Mother Tongue

ISPP’s Philosophy of Mother Tongue

The International School of Phnom Penh believes that it is vital that all students have the opportunity to maintain and develop their Mother Tongue (the main language that the student uses at home) wherever feasible. The following extracts are recommendations from the IB.

The research relating to mother-tongue maintenance and development (Cummins and Danesi, in Baker and Prys Jones, 1988) is particularly significant. This research indicates that students following a mother-tongue maintenance and development programme receive the following benefits: 

  • They avoid language loss and the resultant negative effects, for example, subtractive bilingualism (where the development of a second language is detrimental to the first language).
  • They perform at least as well (often better) in mainstream subjects (science, humanities, etc) as monolingual students.
  • They perform at least as well (often better) as second-language students who don’t maintain their mother tongue and are schooled wholly in the second language.
  • They retain a positive attitude toward their mother tongue and cultural background when the school shows acceptance of the mother-tongue language, accounting for increased self-esteem and its resultant benefits.

Based on educational research, ISPP believes that students with a strong mother tongue, and those who continue to develop, are far more successful in learning and functioning in another target language. Therefore ISPP is continuously looking for innovative ways to facilitate the maintenance of your child’s Mother Tongue.

The Mother Tongue Programme – Not a Foreign Language Course

The purpose of the programme is to provide the opportunity for all students to develop appropriate skills in their mother tongue according to their age level. The Mother Tongue Programme is not a foreign language course. Therefore children should be fluent speakers in a language that is spoken at home with at least one parent. The School may determine if a particular student meets the requirements to join a Mother Tongue class.

The Mother Tongue (First Language) Programme is an additional educational extension programme offered outside of the regular school day. For students in need of language support, we recommend two periods of one hour of Mother Tongue (MT) each week on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 2:45pm to 3:45pm. Each language group has flexibility in terms of scheduling and the number/size of groups.

Previously, depending on demand, the following 14 languages have been taught: Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Malay, Mandarin, Spanish, Tagalog, Swedish and Vietnamese. Some new languages may be added, should the need arise. Every year, between 50 and 110 students enrol in these courses.

To promote our host country language, ISPP can organize up to five classes of Khmer MT, based on grade levels. Teachers follow the national curriculum for Khmer language. Students in older grades can attend classes up to four hours a week.

 A school report is issued twice a year in the target language.

 For questions dealing with the Elementary Mother Tongue Programme, please contact the Elementary Office via Tel: +(855) (0) 23 425 089 or e-mail