On Nokia website, as soon as you choose Mauritius as your country, the contents is changed to French indicating that some major organisation has told Nokia that most people here read French but not English.
It’s no coincidence that the two major newspapers in Mauritius (Le Mauricien and L’Express) are also written in French.
Another observation is that most people in Mauritius tend to watch American (or British) films in French. If the film is not available in French, then they simply don’t care to watch it. Ask any cinema or video-club owner for confirmation.
This disturbing report on English language from the British Council also indicates that the level of English in our country is very low. I quote:
“The report pinpoints teaching methodology as the main cause for concern and the main reason for the bleak situation. The reporters make it clear that English is taught as the pupils’ native language while this is obviously not the case. It is a fact most children in Mauritius do not speak English every day at home. Neither do they speak fluent English. But the situation becomes even more serious as they do not even have sufficient exposure to the language Ã¢â‚¬â€œ especially through the media.”
So my questions are:
- Do you think we should use French or CrÃ©ole (which IMHO is a variant of French) for teaching instead of English?
- Don’t you think that this will make more students (especially those whose parents do not know English i.e. the vast majority) work better in class?
- Don’t you think this will allow more teachers and lecturers to be clearer when explaining things? Personally my French is better than my English…
- Don’t you think that Mauritian schools and even the university are eliminating some of our best students every year by forgetting that their mother tongue is not English?
Disclaimer: Notice that I’ve not said that English should not be taught. It should be taught as a foreign language because that’s basically it is for the vast majority. Teaching should be done with a language understood by the teachers and the students.
An update: This is another great article which points out another major problem in our education system: teachers who do not know English.
(Photo courtesy of Jennifer Herbert)
I have not given the question much thought, but there are certain things which come to mind.
First, I totally agree with British Council report. The local media is not doing what it ought to do. You won’t find many newspapers written in English. The most famous one of them (says Sunday, but is issued on Friday) has just been a translation of a more notorious paper written in French since being bought by the latter’s media group. However, the British Council should ask itself if IT is doing enough to promote the language locally.
I also reckon that most Mauritians prefer the French dubbed version of most Hollywood movies. I personally favour English most of the time, specially when the dialogue is important.(Have you ever watched FRIENDS in French?Pfff)
Personally, I am not sure teaching in French would solve the problem to a great extent. Perhaps Creole would, but then, can you teach EVERYTHING in Creole? If French is used, another issue comes into play… Are the teachers themselves comfortable with the language? In my opinion, not many are. Look around you in the CSE dept staff room, how many of your colleagues do you think would be at ease lecturing in French?
As for eliminating the best students, I think this revolves around a more complex issue than merely a language one.
Eddy Young says
No, because it would deprive Mauritians of one of its best assets: multilingualism.
I think we fool ourselves when we think that teaching in French would be better than in English. Ask anyone to write a proper report in French and then you’ll see what I mean. Why Mauritians prefer to watch the French version of British or American films is I think more out of laziness rather than anything else. Showing Matrix in French on TV like yesterday is the the ultimate sample of stupidity. Has anyone listned to the speach of Morpheus in the cave in the original language i.e. English? I have not dared listening to the French version.
I agree that we could use Creole in primary school, in fact teachers have done that for ages. But using creole at college level is I think plain stupidity. A friend of mine who was a Maths teacher was reported to the rector by his students of form IV. The reason, “monsieur explik en Anglais”. How many times haven’t we heard teachers and employers complaining that Mauritians don’t like to make any effort and that they want and easy life? They want an easy life at school so they expect teachers to teach in Creole.
How do you expect students who are currently at Universisty to write proper reports and communicate via email to their UK/US based colleagues if they’re not familiar with English.
All countries which attempted to use the national language in their education system backed out or failed. e.g Malaysia, Seychelles to name a few.
The promotion of French is I think an idea of the French based media in Mauritius. And the biggest culprit of all is of course MBC. Would someone explain to to me how the French version of an American serial costs less than than the original English version?
To answer your question, would using Creole or French improve the literacy rate? I doubt it. As a nation we’re a bunch of lazy people who don’t want to make any effort and want everything on a plate. Its time we do a self analysis and say things bluntly and wake up.
I prefer to write in English. You will observe from my blogs that I would naturally use English in most of them but that they not hinder me sometimes to use la langue de Moliere! On education or learning for that matter, I thought that experts from De la Salle,Dewry through to Montessori vouch that one should move from known to unknown. I had to sit for a TOEFL exams to meet a American University entrance qualification in spite of my UK “A” level.I am of opinion that the teaching of English will be better for most Mauritians from a second language perspective.The litmus test of mother tongue: “in what language to you count? or what language do you use to swear at someone when you are angry?” I count in french or creole and I swear in creole!
I recommend you to http://www.thelearningweb.net/ :The learning revolution
I think that the language issue is only part of the problem. There many other parameters to be looked at in order to be able to provide what-does-he-call-it ‘world class education.
Most important is the style of teaching and learning that is taking place in those classes: it is for the time being mostly bookish, teacher-centered, theoretical, rote-learning based and unappealing.
Also, I find it apalling that class size is on average 40 if not more… This is faceless instruction. As a lecturer, I find groups of more than 30 difficult to manage, not in a disciplinary sense, but rather difficult to get to know all of them, to share ideas and discuss the subject matter, to get everyone onboard. And I’m dealing with full-grown adults whereas in primary and lower secondary, teachers have to cope with young therefore immature (not in a negative sense) minds who, on top of it all, have to deal with the problems of growing up (hormones, body, love, place in society, etc.)
So far, we only have a recipe for disaster: untrained or not-well trained teachers faced with 40 youngsters + a system that rewards only exams-performance + a language that is not mastered by the teachers themselves…
In the report by the British Council, it is stated that
English is NOT our mother tongue. For a vast majority of us, it’s CrÃ©ole and, for some, it’s French as Joseph said.
English is essential. All students should know English. But English should not be used as the medium of instruction. In Mauritius, there is a major hypocrisy that it is perfectly normal to teach any subject in English. It’s not normal. It’s stupid. I quote from the same source:
Now to add insult to injury, read what Christina wrote. She stated that another major issue is the poor style of teaching we have here (which I call talk and chalk) which is “mostly bookish, teacher-centered, theoretical, rote-learning based and unappealing.” (I quote)
I’m depressed when I think how (i) the use of a foreign language and (ii) this kind of teaching is potentially destroying a major portion of our intelligentsia every single year.
OK. Let’s be optimistic. Let’s try to find a solution :-)
“In Mauritius, there is a major hypocrisy that it is perfectly normal to teach any subject in English. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not normal. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stupid. I quote from the same source: ”
Excuse my ignorance but does that mean that we should teach subjects like Economics, Physics etc. in creole. Its OK to explain in creole but how would the student write the answers in exams. I repeat, we’re not good at writing French. We might be able to speak French but when it comes to writing with e, acute e etc. we definitely have a problem here :-). Now French might be the mother tongue of a few but most of us speak creole. Forget bhojpuri, sadly its already a dead language (dialect?). I repeat, I don’t think its a language issue, its more how much we value education as parents and how hungry are we to acquire knowledege.
I think you might be missing the point which is that most young Mauritians (not to say a lot of teachers and lecturers) have difficulties understanding, speaking and writing English.
Now, it’s true that they also have difficulties writing CrÃ©ole or French but at least they understand it. British Council itself states that it is BAD to use ENGLISH as a medium of instruction in Mauritius…
Let us not mix things. English is crucial. But when you don’t understand it, then it is IMPOSSIBLE to learn something else if teaching is done in that language…
(Let us also not forget that we are talking of the majority of Mauritians here, not the 7000 out of 30,000 who manage to do an HSC)
Eddy Young says
I am with Raj on this. Mauritians have become complacent and are unwilling to make any effort. Granted that having been through the grind system that is the CPE I did not fully grasp the objectives of the primary and secondary school programmes, but I have always thought that we were being taught in English because 1) it is the official language of Mauritius and so all educational materials (save for French) are in English, and 2) it was for us to *know* English so that we could use it in higher education and in the work place because (again) our official language is English and all our business dealings should be done in that language.
Sadly, the media have corrupted the meaning of “official language” and have done a great disservice to the country by continuing to use French. I am embarrassed to tell colleagues in the UK that our official language is English, yet I have a French accent. Even more embarrassing is the fact that those who have been to Mauritius ask me 1) whether France was the last colonising power in Mauritius because 2) most Mauritians seemed to speak French.
I find this quite revolting to have the history of one’s country so corrupted without the leading institutions (government, education authorities and the media) doing anything about it.
Eddy Young says
I overlooked your comment (#8). I think the issue is not the use of English, but rather that the importance of English has not been highlighted enough. As the curriculum in Mauritian schools are very academic, languages are often overlooked. True also is the fact that many teachers cut corners by using Creole and French in schools instead of the official English teaching language.
Thus, the problem is not the use of English for teaching, but rather the insufficient teaching of English. One solution would be to raise the standards of our teachers. Unfortunately, teaching is not the affair of schools only, but that of the parents, media and environment children evolve in, and none is attending to their responsibilities.
Having said that, I have to admit that throughout my schooling my English teachers have all been excellent. I would not be surprised if students were no longer being taught proper pronounciation. Vehicle, lieutenant, colonel anyone? :-)
views from a noob :P
Our mothertongue is creole, so its obvious if ever we would choose to speak an other language, we’ll prefer something closer to it (french)
coming to whether we should teach in creole / french
Creole is a MUST in primary schools
say a teacher is explaining addition in standard 1
If he tells the kids to “take 2 match sticks from the box and then take another 3 match sticks, put them together and then start counting the number of match sticks”
the poor thing will be lost!!!
“prend 2 baton zalumette apres prend enkor 3 baton.. aster conT combien ena ” will be clearer
you gave the example of the maths teacher that explains in english
is he mauritian??
For me a good teacher is someone who can easily share his knowledge with his students, no matter the means of delivering.
personally i don’t care in what language the lecturer is explaining as long as i get hold of the subject matter!
btw y lecturers in mauritius don’t use creole??
In reference to comment #9, although English is thought to be the official language of Mauritius, it would appear that this is not really the case.
As far as I know, it is written nowhere that English is our official language, neither in our Constitution nor in our laws. In the National Assembly however, English is the official language and French can also be used (that’s why our MPs choose to swear and insult each other in Creole – so that it won’t be recorded;-).
Anyway, again I think the language issue is only a secondary one. Whatever be the language that we choose to educate our children in (and I do agree that English is important and French too for doing business on the global scene but we should not let Creole also die coz its our cultural heritage, it’s what bonds us together), first and foremost we should enhance our pedagogy which is currently a complete disaster.
For instance, teachers do not go from the known to the unknown (from the child’s perspective), they do not contextualise information given, they do not take into consideration the children’s personality, learning style and factors that are hindering proper learning (e.g. the social context they live in, the psychological problems, etc.). They are not friendly, warm, loving and considerate… so that in most children’s minds, classroom learning = military indoctrination. But, at the same time, as I said earlier, the blame is. to a large extent, to be put on the system (exams-performance focus, warped trade unions-Ministry relations, poor physical infrastructure, lack of space and facilities, teachers left alone to cope with 40 kids in a confined room, no peer exchange of ideas, no or limited parent-teacher linkages, ethnic-centered debates, and so on and so forth)
Cry my beloved country and children!
Even English is the official language, creole is the most spoken and most popular one.(we all agree…no further discussion on that!!!)
What would have happened if formal discussions in any business environments, in the private or public sectors, were ALL held in creole? Have we ever think about the consequences? Will that lead to misunderstandings which would finally lead to organisational chaos? Will that lead to more understanding among the different individuals interacting with each other hence to increase in quality and productivity?
I guess there is a need to stop for a minute and start thinking about this new way of doing things.Personally, i don’t think we can reach to an agreed point for those who agree with the above statement and those who totally disagree. Each and every one of us are different. In whatever scenario it is human nature to opt for the easier way. Some final words…choose whatever you feel best and do not let the system choose for yourself !!! ;-)
Personally i think that french or creole can be used
Many people dont speak in the same way.
suppose the work : PASSWORD
some people say PASS WORD
Thus what should we understand really.
I think that if someone explains anything in french or creole, he/she will be able to express clearly and the one listening can also understand well.
Disclaimer: I am not telling that english should not be used.
it can be the case that suppose a lecture is being delivered the one explaining can explain it in french so that he/she can be clear an concise and when student have understand it shall not be a problem to write it in simple english since the main idea is understanding what SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD
What do you think Mr Avinash.
I agree with Nevin to some point as there lots of offshores companies looking for workforce in here and speaking creole will be kinda difficult to communicate with Non-Mauritians.
BUT i strongly believe teaching in creole or french will show significant increase in the performance of the students
students might for a change understand some stuffs( might decrease the urge to learn by heart also)
Besides a lecturer talking in creole or french will surely increase class participation and interaction between lecturer and student
Eddy Young says
All references cite English as the official language of Mauritius, so it is safe to assume that it is, even if only by convention.
I think we are all stating the same thing albeit at different levels and from different perspectives. The root cause of the catastrophic situation in our schools is insufficient planning of the educational system. Our children should be taught with a well-thought curriculum that leads them from the moment they start learning. The language used for teaching should be dictated amongst other things. That would prevent the ridiculous situation in which a child speaks Creole at home, French in pre-primary, Creole in primary, English in secondary and at university, only to revert back to Creole in the work place.
franchement, je trouve que le francais serait mieux dans le systeme educatif a maurice… vu qu’il se raproche du creole, ce sera definitivement un atout majeur pour l’apprentisage des petits et des grands. le depaysment serait nettement moindre.
malheureusement un hic majeur reste que nos papiers d’examens sortent pour la plupart de cambridge, donc ce serait assez dure d’apprendre en francais pour se retrouver a la fin devant un papier fait pour un population ayant comme langue primaire l’anglais.
autre chose, pour l’exposition a la langue anglaise, je pense que la tendance change, surtout pour les jeunes, de plus en plus internet-aware, l’anglais devient assez populaire, pour ma part, je prefere voir un film ou lire un livre en vo, plutot que de me contenter de la version traduite.
When you say that ‘The language used for teaching should be dictated amongst other things.’, do you mean to say that this language should be English?
I do not think that Mauritius should become a monolanguage country. It is an asset to have more that one language within our portfolio. Of course, the pbm is that we do not master any of them enough to say that we are fluent and good at writing both English and French and even our mother tongue Creole or, for some of us Bhojpuri (sadly, it’s a language that is dying).
The main pbm is that we’re too stiff in our approach and tend to attribute well-defined values to each separate language and establish a sort of hierarchy which can sometimes vary according to our locus standi.
We forget that language is just a medium for sharing of ideas and incidentally for learning. Building self-confidence in our children is the first priority. And we have to start with the language with which the child is more at ease, then second and even third language acquisition will be easier.
Start with the known to move to the unknown.
matrix just can’t be seen in any language other than english :p
but yes creole will make things a lot more easier, coz with english we have to figure out first what the english means :p though there are lots of arguments against it also :p
ahh wi another thing.. talking computer terms in french isn’t that sexy :p
though explaining the concept in creole is great
same opinion as selven.
what is being told in english need to be figure out first. by the time anyone figure out the translation, another part is being missed already. experience it myself
What do you think Selven
Eddy Young says
(Obviously, I have been very busy and missed Christina’s reply.)
I don’t mean that this language should be English although it is my preference. It does not matter what language it is is as long as teachers and students are clear about it. So, I would complement your “from the known to the unknown” with “consistency throughout”.
en tant que franÃƒÂ§ais (vivant ÃƒÂ la RÃ©union) je pense qu’il est important que les jeunes parlent plusieurs langues.
Quand je vois que nous, les franÃƒÂ§ais, sommes nuls en langue Ã©trangÃƒÂ¨re, c’est dÃ©sespÃ©rant!
Il faut plusieurs langues, c’est important, ne serait-ce que pour ceux qui souhaitent avoir une carriÃƒÂ¨re ÃƒÂ l’extÃ©rieur de Maurice: c’est une chance.
Dommage en tout cas qu’un tel dÃ©bat n’existe pas en France, mÃƒÂªme si les Ã©coles bilingues existent bien.
Maybe that would sound silly or racist: to me French being much more used than english in Mauritius is maybe because the french ministry of foreign affairs do its work better than the british?
and secondly, the local media is mainly controlled by the what we like to call “the franco-mauriciens”
From my personal experience: when speaking french, my parents consider it socially above than speaking english cos french was spoken by my dad’s bosses but english only by the “malbar l’inde” he met.
Even for me at “college du saint esprit” when dating a girl, you should talk in french, else you are considered a “napa” at the nearby girls college
So to me, either its too late to get back the ease of use of english (if we ever had it) or it will take at least 2 generations.
BTW: no comments on the language that should be used for instructing pupils except: bizin sanzement
Je n’ai malheureusement pas le temps tout de suite de faire des commentaires sur le contenu de ce blog (mais je le ferai en temps voulu). En attendant, je voudrais feliciter l’auteur de ce blog d’avoir organise ce debat (ainsi que tous les internautes qui y ont participe) puisqu’il traite d’un probleme tres important qui a ete trop ignore jusqu’a l’heure. Trop de mauriciens se desinteressent totalement des problemes de la societe mauricienne. La majorite de ceux qui s’y interessent n’on pas le culot d’en parler tout haut, ou sont trop paresseux pour le faire, et parmis ceux qui en debattent, il n’y a qu’une minorite qui essaie reellement de faire changer les choses ou de proposer des solutions. Je pense que le plus les mauriciens debattront de ce genre de sujets, le plus d’autres oseront aussi y participer. Il est temps que les mauriciens se reveillent, qu’ils arretent de se cacher derriere un voile qui s’appelle ‘religion’, ‘couleur’ ou ‘classe sociale’ qui a tendance a figer et juger leurs opinions et qu’ils osent exprimer tout haut, ce qu’ils pensent tou bas. Mon commentaire merite probablement d’etre le sujet d’un debat separe. Mais faute de cela, je me permets de le faire dans le cadre de ce blog. A +
Do not blame primary school teachers for they can’t be solely held responsible for the desolate situation of a large majority of our unfortunate little friends at our CPE exams. It’s one of the most difficult and under-valued jobs in this nation: go and face a bunch of 40 kids for 15 minutes and you’ll understand why!
Let’s face it:
Who speaks English well in Mauritius? Certainly not our role models or the elites of our society (though there are quite a handful of notable exceptions). We speak a French-creole-version of English (I well omitted considering it as a ‘Frenchised’ version) and nothing will change it.
I’ve heard a lot of my friends saying that even if a person speaks English badly and bluntly, it’s no big problem. Would anyone count on a translator accompanying our PM or President on his foreign trips in a few decades’ time? What will it sound like? There is a pressing need to polish both our French and English, though we can’t approximate our accents to those of the business Englishman or the ‘Parisien’…
Reasons are too obvious.
We need the outside world to survive.
The reverse is not true.
A few thoughts (hopefully some more later on… there is so much to say about this subject!):
Teaching in creole at school:
1. I think that using creole to teach in schools is ignoring what creole is all about. Kreol is a dialect which was born out of years of history and is unique to our island (save for the Seychelles…). As such, it is not (and should not) be regulated by any grammar, spelling or other rules. The beauty of kreol is that its only limits are those of our imagination. Personnaly, I love and cherish kreol and would not want it to become something that it is not.
2. Although it is true that some pupils do not understand everything that is said in French or English when taught in either language, I strongly believe that doing classes entirely in English/French is the only way to ensure that these pupils will improve their language skills. Believing, in 2007, that Mauritius can get away with using creole at school is quite naive I believe.
3. Experience has shown that people can improve their language skills considerably merely by attending classes in a non-native language. The same is even more true for people who already have basic skills in either French or English.
On a separate point: I agree with Mauriciano regarding the pressing need to polish both our English and French. However, I do not believe that the mauritian accent is a major issue since I know a number of people working in both England and France who have strong mauritian accent, and this does not appear to be a problem nor an obstacle to their successful careers.
I personally believe that English must remain the medium of instruction. I agree that our mother tongue is creole and we are better at spoken French than Spoken English. But the question is canm we teach all subjects by using English or
Creole when we all know well that our most important examination S.C and H.S.C are monitored by the Cambridge University and that our students must answer in English?
English has no social use in Mauritius and it is confined only to classroom situations. we all know the growing importance of English all around the world whether it be in the educational sector or in economic matters. what will happen to our students if teachers stop using English in class? Where will they get the necessary exposure to the language if not in class?
I believe that as from the beginning, in primary schools English must be used so as to familiarise the young children with the language and Creole and French can be used as supportive languages. later, at Secondary schools, teachers must switch completely to English. This can be an alternative.
Florian Lavoux says
toujours intÃ©ressan tes billets :) photo courtesy of jennifer herbert : Ã§a m’a quzlque peu fait sourire :) bone continuation !
M.F. Nourrice says
I have read with great interest all the answers or suggestions given on the issue of which language to be used in the school as medium of instruction. Well it all depends on your language policy if you have one. However, it is worth noting that your country is linguistically rich. You have several languages. What are your national languages or official languages? Which language or languages really unite (s) your people? Which language is mostly used by Maurician children? which language caracterises you as a Maurician outside Mauritius? Which langauge says a lot about Mauritian identity. Well this language or languages should be medium of instruction. Consequently, it is wise to note that extra care should be taken. The language to be used in the early years of education should closely relate to the one that you decide to be medium of instruction in years to come. For instance if Creole is to be used in the early years the other medium of instruction should be French since they both languages something in common, as for English, well problems will surface. One key issue is Mauritian children, consider them in any future decision to be made. Let them guide your thinking.
I can say that CrÃ©ole is what unites us :-)
Since that post was written, some things have started moving here. For instance, I know there are some ZEP schools (found generally in poor regions where a lot of CrÃ©oles live…) use CrÃ©ole as the medium of instruction. Whether other schools will become as wise one day is something else…
no it is not good to do that