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EL Middle East 2017: Algeria’s English Textbook Reform

Hichem Merouche Algeria
Mohamed Miliani looks at the challenges facing the government

Over eight and a half million students enrolled in Algeria’s schools during the last academic year, managed by 495,000 teachers. One challenge facing Algeria’s education minister Nouria Benghebrit is phasing in the new textbooks, introduced in 2016, for first- and second-year primary and first-year middle school. The government has launched a policy for the teaching of foreign languages, with expert help sought in teacher training and creation of textbooks. French is the first foreign language and the most widely used, but English has become very popular among Algeria’s youth, who see it as an instrument for their own careers and success.

The ministry developed partnerships with the British Council, and Benghebrit participated in the January 2016 BETT ed tech conference in London. This was followed in October by a visit to Algeria by UK minister for Middle East and Africa Tobias Ellwood. During his visit, Ellwood spoke about the opportunities for widening cooperation beyond English language learning.

The main aim of the Algerian education reform has been to make pupils participate more in their learning, so that students leave school with not just a good command of reading, writing and numeracy but also the attitudes, values and skills needed by 21st century citizens. This is in contrast to old programmes dominated just by memorisation and the acquisition of knowledge. To this end, ‘second generation’ textbooks have been designed based on a ‘global approach’ that allows the same themes to be tackled through different subject disciplines. A disciplinary group made up of inspectors, school and university teachers and principals designed the new textbooks for the first year of middle school. The print run for the complete series of first-year middle-school textbooks will be nearly nine million, while the complete new textbook series for the whole school system will eventually run to over 60 million copies.

The My Book of English textbook for first-year middle school, compiled by a team of four Algerian teachers and inspectors, appeared in September. It features interdisciplinary learning, an emphasis on observation, synthesis, creativity and analysis, and consideration for the ‘core values’ central to the cultural identity of Algerians. Lesson plans for My Book of English are already part of teacher training. The response so far has been an overall feeling of satisfactory progress towards the attainment of quality. The minister’s next challenge is coming – textbooks for the third and fourth year of primary are being prepared, along with those for the second and third year of middle school.

Mohamed Miliani is a Professor at the Department of Anglo-Saxon Languages of the University of Oran, Algeria 

Pic courtesy: Hichem Merouche