The New French Policy and Its Implications on the Ghanaian Education System.
To start with, I would like to put this question across. Have you asked why students hardly get excellent grades in French at the basic level during the BECE examination?I believe in my candid opinion that it is because of the general attitude we as a country have towards the language. When I talk of the general attitude I do really mean that as a country what has been our policy with regard to the teaching and learning of the French language? As a reminder, the policy has been that French should be taught from the JHS level in all public schools.
The question then arises as to how we the French teachers teach our pupils the foreign language within a time frame of about two and a half years? It is obvious that the French teacher cannot cover many of the topics in the syllabus. So it is clear that right from the onset, the foundation is weak.
Once again, it is observed that Ghanaian students learning French do well in the writing skill as against the reading and speaking skills. You will then realize that because of the limited time at the disposal of the French teacher he or she ought to focus more on the writing skill after all, at the basic level they are examined only on the writing skill thereby neglecting the other two arms of the language (reading and speaking skills- oral) right from the beginning.
With all these challenges confronting French teachers, I am so much enthused about the new government policy proposal on French education. The policy if implemented will surely provide a direction as to how the French language will properly get started right from the primary and JHS levels through to SHS. When the policy is implemented, the points outlined below will be some of the benefits that our students will get.
First and foremost, school children will develop interest in the French language. Their interest will show up easily because they can now relate to the language as it has been introduced to them at an early stage. In view of this, the students will better appreciate the French language thereby making the teaching enjoyable.Secondly, students will willingly love to take up the challenge to pursue the French language after their basic education. This point is a crucial one because at the SHS level, some students pay little or no attention to the subject. It may surprise readers to know that some students, despite the French language being an elective subject for them, still pay little attention to the subject. They always display ignorance regarding the importance of the French language but I am sure when students wholeheartedly decide to take up that challenge to pursue the French language at a higher level, it will help eradicate this negative attitude.
Furthermore, the French language opens job opportunities. Honestly speaking, being a bilingual helps you get access to employment easily. Due to that, bilingual students have an advantage over students who are unilingual. In view of this, job areas like teaching, translation, research, business, diplomacy and many more are all readily available for bilinguals.
Again, being able to speak a new language helps a person or an individual know and understand other people’s culture. Knowledge in other languages like French will help our students or the individual appreciate other cultures better. For example, in case they travel to a French-speaking country like Togo, la Cote D’Ivoire, France just to mention but a few, they will not struggle with their type of cuisines and fashion since they have learnt and understood their culture. As a matter of fact, this will even go a long way to avoid unnecessary criticism that could erupt as a result of one’s low knowledge about other cultures.
Finally, being able to speak the French language enriches one’s opportunities of travelling. Bilingual students have greater opportunities to travel all over the world. This is because you are not limited in speaking one international language. For instance, if I am an English man or woman, my ability to speak another international language such as French gives me an upper hand over the one who cannot speak any other international language.
Due to that, people who are bilingual can travel to so many countries like Belgium, France, Canada, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Togo without much difficulty.
Beyond the enormous benefits to be enjoyed by the students relating to this new proposed policy by the government of Ghana, the teachers of the French language are also not left out. Here are some of the reasons.
Firstly, French teachers will have ample time to teach the French language. With the introduction of the French language at the primary school level, the French teachers will now have the opportunity to introduce to the pupils at the early stage some of the basic topics in the French syllabus such as Days of the Week-(Les Jours de la Semaines) Months of the Year-(Les Mois de L’année) Parts of the Body- (les Parties du Corps) just to mention but a few. This will help them not to limit their teaching to only examinable topics but will have their teaching focused on other areas taking into account the cognitive, psychomotor, social and affective domain of a student.
Secondly, it will help teachers of the French language focus more on the other two skills usually neglected. It is undoubtedly clear that most French teachers do pay much attention to the writing skills thereby neglecting the two equally important skills which are reading and speaking skills (oral). It will interest you to know that the French language syllabus has so many sections and units as well as other numerous topics and sub-topics outlined in the syllabus for the teacher to battle with within the short period. However, I think that French teachers would be relieved now if the French language is introduced to our school children early enough. The policy if implemented will definitely help solve our problems which have confronted us for a long period of time.
Again, this policy will serve as a source of motivation to French teachers. The reason being that the language will be received by most Ghanaians. The school children will embrace the language, our co-teachers will do same as well as our headmasters and headmistresses.
Finally, I would like to say that the policy is a step in the right direction if implemented. However, it is obvious that the number of French teachers available now is not enough. Nevertheless, that alone is not convincing enough to say that the government of Ghana cannot implement this policy. Therefore, let us see the inadequate number of French teachers as a challenge that can be overcome. In order to overcome this challenge, I would like to suggest these points.
In the first place, the number of Teacher-Training Colleges offering French language should be increased. Currently, there are only fourTeacher Training Colleges that offer French. These are: Mount Mary Training College – Somanya Eastern Region, Wesley College- Kumasi Ashanti Region and Bagabaga Training College-Tamale Northern Region and AmedzofeTraining College -Volta Region. The current number of the fourTraining Colleges could be increased to six (6) Colleges. When that is done, within three years, the number of French teachers will increase making them available to fill almost all the public schools in both primary and JHS levels.
Additionally, the total number of students admitted to read the French language should be increased. For instance, the total intake of French students in all the Three Teacher Training Colleges offering French language could be increased by at least 30%. When this is done, in a short time we are likely to have a lot of French teachers available even in the remotest part of the country thereby making it possible for many people to have the opportunity to learn the French language easily.
Lastly, more incentive packages should be instituted for students who want to pursue the French language. When this is done, it will motivate more students to take up the challenge to pursue the French language. This will eventually increase the number of French teachers in our beloved country- Ghana.
In conclusion, I would like to say that if this proposed French policy is implemented, it will offer us a greater advantage as an Anglophone country as we are surrounded by three Francophone countries namely Togo, Burkina Faso and La Cote D’Ivoire. For this reason, I entreat all and sundry to welcome this proposed policy in good faith.
Permit me to end my submission with this French proverb: vouloir, c’est pouvoir which is translated into English as, where there is a will, there is a way.
Thank you. (Merci)
By: Comfort Serwaah Oduro. French Tutor/ Author
St. Francis Senior High Technical School