Algeria abruptly ends teaching of French curricula in private schools

A few weeks ago, just before the start of the school year on September 19, this private Algerian establishment was ordered by the Algerian authorities to no longer teach the French curriculum to students under penalty of sanctions

Algeria abruptly ends teaching of French curricula in private schools

A few weeks ago, just before the start of the school year on September 19, this private Algerian establishment was ordered by the Algerian authorities to no longer teach the French curriculum to students under penalty of sanctions. “We are in the dark,” sighs an Algerian history professor who teaches there and who, like other people interviewed, requested anonymity. Other schools across the country are in the same situation. “A massive blow,” summarizes a director. We don't know what to do. »

Until this start of the school year, certain private schools – Algeria has 586, according to a figure put forward by the Minister of National Education, Abdelhakim Belabed, in 2021 – could in fact offer students the opportunity to follow the French program in addition to the compulsory national curriculum in Arabic. A double program never authorized by law but tolerated in broad daylight “with the complicity of the authorities”, says a director.

The twenty-two schools which exchanged with the French embassy through a label issued by the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) were particularly targeted. At the beginning of August, these establishments received a first letter, sometimes sent by a bailiff, a source informs, “calling on them to withdraw from this label” under penalty of closure or criminal prosecution.

“We did it,” says a director who still does not understand how or why such a decision was taken. Especially since in July, his school group received a “very ordinary” visit from a commission made up of a representative of the wali (the prefect), national education and a gendarme. An inspection like so many exist, particularly in villas converted into schools that must meet certain standards. “Everything was cordial,” assures this director. There was no climate of inquisition. They just asked me if I had the label. At the end of the visit, we weren't worried. So why such a ban? »

“It doesn’t matter to the authorities anymore.”

In 2021, after Emmanuel Macron's declarations on the Algerian "political-military system" which caused a serious diplomatic crisis between Paris and Algiers, national education inspectors had already increased unannounced checks in private schools for s ensure that the national curriculum was well taught and push them to abandon the French curriculum. Some establishments had chosen to comply, others had resolved to close or change their status, moving from education to training, with the risk that students would find themselves out of school.

At the same time, English began to be imposed within public institutions with the aim of replacing French. The language has, however, not been banned: in public and private schools, it continues to be taught 5 hours per week.

The sudden ban on the French program in private establishments, if it is a symptom of the tensions between Paris and Algiers, also responds to the desire to put an end to the abuses committed by certain schools, which favored French subjects to the detriment of the program Algerian. Teaching sometimes provided “exclusively”, recognizes a teacher who works in the public and private sectors. “In these schools, during inspections, we had to hide the French textbooks, not put them in the children's schoolbags because we could search them,” he confides. “Students did not take the Algerian baccalaureate or baccalaureate, only the French exams, the authorities did not care,” adds a teacher.

“The CNED was a visa for them”

For many families, such an announcement represents a shock. Faced with the lack of official communication, the parents of the students initially thought that it was a simple rumor. Today, they are helpless. This is the case with Khelaf. This forty-year-old had to leave Algiers to settle in Tizi Ouzou, 100 kilometers away, in order to enroll his 6-year-old daughter in a private school which provides the French program. “This summer, all the schools in the capital sent me for a walk. I was made to understand that recent instructions received strictly prohibited them from teaching it, he says. In Tizi Ouzou, I was assured when registering that it would go through. The school thought it could circumvent the instruction. » But on the first day of the school year, the establishment was not able to offer the French program.

The decision of the Algerian authorities is all the more resentful as it coincides with another reform, French this time, concerning the National Center for Distance Education (CNED). Until this start of the school year, Algerians could register and take the French baccalaureate via the CNED-regulated, which opened up the possibility for them to register directly on the Parcoursup platform to access French higher education. Some 3,000 students in Algeria were affected, the largest contingent in the world. “The CNED was a visa for them,” says a teacher. The new system no longer allows this.

“In the end, the victim is the Algerian student,” thunders a teacher. Many do not master Arabic because they only followed the French program. For the primaries, it is recoverable. But middle or high school students will not be able to follow the national curriculum. » To continue studying the French program, courses are now organized in parents' homes or when there is no class. We also send extracts from French textbooks to telephones as a precaution. Everything is done in secret. We also mention the “ideology” and “hypocrisy” of the leaders of the “system” who, each school year, increase the number of requests to enroll their children at the French international high school Alexandre-Dumas, in Algiers.

In this establishment which has 2,183 students, including 1,008 French including 855 dual nationals, the pressure is extreme: up to 56 requests for a place for certain classes. To deal with this explosion, France has, according to our information, proposed to the Algerian authorities to open a second French high school in Algiers. For the moment, the discussions have not been successful.