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Year Conducted: 2015, 2012


There are estimated twenty (20) local languages are spoken in the country. According to the Constitution of 2002, Tetum and Portuguese are the official languages and English and Bahasa Indonesian have working languages status. Aside from defining the four major languages, the constitution also declares the state has the obligations to develop other national languages. To address the issue of high repetition and dropout rates and low achievement levels in Timor-Leste, the mother tongue-based (MTB) multilingual education (MLE) policy has been developed and now with the Ministry of Education.

The Minister of Education has launched a national debate on the policy and is now exploring ways for approval by either Council of Minister or Parliament. While waiting for approval, the National Education Commission has been undertaking a number of activities in preparing for demonstration of the policy that will possibly take place in early next year. The Commission main focused activities at this stage are (1) the development of orthographies of local languages, especially the three local languages for the demonstration (2) the development of school materials using local languages (3) training for teachers to teach using mother tongues (4) socialization of the Policy through workshops, seminars, and conferences at both national and international levels, and (5) improving partnership with all interested individuals, various organizations/institutions locally and internationally. MLE mapping exercise wasn’t able to identify schools with non-dominant languages.

Quick Facts
Name of Organization/ Institution Level of Schooling Formal or Non-formal Public or Private Which Languages Number of Children reached by level of schooling Location Use of language in classroom (see explanations below) Materials in classroom
Ministry of Education PP FE/ Government PUB, PRI Mother Tongue, Tetun Dili (tdt), Portuguese (por) Total: 9313 All districts 1, 4, 6 Limited Materials available in both tetun dili and portuguese
PR/ Basic Education (9-year) FE/ Government PUB, PRI Tetun Dili (tdt), Portuguese (por) F:127,711 & M: 169,327 = 297,038 All districts 1, 4, 6 Limited textbooks mainly in portuguese
Equivalence of PR NFE/ Government PUB Tetun Dili (tdt), Portuguese (por) F: 341 & M: 280 = 621 All districts 1, 4, 6 Yes


Name of organisation / institution: 

Give the name of the organisation(s) (NGO, local association, etc) or institution (church, pagoda, temple, university etc.) which is initiating and supporting the action. This can include government agencies and institutions. Please specify type of involvement, e.g. initiator, lead actor, funder and implementer.

Level of schooling:

Identify whether action is at the pre-primary level (PP) or at the primary /elementary level (PR). The mapping is focusing only on these two levels of education.

Formal or Non-formal:

Identify whether action is:

1. in the formal (FE) or non-formal (NFE); and
2. in the government education system (Govt) or outside the government system by non-state providers (NSP).

Public or private:

Identify whether the action is happening in the public education (PUB) system or private (PRI). If this does not apply to your country, write n/a.

Which language:

Give the name of the local or minority language(s) which the action includes. If possible, see your country’s section on the ( and find the relevant 3-letter ISO language code for these languages.

Number of children:

Give the number of children reached by school level (pre-primary and primary/elementary). Please disaggregate by gender (i.e. M: and F:),

Location of action:

Give sub-national location of action(s) either province or district

Use of language in classroom:

Identify how language is used in the classroom by using the descriptors below. Choose the most appropriate one. You can choose more than one.

1. Language of instruction (LOI) is the learners’ mother tongue (MT or L1)  and their second language (L2) .
2. Language of instruction is the mother tongue only.
3. The second language is officially the language of instruction.
4. Language of instruction is the second language with MT as subject.
5. Mother tongue is used orally, no written materials – officially.
6. Mother tongue is used orally, no written materials – unofficially.
7. Second language (L2) is taught as second language.

Materials in classroom:

Are there teaching and learning materials in MT in classroom? Yes or no. If yes, estimate the number of titles in MT.