#Article (Archive)

The Imperative of Bilingual Education

May 19, 2009, 5:06 AM

The triumph of DianaMariamSchool in the recent French cultural contest has pointed up yet again the relevance of bilingual education in English-speaking West Africa. DianaMariamSchool locked horns with Ecole Francais, MarinaInternationalSchool, Ecole Senegalese and RainbowSchool at the Alliance Franco Gambienne for supremacy in poetry, music and drama, and emerged victorious. The Saint Francophile Association organized the competition.

The aim of the contest was to help children develop their confidence in the spoken French and realize that the language is important to their education. Apparently due to colonialism, most English-speaking West Africans tend to belittle the French language, relegating it to the background. At school, students skip French classes with glee and tease their French teachers with all the amusement they can muster. In their youthful exuberance, they delude themselves that so long as they can speak and write English, the French language is immaterial to their advancement in life. But experience has shown that this mindset is misguided. So many people have had to spend their precious time and money to take French classes after school in order to advance their careers. The ambitious ones who suddenly realize that a good grasp of the French language is essential to getting posh jobs in international bodies can be seen taking evening classes at specialized training centres all over the place.

As competition in the marketplace grows fiercer and fiercer, it is imperative that educational planners make sure that students are exposed to as many international languages as possible. If our graduates are bilingual or even multilingual as the case may be, they will be more competitive in the marketplace. Apart from improving one's job prospect, being bilingual also enhances one's social network and business opportunities. Many monolingual businesspeople are known to have spent a lot of money on translation and translators to understand many a business correspondence. It is therefore heartening to see that some schools are already introducing children to bilingual education from a very tender age. It is at infancy that people easily learn languages, so the earlier our children get exposed to international languages, the better for their progress and future outlook on the world. They should be taught from infancy to see the world from various perspectives; and this is best done through language studies. This should not be confined to the private schools. The public schools should also be involved as a matter of policy.

We would therefore like to heartily congratulate the management, staff and pupils of Diana Mariam School for their outstanding performance in the French cultural contest and urge them to work even harder in order to make bilingual education a way of life in The Gambia.

"They Know enough who Know how to learn".

Henry Adama

Henry Adama