AFD (Agence française de développement) Contract

Reform of the curricula of basic education in West and Central Africa

Project leader: Henry Tourneux

Duration: 6 months in 2010 (March-August) + 6 months in 2011 (February-July)

The AFD has initiated the project ELAN-Afrique (Teaching in national languages) for basic education in francophone West and Central Africa. The participants in this project are mostly teachers that have no special competence in the domain of language. Faced with this situation, H. Tourneux and D. Vellard have proposed to AFD to add a module focussing on the question of language and language use, whereby H. Tourneux focusses on the transfer of knowledge about the natural environment and about agriculture and D. Vellard on the transfer of mathematical knowledge. The project aims at promoting the integration of bilingual teaching (official language/local language) into basic education. Linguists of African countries usually opt for a translation of general teaching materials into local languages; however, this ends in deadlock and aggravates the separation between school and life. The project proposes instead that the current official syllabus continues to be taught in French and English (especially in Cameroon), while certain local languages are used to teach local knowledge (whose transmission is endangered due to the current social changes).

After having shown that the translation of general teaching materials is of little use, a methodology is developed which allows constructing a scientific discourse based on local discourses and practices. The project starts off with a study of the existing literature, which is often richer than imagined (studies of anthropologists, agronomists, specialists of the natural environment, etc.); the available data is supplement by data from field research (from interviews in local languages, direct observations of how knowledge is put into practice, video recordings …). The interviews are transcribed and translated, then supplemented by data from direct observation. This provides the material for writing up the final texts, which are presented in two languages, i.e. in an African language and French.

The results (of the part of the research project concerning LLACAN) have been presented in the following publication: Henry Tourneux, in cooperation with B. Abdoulaye and H. Konaï. 2011. La transmission des savoirs en Afrique : Savoirs locaux et langues locales pour l’enseignement. Paris : Karthala. The book is accompanied by a DVD with two bilingual video documentaries (1. Le sorgho de saison sèche au Cameroun and 2. La boule de sorgho).