Use of national languages in schools is considered as one of the best ways to improve the quality of teaching in Senegal, even though the program has been met with some obstacles.
Senegal, where French is the official language of instruction in schools, adopted the Quality Improvement Program for Fairness and Transparency (PAQUET) for the period 2013-2025, with one of the objectives being use of national languages to improve the quality of teaching.
Several organizations are collaborating with the Senegalese government in the program, among them the Association for Research, Education and Development, which, since 2009, has been experimenting the concept of bilingualism (local language plus French) in 208 classes spread in three regions.
Assane Ndiaye Gueye, a teacher in Niakourabe elementary school within Rufisque locality, some 25 km from Dakar, where the experiment is being conducted, noted that “it is difficult to fully teach in French because the pupils do not understand some words, but there is no language barrier when teaching in Wolof (the most spoken language in Senegal).
“The contents of the classes are different because the languages do not have the same alphabets, but we always start with Wolof to reinforce syllabic associations,” he explained, before adding that “French classes help to reinforce the knowledge already acquired in Wolof.”
The school’s director Aliou Fall noted that “the use of the national languages motivates the pupils and facilitates learning because children learn better when taught in a language they understand faster.”
“But the problem is that Wolof and other local languages are no longer considered as instruction languages, leaving French as the only official language in Senegal,” he regretted.
The director for elementary education Abdou Diaw affirmed that “bilingualism helps to reduce cases of dropping out of school and shortens academic cycles. The six years in elementary cycle could be reduced to four because the child understands better and faster. ”
Speaking recently during a forum on bilingual teaching, Senegal’s National Education Minister Serigne Mbaye Thiam said “there’s no doubt that use of national languages could improve the quality of teaching and enable the country to have a quality education system.”
“But the problem of bilingualism is training of teachers and the availability of teaching materials. We need six years to avail the materials that will cost 17 billion CFA Francs (29 million U.S. dollars),” the minister said.
He further explained that another problem yet to be resolved was deciding whether to teach the children in their mother tongue or the most spoken language in their locality. Enditem