Bilingual Education Programme
Country Profile: Burkina Faso
|Poverty (Population living on less than US$2 per day, 2009)|
|Adult literacy rate (15+ years, 2015, UIS estimation)|
|Youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years, 2015, UIS estimation)|
French (recognised regional languages: Mòoré, Dioula, Fula, Bambara, Dogon, Dagaare, Nanerige, Sucite, Karaboro)
|Programme Title||The Bilingual Education Programme|
|Implementing Organization||Swiss Organisation for Workers’ Solidarity (OSEO); Government of Burkina Faso|
|Language of Instruction||French and national languages|
|Funding||Government of Burkina Faso and the Netherlands; Coopération Suisse; Diakonia NGO; Catholic Church; Fund for Literacy and Non-Formal Education (FONAENF)|
|Date of Inception||1994 –|
Context and Background
Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita income of US$1,200. Agriculture contributes to 32 per cent of its GDP and employs about 80 per cent of the working population while access to quality education remains low. According to UNDP, despite concerted efforts to double its literacy rate from 12.8 per cent in 1990 to 25.3 per cent in 2008, Burkina Faso has the lowest literacy levels in the world. A government-sponsored national evaluation study of the education system (1994) revealed that it was not attuned to the social and economic realities of the country, was costly and inefficient. These problems undermined access to quality education as well as national development efforts. As a result, in recent years, the government and its development partners have made concerted efforts to reform the education system. Part of the solution involved instituting strategies which encouraged the use of both French and national languages as the medium of instruction in schools. The bilingual approach to educational instruction arose out of an awareness of the importance of national languages in the provision of quality education. The Bilingual Education Programme (BEP) was initiated to compliment these policies and efforts.
The Bilingual Education Programme (BEP)
Since 1994, the Swiss Organisation for Workers’ Solidarity (OSEO) and the Government of Burkina Faso through the Ministry of Basic Education and Literacy (MEBA) have been implementing the BEP. The project was initially conceived and implemented as a non-formal adult literacy and rural development programme in aid of small-scale farmers. The success of the adult literacy programme convinced state officials and policymakers to adapt and expand the programme into a broad-based intergenerational education programme targeting all age groups above three years. The BEP is currently linking non-formal and formal education and is being implemented in all 13 regions of the country. It employs French and national languages as the medium of instruction. Principally, the BEP aims to resolve the problems associated with access to quality and relevant education in the country.
Currently, the BEP is technically and financially supported by the Government of Burkina Faso and the Netherlands, the Coopération Suisse, the Diakonia NGO, the Catholic Church, and the Fund for Literacy and Non-Formal Education (FONAENF) for the ALFAA and AFI-D method. The ADEA (Association for the Development of Education in Africa) provides technical and financial backing for the assessment and evaluation of the BEP.
Aims and Objectives
The BEP aims to:
- increase access to education for all people
- improve the quality, relevance and effectiveness of basic education in Burkina Faso through the use of national languages and French
- combat illiteracy and to use literacy skills to combat poverty
- promote development based on the country’s socio-cultural values and realities
- strengthen the status of national languages
- promote the creation of bridges between formal and non-formal basic education.
Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
The development and implementation of the BEP is based on solid strategies which endeavour to satisfy the literacy and skills development needs of learners. These include the training of teachers and the production of appropriate didactic/instructional materials in the eight major languages. To enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the bilingual approach, teachers in bilingual schools receive additional and specialised language training over and above the standard teacher training curricula.
The development and planning of the programme is based on professional research and needs assessment studies which involve the active participation of all national and local stakeholders including, most importantly, community members who are often sidelined from such processes. Active community involvement in programme development creates a strong sense of ownership and responsibility among the people which makes the mobilisation of learners an easier task. In addition, community members will also monitor the actual implementation of the programme in their localities.
The provision of bilingual education under the BEP is organised according to age groups, reflecting a progression of literacy learning and learning needs from early childhood to adulthood. In line with this structure, BEP is implemented using both the formal and non-formal approaches. The BEP is sub-divided into two broad components: the formal and non-formal basic education. The formal basic education component of the BEP has three age-based levels of learning and instruction for children and young people aged between three and 16 years old and these constitute the age-based bilingual educational continuum:
The Educational Discovery Areas
The educational discovery areas (espaces d'eveil educatif/3 E) is a community-managed early childhood learning project which caters for children aged between three and six years and was conceived to provide a solid educational foundation to children. The project provides stimulating learning environments and formal cognitive, psychomotor, and socio-effective training. At the 3 E level, instructors are voluntary parent-teachers who receive training in early childhood education with emphasis on child psychology, hygiene and nutrition, play activities and early childhood teaching methods.
Curricular development as well as the production of didactic materials for the programme is managed by professionals in infant care and early childhood learning. The curricula integrate national cultural practices in childcare and socialisation with modern practices in the field of early childhood education. In the 2005/06 academic year, the programme had 36 functional 3E centres which catered for 2,832 children, of whom 58.28 per cent were girls.
The specific objectives of this component of the BEP are:
- to promote early childhood or infant education in rural, urban and outer-city areas
- to overcome inadequacies regarding childcare, hygiene, nutrition and psychomotor development provided by the family
- to prepare the young child psychologically, physically and mentally for the first cycle of primary school
- to free mothers and girls from caring for smaller children for a period of time, in order to give them the possibility to participate in educational programmes.
Bilingual Primary Schools
The Bilingual Primary Schools (EPB), which have been operational since the 1994/95 school year, target children aged between seven and 12 years. The major innovative aspect of the EPB project is the use of both national languages and French as the medium of instruction in the learning process as well as the promotion of productive and cultural activities. Pupils attend the EPB schools for four to five years instead of the usual six years in non-EPB schools. In addition, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the EPB system, teachers receive additional professional training in bilingual education and instruction materials are produced in French and the eight major national languages.
The EPB aims to:
- foster the integration of learning and production activities in order to prepare children for active roles in national development
- reconcile the education process and societal expectations by infusing positive local cultural values, norms and practices into the learning system; this entails the active involvement of local communities in the education system and the activities of the schools
- give learners the opportunity to use their knowledge of a national language(s) in the learning process as well as to improve their literacy skills in both local languages and French as the national official and major international language spoken in the country
- contribute towards finding ways and means of establishing links that bridge the gap between formal and non-formal education.
The EPB programme is evaluated continuously by teachers and external professional evaluators. But in the 4th and 5th grade, pupils’ learning achievements are assessed using the same rigid methods that are used in non-EPB schools in order to prepare them for the official primary school termination examinations. The monitoring and evaluation process of the bilingual primary schools involves several actors and institutions:
- close monitoring by the responsible agency for basic education (Circonscription d’Education de Base) once per term
- evaluation by the Regional Teacher Training Team once per term
- regional evaluation by the MEBA/OSEO team once per term
- regular area meetings between teachers and teacher trainers from the same region.
Special Multilingual Secondary Education (CMS)
Special multilingual secondary schools accept learners aged between 12 and 16 years old who have successfully completed their EPB courses. At CMS, learners extend their knowledge of the national languages and French. In addition, they also learn a second national language chosen from the dominant languages in Burkina Faso. The CMS schools are innovative in that – in addition to the standard secondary school curriculum – they also provide specific courses in national languages, as well as in cultural and production-oriented activities (livelihood skills training). To enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the programme, teachers in multilingual schools receive special training in the national languages and functional English, as well as in culture and production issues.
The CMS project endeavours to:
- teach the full and standard secondary school curriculum
- promote functional multilingualism (i.e. in French, a second widely-used national language and functional English)
- promote education with production
- promote positive cultural values and citizenship education.
Intensive Functional Literacy for Development (AFI-D)
AFI-D, a non-formal and intensive literacy training for development programme, was integrated into the BEP in 1994. The programme targets out-of-school children and young people aged between nine and 14 years who have either not attended school or have dropped out of the education system. Training under the AFI-D programme lasts four years and is offered in both the national languages and French.
The AFI-D programme has many benefits for trainees/learners. It gives them an opportunity:
- to proceed and pursue secondary education
- to pursue professional/vocational skills training at institutions specialising in their region’s socioeconomic activities, but leading to an officially recognised qualification. The integration of literacy and skills training has enabled many learners to successfully integrate into society through self-employment in agriculture or carpentry or metalworking, while others have secured employment in the public sector (as teachers or health workers) as well as in the private sector (electricians, engineers, plumbers, etc.).
Adult Non-Formal Literacy Programme (ANFLP)
Under the ANFLP, lessons are conducted in both French and national languages. The ANFLP is an integrated project which links literacy learning to rural development and is therefore organised and structured to meet the specific socioeconomic and livelihood needs of adult learners, most of whom live in rural areas. To this end, the programme focuses on technical skills training in: agriculture (livestock rearing, crop farming, and market gardening); basic financial management and book-keeping; health education and the organisation and management of individual and/or group socioeconomic activities. Such an approach to literacy empowerment has enabled parents to improve their living conditions as well as to assist their children in undertaking their school work.
With regards to literacy training, young adult and adult learners attend French classes which use the ALFAA method of teaching French based on functional literacy. The ALFAA method enables learners to reach a standard equivalent to the 6th year of standard primary education. The principal goal of such a strategy is to enable adult learners to use their acquired literacy and livelihood skills to improve their living conditions as well as to empower them to effectively monitor their children’s schoolwork through enhanced bilingual skills.
Programme Impact and Challenges
Impact and Achievements
The BEP has achieved major accomplishments which have had strong and positive impacts on the entire education system as well as on the quality of life of the beneficiaries. The following are key indicators of the impact of the BEP.
- Many children and young people have benefited from the BEP and many beneficiaries have acquired professional qualifications. For example, during the 2005/06 school year, the BEP was operating:
- 36 E centres catering for 2,832 children aged between three and sis years, of which 50.28 per cent were girls
- 112 bilingual primary schools with a total of 14,301 pupils, 46.82 per cent of whom were girls
- two CMS with 337 pupils, 48.37 per cent being girls.
The bilingual approach to education has proved to be more cost effective and efficient than the normal system. For example, a comparative study by Korgho (2001), revealed that bilingual schools are less expensive than normal schools: the average unit cost of educating a holder of the Primary School Certificate (CEP) at a bilingual school in Nomgana is 455, 388 CFA francs (US$922, 373) compared to 3,879,396 CFA francs (US$7, 857, 723) – a difference of 3, 424, 008 CFA francs (US$6, 935, 357).
- Bilingual schools have also proved to be more efficient and effective with regards to skills acquisition than normal schools. As the table below indicates, the pass rate in the Primary School Certificate (CEP) for pupils in bilingual schools – where they only spend four to five years – has generally been higher than the national average, despite the fact that the CEP tests are entirely in French and intended for pupils who have spent at least six years in school.
- At the family level, the existence of 3 E programmes has led to an improvement in the quality of education and childcare services that are provided to children by the parents. This has, in turn, led to a drop in child mortality. The early childhood centres have also liberated parents, particularly women, to engage in other livelihood activities.
- The pupils’ knowledge of traditional stories, songs, and dances and mastery of local music instruments (tom-tom, African xylophone, castanets, flutes etc.) has considerably improved. Pupils from bilingual schools achieve outstanding results during cultural competitions organised by the primary education area authorities.
- Pupils enjoy taking part in practical and manual activities, e.g. in agriculture and gardening. Their smallholdings produce harvests that improve their home-produced school meals. Breeding poultry, sheep or goats is of great interest to the pupils, who derive a small profit from it that earns them small incomes.
- Beneficiaries of the BEP, especially small-scale farmers, have managed to use their acquired knowledge and skills for productive engagement in various socioeconomic fields such as health (hygiene and nutrition) and agricultural production (livestock and crop farming). Programme skills have therefore enabled beneficiaries to expand their livelihood activities and thus to increase family incomes. This has resulted in improved living conditions and ability to finance the education of children.
- Parents are more supportive of education and are encouraging children to attend school due to the benefits they have enjoyed from improved literacy skills. This has resulted in higher school attendances especially among girls.
- The programme has also improved social networking within the communities as well as the organisation and management of community developmental activities. For example, community groups are now able to keep group-activity records in their mother-tongue. Yet the need for official communication has seen several community groups requesting training in French.
Challenges and Solutions
The effective implementation of the programme has been hampered by the following challenges:
- widespread resentment and ignorance of national languages in the formal education system
- the resistance by some schools and/or teachers to cooperate with local communities and development facilitators in promoting the growth of the education system
- the huge disparity between available resources and high levels of grassroots demand
- limited trained manpower to effectively implement the bilingual approach to education across the entire sector
- limited expertise to make national languages an effective instrument of bilingual education
- the big challenge of adapting and integrating national languages into the education system
- the fact that official examinations take no account of national languages or the disciplines of culture and production
- high levels of poverty which limit parents' abilities to support the education of their children. To minimise the impact of these challenges on the BEP, the following strategies have been adopted:
- responding to community demands (demand-driven approach): this strategy entailed providing bilingual education to communities that requested the programme
- encouraging the involvement of other actors in the education system
- empowering local communities to enable them to support the use of local languages in schools
- providing on-the-job refresher training for teachers and teacher trainers with special focus on bilingual education modules
- improving the image of national languages by enacting laws that aim to strengthen the integration of national languages as well as cultural and productive studies in national and competitive exams.
The sustainability of the BEP is based on strong partnership that has been developed with governmental and non-governmental organisations as well as with local communities and professional researchers. Such partnerships have enabled the programme to benefit from local moral support as well as a wide range of technical expertise and financial support systems.
The following main lessons have emerged from the programme:
- Bilingual instruction improves the effectiveness and efficiency of both the teaching and learning process. It also allows the length of the learning process to be significantly reduced without, at the same time, compromising the quality of education received by learners. The reduction of study time also reduces the cost of education.
- People with poor skills in French as the official language can benefit from the education system like everyone else.
- The integration of literacy learning with skills training motivates many children and young people to attend school and at the end, enables learners to easily integrate into the local economy.
- Parents are more motivated to participate in the education of their children and the development of their schools if the learning process is relevant to local needs and realities. Most importantly, the bilingual model also reinforces social cohesion because language is an important unifying factor.
- The bilingual approach also enables those who have been excluded from the education system for reasons other than non-attendance, such as the blind, to be integrated via the bilingual Braille programme.
A major lesson that emerged over the years is that, the use of local languages as the medium of instruction in schools and training enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of the learning process. In addition, the bilingual approach to education enhances the language acquisition abilities of learners. Most importantly, for a poor country like Burkina Faso, the approach reduces education costs and thus enables parents to support the education of their children.
- Korgho, Albert, (2001): Comparative study of costs between normal and bilingual schools in Nomgana, in the district of Loumbila, Quagadougou: OSEO
- UNDP Human Development Report, 2007/2008: Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a divided World
Paul Taryam Ilboudou
Oeuvre Suisse d’Entraide Ouvrière (OSEO) Burkina Faso
01 BP 2057 Ouagadougou 01
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Last update: 19 July 2010