ALGIERS: Elementary schools in Algeria have hurriedly started teaching English, a move that has been criticized by some as hasty, while others believe it may harm the language of former occupied France. May be the final blow.
In the country of North Africa, where French is still widely spoken six decades after independence, which came after 132 years of colonial rule and eight years of fierce war, language is a sensitive subject.
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune told reporters in July that "the French language is war booty, but English is the international language."
He had recently directed the education ministry to include English in the primary school curriculum by the time the new term begins on September 21.
This was the initial stage of a larger plan to raise the cost of English education in the years to come.
In Algeria, which has only Arabic and the Tamazite language of the Berbers as an official language, the future of French has been the subject of intense debate for decades.
French is widely spoken by the diaspora, especially in France, by millions of Algerians, and is used to teach science and business.
But it also makes people think about colonial rule.
Haasin, the father of an elementary student in the country's capital, Algiers, declared, "I want to abandon the language of the colonizer and adopt the language used around the world.
Farooq Lazizi, whose two children attend primary school in Algiers, said it made sense to teach English in the early grades.
However, he acknowledged that his views on the choice of president, which had begun a race against time, were conflicting.
A new manual was written and made available to schools in record time, and 5,000 new teachers were hired and put on a fast-track training program in less than two months.
Most Algerian parents are not ready to teach their children English, so we need to prepare well," Lazizi said.
According to the Ministry of Education, 60,000 people applied for the new positions, which call for a bachelor's degree in English or translation.
Officials claim that the increase in English teaching is driven by practical considerations rather than ideological concerns, but they have not provided an explanation for the brief information needed for the change.
Since there were not enough English-speaking teachers, the state hired translators who, according to linguist Abderzak Daurari, "are not even trained to teach".
Millions of Algerians speak Tamazite, which few schools in the country teach in addition to Arabic and French.
Even if the kinks are worked out, some education experts fear that adding another language to classrooms will be difficult.
According to pedagogy expert and former English teacher Ahmed Tessa, elementary school students will become confused if they are taught four different languages.
The decision regarding primary schools is the most recent development in a bitter battle that has pitted conservatives who want to eliminate French entirely against proponents of the language, which tend to be more secular.
The decision to adopt English as the "language of science and technology" by the influential teachers' union UNPEF, Sadek Dijri, was acknowledged as "overdue".
One parent in Algiers, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "Algeria will be able to leave French, which is the language of the colonists and has not brought good results."
Another claimed that Algerians who speak French "do not accept this decision" and want to keep the language taught in schools.
Abdelhamid Abed, a middle school English teacher in Algiers, insisted that "the French have served their purpose."
The issue should be viewed from a practical point of view rather than the rivalry between the French and the English.
Given Algeria's history and its economic and cultural ties with France, including its tourism industry, the linguist Daurari stated that simply replacing French with English would be difficult.
He said that more than eight million Algerians live in France.
There are mixed caste families that move around.
In the lead-up to Emmanuel Macron's visit to Algeria in August, President Tebboune remarked that Algeria had "war spoils", to which Tessa insisted that Algerians benefited from being French in their "institutional and socio-economic life". Is raised. ,
He claimed that opponents of the French thought the subject would be removed from the primary school curriculum altogether. "They're dreaming of it going away."