Supporting Multilingual Learning in Francophone Africa

African child reading in a classroom

Education policy and practice discussions about which languages to use in school instruction have been going on for decades. Although evidence shows that children who learn in a language they use and understand have more consistent learning gains, many children in multilingual countries continue to learn in an unfamiliar language such as English or French.

To support multilingual learning, substantial research is needed considering the complex cognitive, social, cultural, economic, and political factors that affect language-learning practices and policies. Critical questions remain about when and how a child should transition from learning in their local language to learning in a national or international language.

AIR's Research in Francophone Africa

The Global Partnership for Education’s Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) has commissioned AIR to generate and mobilize research to support language of instruction policies and practices in Francophone Africa, specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, and Cote D’Ivoire.

AIR’s focus is on generating evidence about when children—and the education systemic components—are ready to transition from local languages to French, and to mobilize and use that knowledge among key stakeholders. Another critical component of the research is to develop modules that can support ministries and stakeholders to train educators to teach reading more effectively in multilingual contexts.

Our evidence generation component consists of three methodological approaches: a) stakeholder mapping and engagement; b) a quantitative assessment of reading outcomes; and c) a qualitative analysis to better understand the individual, classroom, and school dynamics that influence literacy outcomes.

Results will be analyzed and discussed in terms of optimal timing of language transition to ensure effective learning outcomes in both children’s local languages and French, as well as the education policy implications.

Ultimately, this project will respond to the policy and program priorities of national education systems in Francophone Africa and other multilingual contexts across low- and middle-income countries to allow people working in education more easily access applicable evidence and actionable research to support literacy and learning gains.

Pooja Nakamura
Principal Researcher and Program Area Lead, International Education