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Home2023 IssuesMarch 2023Egypt introduces French as a Foreign Language but where are the teachers?

Egypt introduces French as a Foreign Language but where are the teachers?

The news that Egypt is to introduce the teaching of French as a compulsory subject in the first year of Middle school, has caused waves in the Egyptian Press. “ Egyptian students to have French as Compulsory second Language in public schools by 2024,” screams Ahramonline. goes a step further “ By 2024 Egyptians may be required to French by law.” 

Is Egypt about to force its citizens to immediately adopt a new language? No. Is this part of what the British Press see as President Macron’s devious plot to replace English in Africa? Not really.  

The Presidential decree on the French Language which was signed into law on March 16 merely requires French to be taught to all students from the age of 12 and is not designed to replace English, which has been taught in the country for 150 years, it is the main language of tourism and is used on banknotes, coins and stamp. It is taught in schools from the age of six. 

So why introduce French? For the same reason that the former French colonies in North Africa, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are busy introducing English as a second foreign language: regional economic growth depends on the use of both languages not only for trade across North Africa , where Arabic would suffice, but across West Africa as well.  

So will French be successfully introduced across Egyptian schools from next year? That depends, as with all new foreign language initiatives, on the number of teachers with a high level of proficiency in the target language who are available.  

Since it started in 2020, the TrèFLE project as it is known, has concentrated on training a corps of teachers and inspectors backed by a Euro 500,000 grand from the French Development Agency AFD. So far it has trained 507 teachers who will now, in turn, train 13,000 others.  

So will the presidential decree benefit nearly 3 million students in Egyptian public schools, as the Ministry of Education claims?  With currently just one trained French teacher per 15,000 students it is likely to take some time.

Image courtesy of Library
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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