October 26, 2010

education in Djibouti

This began as a response to a comment but I figured I would turn it into a blog post. I will attempt to paint a picture of education in Djibouti as well as what my role is here.

Education in Djibouti is largely based on the French model. The majority of elementary and high schools are in French. French is not the students mother tongue but by the time they arrive in university they have been speaking it and schooled in it for the last 13 years. Recently, schools in Arabic have opened. These teach regular curriculum along with religious teachings. Some of these students are native speakers of Arabic but many are not. Most students mother tongue is Somali with a minority speaking Afar as their 1st language.

French based means teacher centered. Learning is done via lecture. The teacher is the holder of knowledge and imparts this knowledge to the students through lectures. Homework is rare so students take more classes. My 1st year English students have about 30 hours of class each week with little or no homework. This system is nice for the teacher as grading can only come around twice a semester as the minimum number of exams is 2. A midterm worth 40% and a final worth 60%. If a teacher wants to split the 40% into multiple exams that is their perogative. My large classes neccesitate 2 exams.

Depending on what kind of school the students were educated in will dictate their level of English and, to a large part, their behavior in the classroom. The students educated in private, French schools often are very fluent in oral English and easily express their opinions and engage in dicussion. Students from public, French school are usually at a lower level of both speaking & listening. However, all students educated in French seem to be very confrontational, blunt about opinions, willing to interrupt if they disagree, and willing to engage in loud, private conversations at any time during class.

Students educated in the Arabic schools have a lower level of English but are much more polite and respectful. Another teacher told me it is because the Arabic schools foster an atmosphere of respect as well as instilling religious values. Several times, Arabic educated students have admonished the class to be respectful, allow people to express opinions, and generally be polite. I have yet to see this from my French educated students. I frequently have to yell to be heard at my French educated students but have yet to do so with my Arabic educated students

I teach in 1st year students from 2 departments, English and LEAA. LEAA is French for something like applied languages in English. There are 127 English students enrolled this year but that will eventually be wittled down to about 30% of the original number. Most, if not all, of these students were educated in the French system and the disparity between the public school students and private school students is striking. LEAA students are Arabic educated but are studying English and French. There are about 35 enrolled in this program with only 7 women in the class.

This thesis has become entirely too long so this will be the last sentence.


  1. Not too long, i'm actually really interested. Thanks for the post.
    Are you teaching the same curriculum to both the French educated students and the Arabic educated students? What are you teaching again?
    So you don't assign homework and reinforce everything in class? Are they engaged in your class?Did you end up doing any needs assessment?

  2. Good posts..I appreciate them. They are worth reading.


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