Language and Literacy

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Enhancing the Language of Instruction Model
in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger

A801 Final Paper
STEP 1: DEFINE THE PROBLEM

In this policy recommendation, we address the issue of poor quality education in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, due to the fact that students’ primary language is not the same as the language of instruction. Though these countries have taken steps to address this deficiency, only a limited number of communities have benefited. All three countries are located in the Sahel, the arid region just south of the Sahara Desert, are similar in economic and social measures, and have comparable education systems. Like many former colonies in the region, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger retained French as their official language after independence from France, even though the majority of their citizens speak native languages. This is partially the reason why their education systems produce low quality outcomes, as students cannot grasp content in a language they never effectively master. The regional governments all face similar problems in educating a populace who are mostly comprised of subsistence farmers, and who are poorly served by the current school system. According the World Bank (2011), school life expectancy ranges from four years in Niger to seven years in Mali, even though each country maintains compulsory education through middle school. Though net primary enrollment rates are fair, ranging between 54 – 61% (UIS, 2009), self-reported attendance rates demonstrate abysmal results, as 40.6% of primary school students attend school in Mali, 36.5% in Niger, and 42% in Burkina Faso (MICS & DHS, 2006). Implications for this shortfall are not only academic, but also social, political, and economic. Accordingly, these three governments in the Sahel face serious challenges in implementing an education policy that addresses the needs of their citizens. In this report, we have chosen to implement a model of bilingual education that will improve upon the existing education structure. Currently, the youth literacy rates in these countries are between 36.5% in Niger and 39.3% in Burkina Faso (UIS, 2005; UIS, 2007). To address these problems, each country has individually initiated experimental bilingual schools which have shown promise for student achievement. Nonetheless, effective policies that encourage widespread adoption of these successful programs have not been implemented. This policy recommendation aims to provide a template for these governments to scale up their bilingual programs and also to attract international support and funding. There are a number of international agencies already supporting bilingual education in these countries who will be supportive of efforts to scale-up these programs. By using Eugene Bardach’s “eightfold path” to structure our findings and subsequent recommendation, (Bardach, 2009) we aim to systematically address the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within the three education systems’ language of instruction policies. After defining the problem, both broadly and specifically for each individual context, we will present research in Step 2 from similar countries, in which we identify successful methods to prepare students to learn in a language that is not their mother tongue. In Step 3, we present four language of instruction models, and in Steps 4 through 7, we will establish critera to identify the most appropriate linguistic model, then evaluate each option based on those critera. Lastly, in Step 8, we will detail our recommendation of the best model for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In this, we aim to create a clear picture of what the policy should accomplish if the recommendation is adopted unilaterally across the region. Country Backgrounds: The Status of Education and Bilingual School Experimentation Burkina Faso

While French is the official language of instruction, it is spoken regularly by just 10-15% of the population...
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