Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



World Languages and Literatures

First Advisor

Laura Hastings

Second Advisor

Sarah Summy

Third Advisor

Virginia David


The purpose of this research is to assess the deficiencies of the Senegalese education system and to evaluate improvements to the system so that it works for the Senegalese, instead of against them. My research is mostly concerned with the process in which the French language is taught in schools. I explain these deficiencies in the education system through elucidation of the discourse used by the French colonizer, politicians, non-governmental organizations, teachers, and parents. My approach to this research includes an extensive literature review as well as my own personal observations during a faculty-led research trip to Dakar, Senegal during the summer of 2015 through Western Michigan University.

In this report, I rely on a history of colonialism to give a background of the Senegalese education system, which is modeled after the French education system. I also utilize many studies by groups, which in large part includes non-governmental organizations, which perform tests in the classroom using an alternate method of language education. This method teaches European languages by using African languages as a medium of instruction and is often referred to as the “mother tongue” program or “transitional bilingual education.” The results from these studies are positive in that they showed that primary school students that were first educated in their indigenous language and then switched over to the French language after two years showed better progress and success in school than children who began their education with French as the medium of instruction. This system has been successful in many African countries but Senegal has not yet adopted this method as its official system. This leads to three research questions that will attempt to explain the conservation of this inefficient education system.

  1. How does the French language education system affect Senegal, a country with many languages?
  2. What is an alternative to using French education and what are the various reactions of the Senegalese?
  3. Why has this system not been indoctrinated as the primary method of education?

My conclusion is that discourse does have an effect on the decisions made in education and these decisions affect the literacy level in Senegal. In addition, I recommend that Senegal make the change to this alternate form of education as quickly as possible in order to help increase literacy in indigenous languages and in the French language as well as to help unite the country linguistically and culturally.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access