Introduction of English in the primary cycle: A project and apprehensions

During the last Council of Ministers, the President of the Republic gave instructions to ensure good preparation to start teaching English to 3rd year primary classes from this school year. Even if the first person in charge of the Education sector reassures as to the taking of all measures to meet this challenge, the fears, in particular of the pedagogues, are there…

Massive recruitment of teachers, rapid design of textbooks, establishment of the curriculum and training of teachers. So many advanced steps have been taken to complete the project of introducing English as of the next school year. The language of Shakespeare will thus be invited alongside the language of Molière from the 3rd year of primary school.

In his last statement, the Minister of National Education, Abdelhakim Belabed, insisted on reassuring that all the measures are ready to make this project a success. Since the beginning of this month of August, the recruitment of teachers has been done en masse. These are mainly English language graduates but also those who have done interpreting and translation.

The Minister wanted to clarify several gray areas. The most important is the optional nature of learning. “The English language will be compulsory from the 3rd year of primary school with an hourly volume of 90 minutes. The teachers who will be recruited by contract will receive training for only 15 days. The manual and the program will be known in due course»he said.

Despite all these assurances and affirmations, the fears of a failure of this ambitious project are palpable. Belabed’s social partners do not mince their words or their criticisms, particularly in relation to the hasty nature of the project’s launch.

Boualem Amoura, general secretary of the Union of Education and Training Workers (Satef), considers that the introduction of a new language in primary “must meet well-defined criteria and standards. We are not against the introduction of a new language, but rather against the haste that surrounds it.

Moreover, having even more contract teachers will only make the teaching profession more precarious. We have been calling for several years to make up for the lack of teachers in other subjects and to organize a recruitment competition. We are surprised today by the attitude of the ministry which will recruit no less than 20,000 contractual teachers just for English in primary school when we have a lack of teachers of mathematics and important subjects. It’s DIY again.”

Indeed, considering international standards, the development of a textbook would take no less than 15 months.

What about international standards?

According to these standards, the successive stages of the production of a textbook must materialize the constant dialogue between the ministry as publisher and its various collaborators (pedagogues, teachers, trade unions) throughout the editorial work.

These steps are subject to time and implementation constraints, periodic evaluation by project and/or sequence of the manual.

The post-edited manual also goes through a two-year experimental phase. The goal, according to the pedagogues, is to collect the various errors and modifications to be made to the manual which can only be officially validated after the 3rd year.

Messaoud Boudiba, spokesman for the Autonomous National Council of Teachers in the Third Education Sector (Cnapeste), is indignant that the “unions are never associated with this kind of very important decisions for the sector”. “Decisions are made in a very worrying unilateral way”he gets carried away.

For his part, Meziane Meriane, pedagogue and former trade unionist (Snapeste) insists on the “rushed character” of the introduction of English in primary school. For him, a pedagogical study is imperative.

“It’s no small feat that will have a real impact on a child’s overall learning. Everything must be prepared. From the textbook, to the program to the recruitment of teachers who must be rigorously trained”he summarizes, while not forgetting to recall that the project is “promising, since it is the language of science and technology”.

Introduction of English in the primary cycle: A project and apprehensions