I was at the Musée des civilisations noires in Dakar for a colloquium on bilingualism and bilingual education organized by Laurent Bonardi and Ecole Actuelle Bilingue. Ranka Bijeljac-Babic, Thierry Nazzi, Aliou Seck, and I brought different perspectives on the advantage and importance of bilingual education and bilingualism in our societies, and their potential for cognitive, cultural, and economic development.
Bilingual education between a national language and French exists in a few experimental schools in Senegal, despite several attempts at offering it in public schools in the 1960s and more recently with the ARED and ELAN programs. In actuality, bilingual education has never been the rule in Senegal. Instruction in French is still done but on its own in public schools. No instruction is provided in the children’s mother tongue alongside French. This has disastrous effects on academic achievements and, I argue, on economic development in general. However, recent experiments confirm that bilingual education – where instruction is done in both a national language and French – are showing positive outcome. Talks of scaling this up are in the air but funding is lacking. Still, a bilingual revolution is in the works in Senegal! #bilingualrevolution #révolutionbilingue