Before 1979, French was the only language of instruction in formal education in Mali, a country where more than fifteen languages and numerous dialects are spoken. A former colony of France, Mali’s sole official language is French. Thirteen native languages hold the status of “national language.” During the 80s and 90s, national language instruction was added in certain experimental schools and a methodology called convergent pedagogy was developed. This consists of role-playing, body-engaging exercises, didactic material reflecting the daily realities of the students, and the use of the most widely-spoken national language in the area to facilitate the learning process. In 1994, the Malian Ministry of Education adopted the use of convergent pedagogy in primary education as a national policy. The policy continues to be put into practice throughout the country. The present case study, conducted in November and December 2002, of a primary school in Sanankoraba found the positive outcomes of the implementation of this policy. Convergent pedagogy was introduced in this school in 1997. During the past six years, student performance has improved dramatically. Villagers’ attitudes toward education in general have improved concurrently with their attitudes toward instruction in Bamanankan, the national language spoken in the area. Sanankoroba, like the rest of Mali, aims to develop and prosper. Relevant, high-quality education is vital for the realization of these goals. The use of national languages through convergent pedagogy is a momentous step towards achieving the education essential to Mali’s future.
Kristen Koob, ’03 Bradgate, IA
Majors: International Relations, French
Sponsor: Jan Boney