National Languages as a Driver of Innovation for Professional Training in Africa

In an increasingly connected and competitive world, the importance of national languages in the economic and social development of Africa is undeniable. In this article, the Institute of the Francophonie for Education and Training (Institut de la Francophonie pour l’éducation et la formation ; IFEF) explores how local languages can become a powerful catalyst for innovation in vocational training on the continent. By emphasizing the integration of national languages in training and skills development programs, innovative francophone approaches implemented by the IFEF can promote better understanding, communication and appropriation of knowledge, while strengthening the cultural and linguistic identity of African communities.

Education and professional training in Africa

Education and vocational training are essential drivers of economic and social development in Africa. However, access to quality education remains a major challenge in many parts of the continent, particularly due to language barriers that hinder learning. In this context, national languages are emerging as powerful tools to innovate and transform technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programs in Africa. While formal teaching in foreign languages has long been favored in many African education systems, the use of national languages (NLs) offers an alternative route to ensuring more inclusive access to education, while promoting greater understanding. depth of concepts and increased cultural relevance.

National languages as a medium of teaching

Indicators resulting from the measurement of students’ academic performance provide information on the quality and relevance of education systems. Thus, the assessments of students’ academic achievements carried out over the last decade call for innovation in teaching methods. Both the 2014 PASEC Evaluation Eeport and the 2019 Report show insufficient levels of reading-writing and arithmetic in most of the countries concerned. The PASEC 2019 Report concludes that more than 55% of students at the start of schooling have not reached the sufficient threshold on the language proficiency scale. At the end of school, almost the same proportion of students (52%) is below the sufficient threshold of skills and therefore has difficulty learning to read. These fundamental skills are essential for academic and lifelong success.

However, according to UNESCO, four out of ten children in the world receive education in a language they do not understand. In Africa, these figures rise to eight out of ten children. We can thus easily understand that improving the quality of education, and consequently the development of human capital, is intrinsically linked to the language of instruction. Using the language that the student knows to teach allows them to participate better in class, allowing them to have fun learning, which is essential to improve their academic level.

Experiments have been carried out for several years and the various evaluations and studies undoubtedly demonstrate the added value of bilingual education. Today there is an emerging international consensus in favor of formal bi-plurilingual education, using the national languages spoken by students as a means of improving teaching-learning.

This educational innovation, although originally informal, now finds application in classrooms, including technical education. Thus, it is important to adequately structure, supervise and equip the use of national languages in the formal educational context.

The challenges and realities of TVET in Africa

Vocational and technical training aims to meet the needs of the labor market and the economy for qualified human resources in order to contribute to improving the competitiveness and performance of businesses. One of the current priorities of governments is to adapt, in partnership with the private sector, the vocational training offer to the needs of economic development. In this context, it is a question, on the one hand, of diversifying training sectors by giving priority to strategic sectors identified as bringing accelerated growth and employment, and on the other hand, of regulating flows according to present and future demand in the economy.

The introduction of national languages in the vocational training sector opens new perspectives and better opportunities for young people and adults to acquire skills required for work and life. This makes education more inclusive, equitable, of quality and with a lifelong learning perspective. The adoption of a learning model based on the use of national languages aims to make training more attractive to local populations, particularly young people.

The development of technical and professional training with the use of writing, reading and calculations in national languages is an additional aspect of innovation, since the practice responds to the expectations/needs of the populations.

The strategic development of vocational and technical training in countries must promote technical vocational training and apprenticeship oriented towards the job market. It is part, among other things, of a dynamic of writing curricula according to the Competency-Based Approach (APC) and the creation of conditions for their implementation, as well as support for the integration of new graduates.

Formal introduction of national languages in TVET

Formally introducing national languages into technical and vocational education and training in Africa is a crucial step for several reasons.

First of all, it overcomes one of the main barriers to learning: language. Too often, teachers and learners find themselves confronted with educational content in a language that they do not fully master, which hinders their understanding and their ability to assimilate the necessary technical and professional knowledge. By introducing national languages into teaching, we promote better understanding of concepts, greater participation in class and, therefore, more effective acquisition of skills.

In addition, the use of national languages in technical and vocational education makes it possible to promote the cultural and linguistic diversity of the African continent. This reinforces the sense of identity and belonging among learners, by highlighting their languages and cultures. By promoting national languages, we also promote their preservation and development, thus contributing to the safeguarding of African linguistic heritage.

Teachers themselves benefit from the introduction of national languages into technical and vocational education. By using a language they are fluent in, they can teach more effectively, expressing themselves precisely and adapting their speech to the level of understanding of their learners. It also reduces the linguistic distance between teachers and learners, thus promoting a better teaching relationship and a more positive learning climate.

To meet this challenge, innovations and solutions have emerged, emphasizing the integration of national languages into technical and vocational education. Teacher training programs are put in place to help them develop their linguistic skills in national languages and adapt their teaching practices accordingly. Educational resources and learning materials are also developed in national languages, thus providing learners with access to relevant content adapted to their linguistic and cultural context.

In conclusion, formally introducing national languages into technical and vocational education and training in Africa is essential to overcome language barriers, value cultural and linguistic diversity and improve the quality of learning. Efforts must be made to support teachers, develop adapted educational resources and promote the use of national languages as a vector of inclusion and educational development on the African continent.

Mutual enrichment between TVET and national languages

In the context of vocational training, the use of national languages alongside French has many advantages for young apprentices. Indeed, they often feel more comfortable expressing themselves and learning in their mother tongue than in the official language.

Integrating national languages into curricula thus makes it possible to significantly reduce learning time and strengthen learner motivation. They can assimilate the concepts and technical gestures specific to their future profession more quickly when the explanations are provided in a language that is familiar to them.

Furthermore, this process contributes to enriching the national languages themselves. Professional training often requires specific vocabulary which does not always exist in these languages. Developing a technical glossary and creating trade dictionaries then becomes essential. This not only facilitates learning but also promotes and modernizes national languages.

Some innovative solutions have been developed to integrate African national languages into professional and technical training, such as the Boîte à innovations* project. This ambitious initiative is based on the skills-based approach (CBA) and provides training in 12 African languages, thus reaching a large target audience in several countries on the continent.

The Boîte à innovations offers digital learning tools for literacy in African languages, in order to make training more accessible. The project also promotes the use of the Internet in professional training, as well as specific modules in e-farming and e-agriculture to provide agricultural high schools with suitable digital tools.

Ultimately, far from being a hindrance, national languages constitute a real asset in making professional training more accessible, more effective and better anchored in its local environment. Their use, in conjunction with French, opens the way to innovative, inclusive and promising training systems for African youth.

Find out more about our actions:

*Boite à innovations :

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *