Creole – Medium of Instruction & Curriculum Subject
1. Proponents of Creole as medium of instruction as well as a subject to be studied assert that the solution to high rate of failure at the CPE level is to be found in the utilisation of Creole as medium of instruction – not merely as support language
* Nous sommes bien en train de parler de l’introduction du créole comme une langue qui permettrait aux enfants de mieux comprendre les différentes matières? Comme un médium, donc?
— Là aussi il semble y avoir une confusion. Nous disons qu’il faut utiliser le créole comme un médium de l’enseignement. Cela veut dire que nous utilisons cette langue pour apprendre à l’enfant à lire, à écrire, à compter.
* Le créole serait donc pris comme un sujet alors ?
— Non. Pas un sujet mais un médium. Il apprendra à lire et à compter en créole, il apprendra ses sciences en créole, il apprendra une autre langue en créole. Et il fera mieux. Mais tant que nous ne comprendrons pas cela, nous n’irons pas de l’avant. Le ministre Vasant Bunwaree est en train de parler de médium mais en vérité il est en train de parler du Créole comme d’un support language. Ce que moi j’appelle un stepne.
* Mais cela, on le fait déjà à l’école !
— Oui ! Même quand moi j’étais enfant, on utilisait le créole quand la communication ne passait pas en anglais ou en français ! C’est le concept d’un support language mais s’il devient un médium, les examens devront être organisés en créole !
* D’où l’importance de la graphie que vous avez développé ?
— Tout à fait. Il y a un travail qui a commencé il y a plus de 45 ans. Nous avons développé la prononciation de la langue pour savoir comment l’écrire. Nous avons analysé la grammaire de la langue pour savoir comment faire une phrase en créole, comment la ponctuer, comment la connecter et comment développer son vocabulaire.
a. Under this scenario, teaching will be done in Creole with the support of the grafilarmoni script.
b. Textbooks and exam papers will also have to be set in Creole.
– As from which class and up to which level? Dev Virahsawmy has stated that everything will be centred on Creole, i.e., the teaching of reading, writing and counting, during the first 6 years of primary education. At the secondary level, English and Creole would be compulsory. English would however take over from Creole. A subject known as “Mauritian studies” would be offered at that stage for those wanting to teach Creole or train teachers at the MIE. French would start being taught at the secondary level as a Foreign language. This will result according to the protagonists, into a complete overhaul of our education system. The vision of those concerned is to apparently to extend teaching in the Creole medium right up to university level.
– Which Authority will set the papers and the marking in this case? MES? Cambridge? This has not been elucidated.
– Will the setting of textbooks and exam papers in Creole find favour with students/parents – the majority, that is?
– What are the legal/constitutional implications of such measure? Can it be imposed on students?
c. Jimmy Harmon (« responsable du dossier kreol morisien au BEC ») says, in Le Mauricien of 16 Jan 10, that « Ce que le BEC a commencé sur une base expérimentale a permis de faire évoluer la question de la langue kreol au niveau national sur le plan éducatif… Il (le gouvernement) ne peut non plus ignorer le changement dans le mindset de la population et le consensus national que nous notons aujourd’hui avec plaisir dans le pays».
– Where is the conclusive evidence pointing to this so-called « changement dans le mindset de la population » and « consensus national » being put forward by Jimmy Harmon? None that we know of! Or is it related to some conjectural hypothesis?
– The change, so far as we know, is only in the minds of the few diehard linguists who are proponents of ‘Kreol’. If the so-called mainstream press abandons French for ‘Kreol’ under this kind of influence, we should have reason to start worrying.
2. Where is the verifiable/conclusive evidence indicating strong correlation between use of mother tongue and success at exams, as it has been suggested?
– Expression of concepts is usually (but not always) easier in the mother tongue than in a second language. But the difference in grasping the concepts is only marginal when the second language is also the language of secondary education, because the use of that language over a period of five years or so permits a high level of assimilation and internalisation.The advantage of using the second language should be absolutely clear if it is a universal language employed by a majority of countries. Thus, in addition to being highly functional, the second language adds utility in terms of making for greater mobility.
3. What about success rate in England and France where teaching and study are done in the mother tongues of the respective countries?
– The situation comes out clearly in the case of France, where the website of the Haut Conseil de l’Education has the following information for the year 2007:
« L’école primaire
Bilan des résultats de l’École – 2007
1. Les élèves obtiennent des résultats très contrastés
à l’issue du primaire
– 60 % obtiennent des résultats acceptables ou satisfaisants – 25 % ont des acquis fragiles
– 15 % connaissent des difficultés sévères ou très sévères »
In comparison, the success rate at the CPE in Mauritius hovers around 66%. We are doing as well, if not better, without having to employ the mother tongue exclusively.
In England, it is the performance of individual schools that receives great attention, and there is a considerable amount of statistics on the Internet about them. It is more difficult to find data on the performance of the children themselves. One would suspect that results at the individual level are becoming more disappointing even in England despite the use of the mother tongue because factors other than the mother tongue (environment, commitment of concerned parties, the pedagogy, etc.,) are more determining in the success rate.
4. What has the teaching through the medium of mother tongues produced in terms of academic results in other countries? In the Seychelles? In Malaysia?
– In the Seychelles, the government has back-pedalled on its policy of using exclusively Creole as the medium of instruction because of the new realities of the globalised world. In Malaysia the medium of instruction has long been Bahasa, the national Malay language. Because of the less than satisfactory performance of secondary level students in science subjects, a policy of using English as medium of instruction for those subjects was adopted. The policy has been strongly contested by language activists who viewed the policy more in political terms than in its educational dimension. They raised huge crowds against it, so much so that the government has decided to reverse the policy as from 2012. There are frequent protests in the media urging English to continue to be used as medium of instruction but these go unheeded in view of political considerations.
5. Jimmy Harmon states in Le Mauricien of 16 Jan 10:
« Vasant Bunwaree ne peut se limiter uniquement aux résultats de la recherche sur le kreol pour en faire la condition sine qua non pour l’accès à cette langue à l’école.
L’État avait-il exigé des recherches scientifiques avant de démarrer l’enseignement des langues orientales au primaire, et qui sont proposées sur une base optionnelle? Dans plusieurs écoles, il n’y a que cinq élèves qui les étudient, et pourtant l’État continue à les soutenir. Tant mieux, puisqu’elles font partie de notre patrimoine. Mais alors, pourquoi dans le cas du kreol l’on brandit l’argument du manque de recherches ?
Dharam Gokhool, lui aussi, avait parlé de la nécessité d’avoir des empirical evidences. Il est clair que c’est encore une fois un prétexte pour retarder l’introduction de cette langue à l’école. »
– Would one expect a Minister of Education to change over everything merely based on hearsay or some conjectural hypothesis – not « empirical evidences »?
– Jimmy Harmon mixes issues – and, unwittingly perhaps, gives the matter a communal slant — by differentiating between the ease of teaching of Oriental languages and the perceived difficulty in the introduction of Creole in the classroom as it is being recommended. Factually, Oriental languages have not been used as medium of instruction in the school curriculum; like Latin and Greek, they are only subjects which students may choose to study at their option. There is no compulsion upon students whatsoever to study them. One should not draw conclusions too hastily.
5. Is failure at CPE/SC attributable to non-utilisation of Creole as medium of instruction, or are there other material reasons for it, such as the fact that students are not sufficiently exposed (in and outside the classroom) to the English language in which all papers are set barring specific language papers (French, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, etc.)?
– Exposure to English and French of our student population is totally inadequate. Students limit their reading to the absolute minimum in practice, hardly reading anything beyond prescribed texts. Literature and history, which demand essay-type replies, are not offered as subjects: this shortcoming leaves our children not just linguistically but also culturally poorer. The texts used to teach the languages are often inappropriate; the Ministry of Education should seek foreign advice on some of the textbooks on the flourishing local market.
6. Who is responsible for the gradual elimination of English from the educational/social landscape of Mauritius? The authorities? The media? The MBC?
– Since 1982, there has been a systematic – even if subtle – attack on all languages other than Creole. The attack has been fiercer during the rule of certain political parties.
7. Which medium of instruction is mostly used in our schools for the teaching of most subjects?
– Creole, déjà, in most primary government schools, and French depending on the profile of the student population;
– French and a sprinkling of Creole in most BEC-run schools.
8. Does this (the use of Creole and French as mediums of instruction) explain that (i.e., the gradual elimination of English from the educational/social landscape)?
– Oral Creole has always been a given in our education system, and this cannot be by-passed. But Creole appears to be given a mission to eventually swallow up English. The ultimate objective could well be to employ Creole to displace English from Parliament and from the Courtrooms. Politically, veering policy in this direction could pay off dividends but it will certainly undermine our potential to vie against the best anywhere in the world.
9. When will the BEC make public all the research carried out and empirical evidence collected during the years (five?) that it has put in place its “programme d’études du Prevokbek » ? Will it also make public its « système d’évaluation bilingue » and its « manuels bilingues que nous avons produits » ?
– It certainly ought to put up in public any such empirical evidence to support whatever it is advocating. We need to know the sample used, the population targeted, the outcomes and how the conclusion has been reached that the results are generalisable to the entire population.But we must always be guarded against private research: the results tend to support pre-conveived views.
10. Jimmy Harmon also states in Le Mauricien of 16 Jan 10:
« Toute décision qui serait prise ne doit pas être sectorielle mais devra concerner l’ensemble des enfants du pays. L’introduction du kreol morisien à l’école va au-delà de la question pédagogique et de l’échec scolaire. Il s’agit du respect fondamental de l’enfant mauricien, et l’État mauricien ne peut continuer à le priver du droit à sa langue et à sa culture… »
– So, it’s not only about pedagogy and performance; it’s also (and mostly) about culture and language !
– Which culture are we talking about?
– Which culture is it being proposed to be introduced through the proxy of medium of instruction in the classroom?
It looks like the cat is finally out of the bag…
(ref: interview of Dev Virahsawmy – l’express 19 Jan 10).