French Colonial Algerian Schools:  System


Figure 1.--This 1920 press photo shows three Algerian school boys. At the time the schools were segrated with differnce schools for the French and Algerian children. The press caption indicated that the boys were standing at the 'Gate of Zsouia'. A zaouia or zawiya (زاوية ) was a term used in the Maghreb for an Islamic religious school or monastery often called madrasa in the Middle East. Note that in this and many other images from the Middle East, there is not event a hint of modern times. This photograph incredbly despite being taken in 1920 could just as wasily have been taken a millenia earlier, a remarkable comment on the backwardness of Arab society. Many Arabs today want to blame the West and especially America for their problems and never seem ask themselves how over a milenium there was virtually no technological change.  

We have little information on schools in French colonial Algeria at this time, but are trying to understand the system. The primary purpose of the colonial school system was to educated the children of the French settlers. Some schools appear to have restricted the entry of Algerian boys, but we have view details about this. A French reader tells us that school was compulsory for all children. This included both French and Algerian children. I am not sure. but I think all state schools were taught in French. In rural regions or in the mountain it was a difficul to enforce compulsory attendance rules. I am not sure how authorities dealt with Algerian parents who did not want to send their children to French schools. Nor do French auhorities seem all that interested in educating Algerian children, especially in the 19th and early-20th century. There seems to have been a segregated system with separate schools for the French and Algerian children, I believce both were taught in French. Some privlidged Algerians close to the colonial administration may have been allowed to attend the French schools. And few Algerian parents seems to have had any desire to send their girls to school. We are not sure how much this changed by the mid-20th century. I'm not sure to what extent children attended madrasas which continued to operate. During the colonial era it was not easy to enter secondary school. Standards were very high. Only about 15-20 percent of French students earned a place in a secondary school after completing primary school. As most Algerian children had more limited French-language skills, it was much more difficult for them. Thus while there were Algerian children in primary schools, few Algerian students earned places in secondary schools unless their parents were close to the French colonial administration.

Composition

The primary purpose of the colonial school system was to educated the children of the French settlers. Some schools appear to have restricted the entry of Algerian boys, but we have view details about this. A French reader tells us that school was compulsory for all children. This included both French and Algerian children. I am not sure. but I think all state schools were taught in French. In rural regions or in the mountain it was a difficul to enforce compulsory attendance rules. I am not sure how authorities dealt with Algerian parents who did not want to send their children to French schools. Nor do French auhorities seem all that interested in educating Algerian children, especially in the 19th and early-20th century. French authorities began planning for increasing Algerian enrollments. This was part of the comprehensive Constantine Plan designed to improve Algerian living conditions (1954). French statistics at the time reveal that less than one-third of school-age Muslim children were enrolled in primary schools. Given that many girls did not attend school, this would mean that most Algerian boys were atending school.

Segregated Schools

There seems to have been a segregated system with separate schools for the French and Algerian children, I believce both were tauhght in French. Some privlidged Algerians close to the colonial administration may have been allowed to attend the French schools. A small but influential French-speaking Algerian elite developed. Many were Berbers from Kabyles. The Kabyle people are a Berber ethnic group native to Kabylie in northern Algeria, a hundred miles east of Algiers. They are the largest Berber-speaking population in Algeria. French colonial policy as was common in all European colonies was 'divide to reign'. French administrators favored the Kabyles.[50] As a resulkt some 80 percent of the schools for the indigenous population were built for Kabyles. The French stopped segregated the schools in Algeria after World war II (1949).

Lanuguage

French colonial education in Algeria was conducted in the French language. This included both the schools for the French settlers as well as the algerian children. Arabic was taught in a few schools, but omy as a fgoreign language.

Curriculum

The French colonial education was designed primarily to meet the needs of the European population and followed the curriculum of used in metropolitan France. It was designed to promte French cultural pattern.

Availability

The great majority of the students in French coloniasl schools were children of the French settlers. Schools were built for the French children almost all of whom attended them. We are not sure how available schools were in the early years, but afteter the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) we belive that virtually all French children attended school. The situation for the Algerian children is less clear. There was a very substantial increase in the Algerian population during French coloinal rule, a factor suggesting that the French cokonial regime was not as poppressuve as often depicted. This and the lack og interest as well as the cost suggests that many Algerian children did not have access to schools even if their parents wantef them to attend. One source suggests that only a small minority was able to attend French colonial schools. And this is a minority of boy. Girls were even less likely to atend the schools.

Gender

Both boys and girls attended the French schools. The Algerian students were almost entirely boys. And few Algerian parents seems to have had any desire to send their girls to school. We are not sure how much this changed by the mid-20th century.

Madrasas

The term for madrasa in Algeria and much of the Maghreb was zaouia or zawiya (زاوية ). We are not sure to what extent Algerian boys attended the Islamic madrasas which continued to operate as opposed to the French secular schools. The French arly in the colonial era discoraged the madraasa and many closed. The curriculum at some madressa were broadened, but this varied fom school to school. Here we see a scene outside a madrasa (figure 1).

Secondary Education

During the colonial era it was not easy to enter secondary school. Standards were very high. Only about 15-20 percent of French students earned a place in a secondary school after completing primary school. As most Algerian children had more limited French-language skills, it was much more difficult for them. Thus while there were Algerian children in primary schools, few Algerian students earned places in secondary schools unless their parents were close to the French colonial administration. As a result, at the time of independence, few Algerians had a secondary education, let along university education. One asessment indicated that the secondary levels, only 30 percent of the secondary students were Algerians and 10 percent of the university students were Algerians (1950s). These numbers wold have been much lower before Workd War II.






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Created: 3:41 AM 5/8/2012
Last updated: 6:56 AM 3/12/2014