[quote]The Language Issue
November 1998The use of French has always been a serious issue in Haiti and is still controversial today. In a near past, Haitian society was francophile to an extreme. For many Haitians, it was an honour to be considered as coloured Frenchmen. Lately, French has lost some of its appeal and the cruel reality is that the majority of Haitians don't speak one of their national languages.
Some say that Haitian children should be completely schooled in Kreyol, our mother tongue. Others would even like Haiti to adopt English as the tongue in use, even though fewer Haitians speak it than French.
French use does raise the delicate question of social classes in Haiti. However, it is not the point of this commentary. First of all, French may not be our mother tongue, but we can call it a
t least our father tongue. For generations, for better or for worse, Haitians have been educated in French. Our whole literature is of French expression. One cannot forget all the books written by Haitian authors such as "Compère Général Soleil ", "Gouverneurs de la rosée" or "Hadriana dans tous mes rêves". Many of those taught in Haiti can still recite "La complainte de l'esclave" by Massillon Coicou.
Kreyol must be promoted but not to the detriment of French since whether we like it or not, this language is part of our heritage. However, it needs to be taught well as the second language it is to many Haitians. Whether Kreyol should be taught in the elementary remains a question that needs to be answered.
Nevertheless, it quite unfortunate to see people who finished high school and can't even carry a conversation in the language they studied in for 12 years. The sad part for them is that knowledge of French is essential in order to get access to a decent job. Thus, a large segment of the po
pulation is marginalized since they were not taught properly. That's where the problem lies. During the exams, I saw how awful the educational system had become. In my exam class, there were the few who attended well-established schools, more expensive ones, and the majority who went to "écoles borlettes". Most of them could barely read the exam questions and during the Lit exam, many brought already written essays. Even when some other students tried to help, they could not even understand the answers.
When less than 2% of high school students pass their final exams like it was the case in 1997, there must be something wrong!
Access to education is the key, but it must be an education tailored to the needs of the students. Let's face it, we are on the eve of the 21st century and most Haitians can't write a decent letter. While there is a global need for extremely qualified workers, we seem to regress in our pettiness.
We lack qualified technicians and we have more than enough of "Ph
ilosophes" who were taught to think that they are now intellectuals because they finished their secondary education.
We have enough of teachers who teach a subject they don't even master.
We have enough of an education system that has become a national shame.
We have enough of the fact that an average Haitian cannot get a decent education.
We have enough of "borlette" schools run by corrupted individuals who are in business only to make a quick buck.
We have enough of the mediocrity that is currently the norm in all aspects of Haitian society, and especially in education.
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