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The history of language policy in Africa with reference to language choice in education

Abdulaziz, Mohamed H.

In the countries of Africa, most of which are multilingual, the issue of language policy with reference to language choice in education is fundamental to any discussion of the role education plays in all facets of development in this continent.  Before the advent of European colonialism, the history of language policy in Africa started with the introduction of Islam in parts of North, West and East Africa, where Muslim communities emerged with basic literacy and higher education in Arabic. But it was during European colonial rule that definite language policies were enunciated for the first time, with far-reaching consequences for the educational, literacy, linguistic, economic and cultural development of modem African countries. Various, and often divergent, language policies were introduced by the Portuguese, French, Spanish and British colonial powers. There was also the case of South Africa, where the ruling Afrikaaner nationalist party enforced a language policy that was aimed at developing their language as the lingua franca, language of education and culture, and a strong competitor with English. Each colonial power had its own cultural and political standpoint that gave rise to its particular brand of language policy. There were often conflicting approaches to language policy, because the European missionaries, government officials and settlers had divergent opinions on how to deal with African colonial subjects.  Factors that have influenced language policies include the attitudes of the colonial administration and the African government after independence, the multilingual (or monolingual) nature of each country, the level of development of its languages as vehicles of modern communication and the desire to acquire a modern technological culture.  This paper attempts to review the development of language policies in sub-Saharan African and their influence on language choice in education.

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Chapter Title: The history of language policy in Africa with reference to language choice in education
Book Title: Towards a multilingual culture of education
Edited by: Adama Ouane
City: Hamburg, Germany
Publisher: UNESCO Institute for Education
No. of Pages: 181-199

Document Type:Chapter in Book (Peer Reviewed)
Subject Area:National Systems and Comparative Studies
Country:African Continent
Keywords:Language Policy, History, Developing countries

File Size:78 KB
Rights:Permission to use this chapter was granted by the publisher.
Date Added:07 September 2007

Abdulaziz, Mohamed H. (2003). The history of language policy in Africa with reference to language choice in education. In Adama Ouane (ed), Towards a multilingual culture of education , Hamburg, Germany: UNESCO Institute for Education, 181-199