Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Debate in Algeria over Adopting French for Sciences | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A general view of the upper parliament chamber is pictured in Algiers, Algeria [REUTERS]

Algeria – Debates are heating up within the Algerian educational and political circles after Minister of Education Nouria Benghebrit suggested that teaching in French could improve students’ results.

Benghebrit said that a field study done by experts in pedagogy revealed that teaching sciences in French is better than teaching them in Arabic.

During her visit to the educational facilities in Tizi Ouzou, the minister said that a ministerial committee studied for months the best language to teach sciences and math for elementary, intermediate, and secondary schools. The plans have suggested that math, physics and natural sciences in secondary schools should be taught in French.

Regarding the teaching of science in the French language at universities in Algeria, Benghebrit said that using French in schools as well would help ease the transition. There have been concerns that students face a language barrier when they are taught in French at university, with many failing.

Even though Arabic is the official language of Algeria, universities are still teaching courses in French, more than 50 years after independence from France.

The minister’s suggestion was interpreted that Algeria’s official language is not the language of sciences and thus should be abandoned. Opponents criticized a “divorce from identity” which would disconnect young people from their cultural roots.

The controversy over language stirred arguments about the relationship between Algeria and France, the former colonial power.

Due to her French upbringing, Benghebrit doesn’t speak fluent Arabic and was ridiculed on social media.

An official at the ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the results of the committee of experts will be sent to the government for approval and then to the president. After that, the proposal will be discussed by the parliament for voting.

The official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that about 50 percent of university students can’t continue their studies because of the dual language teaching.

Benghebrit was attacked by her opponents in the Islamic and conservative movements especially the Association of Algerian Muslim Ulama.

Members of the Islamic Party Movement of Society for Peace said that the minister is implementing the agenda of elite ruling class that follows France. The party called for a petition to confront her proposal.

Leader at the Movement of Society for Peace Naser Hamdadoush said that the minister is still loyal to her alienation project. He added that after the French direction of the process of setting the new curriculum and the scandal of teaching colloquial rather than proper Arabic, subjects that lie at the core of the Algerian identity, including Islamic teachings, are now being targeted.

French-speaking newspapers in Algeria attacked members of the educational system, saying they are behind the times. The newspapers said that those backing the campaign are the enemies of the minister.