cf. Part II, a).

The Way Forward

(i) Social Support

Undoubtedly, substantial social support is needed to obtain the goal of linguistic creativity and, therefore, put this Model of Creative Competence into practice. It appears that social support is, in many cases, more important than financial one. First, education must be thoroughly understood and socially accepted for sustainable development. Moreover, there must be equilibrium in the treatment of the three spheres of sustainability, that is, the environmental, economic, and sociocultural spheres, each of them treated as equally important for sustainable development. It must be taken for granted that a lack of working knowledge of the language, which is to be the internationally recognized tool of discourse and communication, does not give any chance for consensus in debates and agreements between two or more negotiating parties. As language and culture are strongly interrelated, social support is also needed for the development of cultural studies. Hence, it is strongly recommended to support the idea of founding more institutes or departments responsible for spreading the idea of education for sustainable development, especially in the socio-cultural sphere.

(ii) Culture Studies

The notion of culture is complex and perceived differently, depending on the school of thought. Sociologists, for example, try to distinguish studies of culture viewed as an ìimplicitî feature of social life from studies of a culture regarded as an explicit social construction. According to this view, culture is presented as a reflection of social relations, and a kind of symbolic commodity explicitly produced. In the abundance of definitions and points of view on culture, the one presented by Elinor Ochs deserves consideration. According to her, culture is a system of implicit and explicit ideas that underlines and gives meaning to behaviors in society. These ideas are related (in various ways, to varying extents, according to school and paradigm) to political, economic, and kinship relations, events, interactions, and institutions; to values; to conceptions of the world; to theories of knowledge; and to procedures for understanding and interpreting (Ochs, 1987, p. 307).

This seemingly broad outline of culture gives a clear image of what culture is and points to the road to carrying on cultural studies. Moreover, this definition can indicate the contents of an educational program combining language and culture studies, which are undoubtedly indispensable to sustained development.

(iii) Social Status and Position

Individuals, in general, perceive themselves as belonging to social groups. Groups differ as they are composed of individualsí characteristic of their very personal and distinctive features. Among the variables determining belonging to a given social group, two are of paramount importance: language use and behavior. Of course, education, political beliefs, and economic and socio-historical variables are significant but not as clearly delineated as language and manners. The way in which you speak, your expressiveness and ability to develop interpersonal contacts on a macro scale as well as your body language and attitude of respect and tolerance towards the interlocutor, give evidence of what you are. As a matter of fact, your refined personality allows for taking up the top position in the social hierarchy.

The Limitations

Limitations are inevitable in any area of human activity, including language education, for sustainable development. If we look at sustainable development in a holistic way, we can easily notice that the spheres of interest are not equally treated. It seems quite irrational that such problems as, for example, pollution or waste dumping, being key issues of the environmental sphere or cost savings and unemployment, which are domains of the economic sphere of sustainability, are given the priority of treatment and support in comparison to, for example, the problem of tolerance, equal opportunity or education which are immanent parts of the social or socio-cultural sphere of sustainability.

We cannot save the planet without using proper language and talking openly about crime, valuable resources, waste dumping, or natural beauty preservation (c.f. Ketcham, 2015). Therefore, to save the planet, we must make people understand the local and global threats. For this reason, we need an internationally approved communication and information exchange tool to talk to people and to ensure them and governments that education for sustainable development is based on understanding environmental issues. Hence, education for sustainable development and promoting language education should be given reasonable support.



Conclusively, Funding Language Education is the cornerstone of achieving sustainable national development. Undoubtedly, sustainable national development is the goal of all developing nations. Investing, encouraging and enlightening people on funding language education is necessary. Since the roles of government at all levels are to facilitate development, an urgent need arises for government to disburse adequate funds in the Education sector to achieve rapid, sustainable national development.


This paper recommends these action points:

1. Greater intensity and focus in achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have a dialectical relationship with the principles of ESD.

2. Implementing ESD is a long-term process that calls upon all stakeholders, including governments, educational institutions, businesses and industry, communities, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs), mass media, donor agencies, international communities, and individuals to play a role and embrace the ideals of sustainable development.


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