MALI - Committee Responsible for the Strategy of Using National Languages and Convergent Pedagogy
Convergent pedagogy is a major innovation in the contemporary education system of Mali. The essence consists of the simultaneous use of mother-tongues and French (the official language) in the first stage of basic education. The local language is used as a vehicle of instruction during the first two years of schooling, with French introduced as a second language. For the third and fourth school years, both languages are used to an equal extent. From the fifth year onwards, French becomes the language of instruction, whereas the mother-tongue continues to be studied as a separate subject, and continues to be so throughout the remainder of schooling. This pedagogy is based on the assumption that initial education in a child’s mother-tongue facilitates enormously intellectual ‘take off’ and contributes to the success of subsequent learning.
Convergent pedagogy implies the promotion of active educational techniques and methods. It encourages teaching disciplines new to the Malian curriculum, such as dialogue, oral and written expression, story-telling, rapid and functional reading, and techniques of self-expression and communication.
Convergent pedagogy was first tested in two schools in Ségou between 1987 and 1993. Internal and external evaluations provided very positive results. In particular, pupils following convergent pedagogy had a higher performance than those using ‘classical’ methods, and children in experimental schools were better adapted to their socio-cultural milieu. These results were very important for Mali, a country with many national languages and a high rate of school failure. The Ministry of Basic Education felt encouraged to introduce this innovation into other schools and to involve other national languages. In 1994, the Committee on National Languages and Convergent Pedagogy was established.
In the 1994/95 academic year, the Committee opened sixty-seven schools throughout the country with teaching conducted in three languages (Bamanankan, Fulfulde and Songhoy). By 1998, 244 schools were using convergent pedagogy, and the number of languages had increased to six. During the 1998/99 school year, sixty-eight more schools became involved in the process and instruction is now conducted in eight out of eleven national languages.
The main task of the Committee is the preparation of teaching materials in national languages and the training of teachers and headmasters and of educational advisers dealing with the methodology.
The Committee established the terms of reference for textbooks that are written during annual workshops, bringing together researchers, linguists, teachers and educational advisers. Since the Committee’s establishment, twenty-nine such textbooks and other teaching materials have been prepared. In addition, during the same period the Committee has participated in the training of over 1,000 teachers specialized in national languages and convergent pedagogy. In 1998/99 alone, 383 schoolteachers started to be trained in this method.
Thanks to this new method of teaching, positive changes have been observed in children’s behaviour. The priority granted to teamwork would seem to have boosted their confidence. It has been noted that these children have a greater desire to learn, a more profound sense of responsibility and of co-operation, a better understanding of themselves and of others. They have developed intuition and creativity, a capacity to put forward hypotheses and to go beyond their present experience. They have a positive attitude towards errors, openness and receptivity. Behavioural changes have also occurred at the family level: children no longer hesitate to share their opinions and to propose to their elders solutions to various problems that may arise in the family or community.
At the same time, encouraging changes have been observed in the attitude of the teachers: from being an imposed duty, teaching using the convergent pedagogy methods has become a real pleasure due to a mutual understanding reached between themselves and their pupils.
The combined use of local languages and French constitutes one of the key elements of the government’s ten-year plan for the development of education.
Comité chargé des stratégies
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