While there is a growing body of literature on the policy and practice implications of English Medium Education (EME) in multilingual Sub-Saharan Africa, there has been very little research on how primary school children in these contexts experience and navigate the curriculum in English.
This study, funded in collaboration with the British Council, set out to document and understand the range of learning resources and strategies that multilingual Francophone children in Cameroon draw upon to access learning in the medium of English with a view to contributing to the discussions of good practice for young learner education in multilingual contexts where EME is promoted.
To enable a full exploration of children’s experiences of EME, the study adopted an exploratory case study research design (Yin, 2014) in two English-medium state primary schools in Yaounde, the capital city of Cameroon. A total of 40 upper primary children were initially selected through a stratified purposive process guided by their responses to an initial questionnaire. Following parental consent, 22 (58%) of them took part in the study. Data was collected through semi-structured classroom observations, child-group and individual arts-based interviews as well as unsupervised tasks in maths and English. These were analysed and interpreted deductively.
Findings reveal that children had access to a range of material, human and linguistic resources but they were not engaging critically with learning because the language of schooling was not their familiar language. It was found that for all these children, English, the language of schooling, was not spoken anywhere outside the classroom and that at home and in different social settings, including in the playground at school, children communicated mostly in French and other local languages. As a result, learners tended to rely on learning strategies that just helped them get by and the teachers’ approaches allowed learning content to be covered without real engagement with the cognitive and linguistic activities which help students co-construct and understand new knowledge. The research calls for a need for a policy change, supported through teacher training, which recognises the multilingual repertoires of learners and their value in facilitating learning.
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Citation: Kuchah, K., Milligan, L. O., & Ubanako, V. N. (2023). English Medium Education in a multilingual francophone context: Primary school learning in Cameroon. British Council. https://doi.org/10.57884/4CZ4-TT07