Spreading and promoting the French language: a priority for French diplomacy
On 20 March 2018, President Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed that promoting the French language and Francophonie is an important priority for France.
This emphasis on outreach is in keeping with the local authorities’ desire to bolster the populations’ French language skills with various objectives and in heterogeneous and changing linguistic contexts.
In French-speaking Africa, French is often the language of teaching and administration, but rarely a mother tongue. Several dozen languages can co-exist within a single country with various statuses. In this context, French can play a consolidating role as a language of dialogue between different ethnicities.
In non-French-speaking Africa, French is taught as the first or second foreign language. Learning of French can be encouraged to promote regional and continental integration for countries intent on enhancing economic exchanges and diplomatic ties with neighbouring countries.
But these encouraging opportunities can only be turned into a reality with unprecedented support for Africa’s education systems.
National education systems are facing significant structural problems and are struggling to meet the rapidly growing demand for schooling. Great progress has been made in terms of educational opportunities but the quality of teaching is now a key issue for local authorities.
France is helping States based on the needs they express within the framework of bilateral cooperation or through contributions to international financing.
The measures of the French President’s French Language and Multilingualism Plan fall within this context and include providing support for the education systems of French-speaking Africa, developing French and bilingual French teaching institutions, increasing use of French within international organizations and promoting teaching as a career.
- Mobilizing unprecedented sums for education in French-speaking countries for the training of millions of teachers
Teaching training, including development of language skills, is a major focus for improvement for teachers as well as a guarantee of increased French language usage.
- Enhancing multilingualism within the French-speaking world by supporting the introduction of African languages in early learning
France supports the International Organisation of La Francophonie’s ELAN programme for national languages in African schools. This programme is aimed at improving the quality of learning by implementing a gradual transition from teaching in national languages to teaching in French. ELAN-Afrique is symbolic of a renewed policy to promote the French language which considers multilingualism as an asset.
The Institut Français, an agency of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, has developed a digital linguistic training platform for African teachers called IF Classe. It is currently being experimented in Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco and Senegal.
- Bolstering the network of French lycées in Africa to meet growing demand
Within the network of French lycées, Africa only had 46,000 of a total 350,000 students around the world at the start of the 2017 school year. Nearly half are found in West Africa, where there are two main cities: Dakar in Senegal, and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. High demand for French curriculum teaching, which is known for its quality, makes it possible to envisage the network’s expansion in Africa.
The aim is to double the number of students attending schools within the French school network in Africa by 2030.
- Giving new momentum to bilingual French education
The LabelFrancEducation, created in 2012, is accorded by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs to outstanding bilingual programmes offering extra teaching of French and at least one non-language discipline in French, in accordance with the local national curriculum. The aim is for 500 institutions to be part of this network around the world by 2022. The network is currently little developed in Africa: three institutions in Angola and one in Liberia were due to join the only approved institution in Rwanda in 2018.
- Enhancing French language in regional international organizations and promoting French as a working language
Training projects for international civil servants working in regional or continental organizations in Africa are currently underway (African Union, East African Community). They aim to create long-term prospects for French as a second language in international organizations.
- Promoting the career of French teachers around the world
The International Federation of French Teachers (FIPF) supports national associations in 25 African countries to help train more qualified teachers. In 2018, France will double its subsidy of the FIPF.
- Enhancing embassy-led bilateral cooperation
The Agence Française de Développement is the main actor in the development policy of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. The Ministry also has a network of 131 cooperation and cultural action services which are developing key projects with local education ministries as part of its educational and linguistic cooperation.
The French solidarity fund for innovative projects (FSPI) also helps to support one-off projects. In 2018, nine cooperation and cultural action services in Africa benefited from sums between €100,000 and €500,000 for projects to support the French language.
Lastly, the Ministry provides international technical experts for national education systems for support in designing education policies.
- Supporting the boom in social networks and collaborative projects involving the French language
The Institut Français has developed a professional social network enabling education practitioners from around the world to communicate, exchange practices, consult resources and share their experiences: IF Profs. Nine African countries have joined IF Profs since 2016: Benin, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Togo, South Africa, Morocco and Nigeria. Some 53 national facilitators have been trained in African countries. In June 2018, 3,353 African teachers were active on IF Profs (out of a total 17,134 members). We are expecting 5,000 African teachers to become members by the end of 2018 and 15,000 more in 2019.
Updated: February 2019