Accelerated Literacy for Out-of-school Youth
in Francophone West Africa


Executive Summary

The will to meet the basic learning needs of all children by the year 2000, confronted with the pressures weighing on public fiscal resources in most developing countries, has resurrected interest in what is being called "nonconventional approaches to primary school." Developed mainly by nongovernmental organizations and local communities and associations, with or without the help of public bodies, these innovative formulae seek to either correct perceived inadequacies of the conventional primary school system, or simply to enable more children to exercise their right to education.

This study, funded by the Advancing Basic Education and Literacy (ABEL) Project, investigates and assesses the results of an innovative program of accelerated and nonformal primary schooling for out-of-school children in rural Burkina Faso. The innovation, officially known as Programme expérimental d'enseignement de base à partir des acquis de l'alphabétisation dans les langues nationales au profit d'enfants non scolarisés ( EBAALAN), is an experimental program in basic education using acquired knowledge in the native language for out-of-school youth. Sponsored by the Organisme Suisse d'Entraide Ouvrière (OSEO) and the University of Ouagadougou, the program involves adopting and modifying intensive literacy methods in the Mooré language developed in adult functional literacy programs in order to give 9-14 year-old out-of-school youth a basic education. Within a year, literacy in Mooré is attained and the following year transition to French is begun, with the result that participants are able to complete the equivalent of four years of primary schooling within two years. No formal evaluative research study on this manifestation of the phenomenon of accelerated literacy for children has yet been conducted, though the Burkinabè sponsors have drawn up numerous reports.

This study compares the knowledge acquisition and the performance of EBAALAN students with those of students in formal primary school to uncover elements of answers to the question of the effectiveness of the experimental program. The purpose of the proposed study is to investigate and assess the results of an innovative program of accelerated and nonformal primary schooling for out-of-school children in rural Burkina Faso and, thereby, to throw valuable light on the potential of methodologies like this one for renewing and supplementing the programs of an overstretched and ill-adapted primary school system. In addition, this study will supplement existing knowledge about optimal and locally-appropriate instructional techniques in both African and French-language education, as well as means for transiting between the two, and of the process by which fundamental literacy skills are transformed into a powerful tool for personal and community development.

The study will be of major interest and use to educators and educational decision-makers in Burkina Faso and in francophone West Africa in general, as well as to members of the international donor community, and international educational researchers concerned with the renewal of rural primary education and better articulation between local language and international language literacy. Such a study is crucial to the estimation of possibilities for more widespread use of these new techniques to increase literacy rates in comparable populations in francophone West Africa--and eventually in other developing countries--where individuals denied access to formal education have traditionally been hampered in their efforts at personal development and community contribution by their lack of competency in the country's official language.

1. The Problem: Insufficiencies of West African Primary Schooling, Insufficiencies in our Knowledge of Viable Alternatives and their Learning Outcomes

Despite heavy investment in education over the past three decades, typically on the order of 20% of the national budget, Francophone West African countries have low rates of enrollment, and their formal school systems are said to be in crisis. Primary school enrollment rates lag behind population growth. Severe economic constraints and concurrent structural adjustment pressures, appear to have reduced prospects of widespread private gain from formal schooling, at least in the eyes of parents and communities. Dwindling job opportunities in the modern sector, compounded by increased pressure on parents and communities for disbursements of time, financial and other resources, seem to have altered the cost-benefit equation of schooling, particularly in rural and peri-urban areas. Cries about the crisis grew louder in the mid-1980s. Not just parents, but scholars and international assistance agencies pointed out the major symptoms of the education crisis as the following:

  • the inability of the system to accommodate the growing population of children,
  • reductions in rates of enrollment and increasing rates of early school abandonment,
  • deteriorating infrastructure,
  • curricula that continue to transmit information in a foreign language,
  • the lack of bona fide association with indigenous systems and values, and
  • unpaid and demoralized teaching staff.

In a policy paper published in 1988, the World Bank underscored the stagnation of enrollments, the erosion of quality and growing inefficiency in resource and personnel management as the main educational issues of the time. However, with continued recognition of the centrality of human resource development as the key to social and economic change, the reaffirmation of education as a human right following the Jomtien conference, and the emergence of various movements for democratization and decentralization as a result of end of the cold war, governments, assistance agencies, and local communities have been looking for ways to resolve the crisis.

New initiatives that are now being launched are designed as a response to perceived failures of the formal school system. Alternative and/or complementary structures seek to reach those individuals who have been traditionally excluded. Most of these new innovations are also characterized by the adaptability of content to specific contexts. Some combine the use of national languages, relevant curriculum, and productive work. Others strive to ensure that more children have access to better quality education. Senegal's Tostan (which means 'breakthrough' in Wolof) and Save the Children's village schools are familiar examples in the education and development circles. Though there have been recurring claims that these new initiatives hold a promise for achieving the elusive goal of basic education for all, very little is in fact known about them. There has been less activity connected to their evaluation. We do not really know how to evaluate them.

2. Research Focus

The purpose of this study is to investigate and appraise the results of a selected nonformal primary education initiative in Burkina Faso named the Programme expérimental d'enseignement de base à partir des acquis de l'alphabétisation dans les langues nationales au profit d'enfants non scolarisés (EBAALAN). It is an ongoing program of accelerated primary schooling in the Loumbila district in Burkina Faso. We intend to analyze in context both the process and the actual learning outcomes of this alternate form of African language-based primary schooling in Burkina Faso. This is a demonstration program, critical to on-going efforts in the adaptation of the education system to national realities. This program initiates literacy in a local language, Mooré, before transition to French. Although it is touted as an alternative model for achieving education for all, this experiment is still only on a small scale and not yet evaluated. We intend to compare and contrast the results of this initiative with other similar programs in Burkina Faso and neighboring countries.

3. Methodology

To some extent, the methodology of this study was dictated by the determination of the researchers to reconcile their belief in participatory research and the constraints imposed by the funding agency. Although funded from the end of fiscal year balance, ABEL insisted on its completion within their initial time line. This meant that researchers had a little over two months in which to negotiate contracts and implement the study. While we were able to assemble research teams in Burkina Faso, Mali, and at Florida State University, our challenge was the translation and matching of institutional requirements (between ABEL/AID conditionalities, Florida State University project management requisites, and the exigencies of the reality in Burkina Faso and Mali). Given the relatively modest character of the budget and timeline available, the study was carried out in three principal though overlapping phases: (1) literature review, (2) field data collection at both the national and local levels, and (3) analysis, interpretation and write up of the results.

The three teams agreed to the following division of labor: Florida State University took responsibility for literature review and the write up of the final report. The research teams in Mali and Burkina Faso assumed leadership in the design of the study, field data collection, and initial summarization and analysis of assembled data. There was a great deal of collaboration in carrying out these tasks. As much as possible, Mali, Burkina Faso and Florida State researchers provided support to one another, though often after long drawn "fax and telephone tags."

The literature review sought to identify, synthesize and critically analyze materials currently available on: (1) innovative methods of non-formal education, and specifically on accelerated literacy acquisition; (2) non-formal education projects in francophone West Africa in particular, and developing countries in general; (3) the primary education system, and reform efforts undertaken in Burkina Faso and Mali, (4) previous and related studies on the "recuperation" of out-of-school youth through alternative educational programs, and (5) the use of national languages as a medium of instruction. A particular emphasis was placed on the use of gray literature, that is, the body of literature comprised of unpublished reports, papers, materials and case studies that contain the most up-to-date information on this topic. These materials were synthesized as a background to assessment of strategies for the integration of literacy training, native language instruction and other non-traditional methods into the formal school system in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Different strategies were used to assemble as quickly as possible the quantitative and qualitative data needed for an informative study the accelerated literacy phenomenon in West Africa, and for an adequate assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the selected projects and their potentials for replication. While the Mali team had a certain latitude in the selection of the Centre d'éducation pour le dévelopment (CED) to be included in the study, the Burkina Faso team focused on the EBALAAN project. The two teams conducted interviews with personnel from educational institutions, as well as other government agencies and NGOs regarding non-formal education policies. With the assistance of Florida State researchers, the Burkina Faso team interviewed students, teachers, parents and local officials. They also observed classroom activities and administered criterion-referenced tests to a sample of students from the formal school system and all the participants of the two EBAALAN centers in four subjects from the curriculum.

  1. Focus on one pertinent example in order to get contextualized outcome data

The focus of this study is the analysis, interpretation and dissemination of results of the EBAALAN project, an ongoing experiment of accelerated primary schooling in the Loumbila district in Burkina Faso. This instructional program is an extension of a program previously developed and implemented among four adult populations in the same district. The program is based on the premise that the use of Mooré as the language of instruction during the first half of the course permits the students to learn the traditional primary school curriculum, including subjects such as math, science and history in addition to French, at a highly accelerated rate. According to the program design, the material covered during the first four years of traditional primary school instruction can be learned in only two years, bringing the students up to the level of their age group. After the first two years of instruction, during which the students acquire a basic competency in French as a second language in tandem with their literate use of Mooré, all subjects are to be taught in French, using the same materials as their peers in local primary schools. At the end of four years, the students are sufficiently prepared to pass the examination certifying their completion of the primary school curriculum. Agriculture and culturally relevant activities are added to the curriculum to make basic education more reflective of the life and work in the local community.

The choice of this project can be justified in term of the possibilities that it offers for more widespread use of its new techniques to increase literacy rates in comparable populations in Burkina Faso and elsewhere in the developing countries. This project incorporates the major elements of the reform of the primary school that was abruptly suspended in 1985. The reform resulted in the creation of Satellite schools and Centers for Basic Nonformal Education (CEBNF).

  1. Types of data gathered for case study and means of collection

We sought to gather data that will help us answer the following questions:

  • What are the origins of the program?
  • Who are the stakeholders in the program?
  • How did they organize themselves to mobilize the necessary resources?
  • Who are the participants in the program (gender, age, ethnic origin, socio-economic status...)
  • What instructional methods and administrative structures have been developed and used by the program?
  • What impact, if any, has the program produced on its participants and on other stakeholders?
  • What lesson can be drawn from the program?
  • Can the experiment be replicated or generalized?
  • What is the relevance of the experiment to other countries?

Informal interviews with various stakeholders (those who designed the program, 14 parents, students, the two teachers, the management of the school); classroom observations; and criterion referenced tests were used to collect data. Tests given to Burkinabè students were elaborated by the office of inspector in the second region of the Ziniare Province, on the basis of the official program for primary school. This was the result of long negotiation and compromises between public school officials and representatives of the EBAALAN program. The two parties met in the provincial directorate of the Ministry of Basic Education and Literacy. This writer participated in the meeting which was presided by the provincial director of the public school system. Both parties rejected the standardized tests designed by the research team. It was argued that children in both systems had not finished the official program of the primary school. Discussions focused on determining how far in the program could students in the two system be situated. It was agreed that although they were at the CM2 level, students in the two systems were in fact revising the CM1 curriculum so as to allow the slower learners to catch up. Thus, the tests were designed to measure achievement and performance in basic disciplines of mathematics, reading, writing, and sciences at the CM1 level.

  1. Types of data gathered on contrasting examples

Data gathered in Mali and other projects in Burkina Faso were to provide a better understanding of the emerging concept of non-formal basic education for children and youth, and the way it is implemented in Francophone West Africa. As such, our efforts were concentrated on finding any decrees and/or policies regarding the education out-of-school youth and other excluded groups, surveying the various types of non-formal basic education experiments, interviewing stakeholders in programs of non-formal basic education, and looking at the curricula content of the various programs.

In Mali, directed interviews were conducted with participants, managers, and sponsors of 33 projects. These projects were selected from about the 700 registered centers of education for development.

  1. Population of the study
  2. To a large extent, the population of this study is comprised of Burkinabè schools that have emerged as a result of the 1986 educational reform-- i.e., the satellite schools, CENFE, and other similar schools created by village associations such as Manegdbzânga and Tin Tua. In Mali, our population was composed of the Education Centers for Development and specifically, the village schools sponsored by Plan International (79), UTAH Alliance (30), ACODEP (97), and Save the Children (500).

  3. Types of literature background consulted

Very little is written in the academic literature about non-formal education directed to children and youth in West Africa. Library and Internet searches produced less than ten titles on the subject. On the other hand, there has been an ongoing effort to list and describe the various initiatives that attempt to address the learning needs of children and youth who have been excluded from the formal school system (L'education à la recherche des exclus 1995, Ramaweera 1990 & Hamadache 1994). These reports cover vast areas of concern, extending from government efforts to reform their formal primary school system so that they may provide better quality education to more children to simply listing various programs in a given geographical region. It seems, in fact, that much of our knowledge in this area is still couched in what we called the gray literature.

Some of the experiments involve tampering with the structures of existing schools to increase access. Examples of tampering include multi-shifting strategies, adaptation of school schedules, making the system more cost-effective, accommodating traditionally excluded groups, or targeting the re-admission of early school leavers. Other innovations go one step further, and target the improvement of the quality of education and its relevance to the needs of the local communities. This second category of innovations focuses more on the improvement of the curriculum, its content and scope, and of the teaching and learning processes. Although these experiments have been carried out by many countries, they are rarely evaluated. Relatively little is known about the degree to which they improve the quality and relevance of education, or extend opportunities to previously excluded groups.

The target population of EBAALAN is a group of 55 9- to 14-year old children in the villages of Goué and Nomgana who had had no previous formal schooling and who were unable by reason of their age to enter the traditional school system or to be served by local adult literacy activities. This instructional program is an extension of a program previously developed and implemented among four adult populations in the same district. Both endeavors are based on the premise that by relying on the literacy skills already achieved in the local African language (in this case Mooré), a basic level of competency in spoken and written French can be achieved in a shorter period of time and with greater retention and applicability to everyday situations. In turn, this knowledge of French would permit the students to learn "modern sector skills", such as use of bank instructions, reference materials, business correspondence, etc. essential to both personal and community development, as well as to achieve potential eligibility for continuing formal education.

The educational method being used, known as instruction of French using acquired literacy skills ("méthode d'apprentissage/enseignement de la langue française à partir des acquis de l'alphabétisation, or ALFAA), was developed in a collaborative effort among personnel from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Ouagadougou, the National Literacy Institute (Institut National d'Alphabétisation, or INA) and the Pedagogical Institute of Burkina Faso (Institut Pédagogique du Burkina, or IPB). The ALFAA method was initially developed as a result of a request from the community organization Manegdbzanga to OSEO (Oeuvre Suisse d'Entraide Ouvrière) to finance the development and expansion of adult literacy efforts in the area. Traditional methods of French language education involve instruction in oral and written French, either separately or simultaneously, to individuals who may have no fundamental understanding of the concepts of orthography, syntax and grammar in their own language. The teaching of language in such a 'vacuum' decreases the retention rate, and minimizes the usefulness of the language as an effective tool for communication and learning. By contrast, the ALFAA method uses the native language as the principal medium of instruction, whereas French is taught using methods of foreign or second language instruction; the materials and techniques utilized take into account, and explicitly discuss, the differences in the orthographic structure and grammar of French and Mooré. In the second phase of training, French is employed as the medium of instruction in such subjects as arithmetic, geography, and practical knowledge.

These same principles are applied in the EBAALAN program, which is intended for out-of-school youth who have received basic literacy training from the local village association (according to methods prescribed by the National Literacy Institute) prior to participation. The use of Mooré as the language of instruction during the first half of the course permits the students to learn the traditional primary school curriculum, including subjects such as math, science and history in addition to French, at a highly accelerated rate. According to the program design, the material covered during the first four years of traditional primary school instruction can be learned in only two years, bringing the students up to the level of their age group. After the first two years of instruction, during which the students acquire a basic competency in French as a second language in tandem with their literate use of Mooré, all subjects will be taught in French, using the same materials as their peers in local primary schools. At the end of four years, the students are sufficiently prepared to pass the examination certifying their completion of the primary school curriculum. The instructors, who hold a first college degree, have received training in reading and writing Mooré, Mooré grammar, psychology of school-age children, pedagogy, and course preparation and organization. Their teaching is overseen by two representatives of the National Literacy Institute to ensure the quality and progress of the program.

While its scope is difficult to define, there is some consensus that the literature excludes non-formal adult education, and includes the approaches and methods used outside of the established formal school that enable children to exercise their right to basic education. These approaches often emphasize the quality of education and its relevance to the needs of the local communities. Some of the most significant non-formal basic education programs or schools were reviewed in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Ranaweera 1989). Listed among these initiatives are projects that have tinkered with the structure of the school in order to increase access to education, and those that focuses on improving the efficiency and the relevance of education. Multi-shift schools in Nigeria and Malaysia; instruction management by parents in India; Undugu Basic Education Program for street children in Kenya with its flexible school schedules; Koranic schools in Mauritania and Maladives; and mobile schools for children of gypsies in Europe are but a few examples of the non-formal basic education programs that are applied within the formal school system. Examples of innovations that have sought to establish a stronger link between school and the community include Mali's rural schools; the Integrated Rural Education Centers in the Sudan; Sierra Leone's Bunumbu Project; the second chance remedial programs in Thailand; and the low-cost material projects in Sri Lanka.

Interestingly, these experiments include non-conventional initiatives that have been carried out in the formal school system when they are designed to remedy the deficiencies of that system. All these programs claim to provide basic education to their participants.

The concept of basic education has had a long history that can be traced back to Dewey's School and Society (Carr-Hill 1994). Adopted by UNESCO in the aftermath of World War II and popularized by the International Labor Office in the 1970's through the "basic needs" initiatives, the concept conveyed the idea that minimum knowledge, skills and values that are required to reduce illiteracy in developing countries. In education, the emergence of this concept reflects the shift that occurred in the thinking about development in the 1970s when McNamara urged a transformation in emphasis from infrastructure and economic growth to basic needs. The basic needs strategy moves beyond primary concern with either aggregate growth or income shares and focuses on the absolute conditions of life of the poorest people in the poorer countries.

The objective of the basic needs approach to development is to provide opportunities for the full physical, mental and social development of the individual. This approach focuses on mobilizing particular resources for particular groups, identified as deficient in these resources, and concentrates on the nature of what is provided rather than on income. It is, therefore, a more positive and concrete concept than the double negatives like "eliminating poverty" or "reducing unemployment." It does not replace the more aggregate and abstract concepts which remain essential to measurement and analysis it gives them content (Streeten 1976, 136).

Other writers used it to refer to learning activities below the formal primary school level, often designed to provide basic reading, writing and calculus skills. Defined as such, initiatives associated with "basic" or "fundamental education" are perceived as second rate education for the non-elite population.

Couched in the debate on the type of education for rural dwellers, a totally different and more positive view of basic education was fostered by the World Conference on Education For All. in 1990. Though still emphasizing primary school as a means to satisfy the basic learning needs of the citizens, participants suggested that "other" non-formal basic education activities could prove parallel or equivalent to the primary school level for groups who, for one reason or another , are not reached or served by formal schooling.

There are four major issues or themes behind these changes in the perception of non-formal basic education: (1) the issue of differential access to education, (2) the equivalency problem, (3) the quality of education concerns, including the issues of internal efficiency and, (4) the question of the importance of education as an instrument of social advancement.

The issue of cost affects the perceived value of education and decisions about its demand as well. Individuals and families calculate and balance their decision against: (1) forgone current production opportunities, including production services in the home and non-familial employment, and (2) forgone learning, including production skills learned through participation in the family entreprises and traditional cultural values and behavior. Carr-Hill (1994) has argued that in developing countries where education is still a scarce resource, children are likely to be kept out of school when they have higher earning potential. He also underscore that there may be a higher opportunity cost to the parents in richer families if the children can be usefully employed on the farm. Decisions about which child is to receive what type of education are then made in weighting in such factors as geographical location of the family, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and gender.

The equivalency problem begs the questions of whether the educational system is structured in such a way as to allow mobility between formal and non-formal educational activities. In other words, whether each subsystem provides an easy point of entry, departure, or transition for participants of one sub-system to another. Another question is whether the social context of formal and non-formal education fosters different kinds of teaching and learning.

The quality of education has been a worrisome issue. While often defined in terms of goals, there has been a persistent emphasis on accountability, little has been done in the area of assessment. Information on the basic competencies of children, whether in school or not, is scarce, owing to disagreements among specialists about what to measure and how to measure it. Notwithstanding the results of studies by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, little is known about the output performance of students whether they are attending formal or nonformal education schools. A wide range of possible factors and inputs have been discussed that potentially affect quality. The debate on the curriculum content has not subsided, particularly with regard to the balance between academic and vocational subjects, the language of instruction, and the proper role of manual labor. From the participant's perspective, four obstacles to the quality of education may be: (1) the cost of schooling to households relative to their ability to pay, (2) the expected benefits of formal or non-formal education in terms of opportunities for social mobility, and (3) the appropriateness of the type of education to life in the community that one chooses to settle in.

Debates regarding the use of national languages is still clouded by statements that are not supported by published research. For example, the prevailing opinion has been that the use of national languages is a hindrance for students who will pursue their education beyond the basic education level.

The use of local languages in formal schooling in West Africa owes its origins to Christian missions trying to get the "message" to the masses (Ouane & Amon-Tanoh 1990). However, concerns over being able to tap into wider communication networks and modernizing led to the use of French, the colonizer's language, as the medium of instruction in West African schools. This was only exacerbated by the French colonial policies of assimilating their own language in the formal school system. This differs a bit from former British colonies where the norm is to use the local language at least at the primary level.

The debate on whether the mother tongue or a foreign language should be used as the medium for instruction has been widely debated in West Africa since the early 1900's (Ouane & Amon-Tanoh 1990). UNESCO has advocated the use of the mother tongue as the language of instruction since 1953 since it is more of an intimate form of language which can help the student to impose his/her own views and interpretation on the world around them (Watson 1994). It is a continuous and often heated discussion because of the unsatisfactory results of using French only as the medium of instruction in many West African countries. The problem is that many pupils do not become literate in their mother tongue or the foreign medium. In addition, it is often difficult finding enough qualified teachers to teach in French, especially in the rural areas. Finally, efforts to create more authentic and culturally relevant schools have continued to fuel nationalist tendencies in many countries, thus necessitating instruction in the local language.

As promising as many studies have been on the use of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction, there are many barriers that impede its progress. This includes the following:

  • It is difficult to decide which language to use, and then once this is decided which dialects are preferred (this often leads to arguments over favoritism);
  • It is less expensive to use French educational materials than to develop new teaching materials for local languages (which have often not yet been written) and it is argued to encourage national integration;
  • Political events often change the attitudes toward using mother tongue or French as the medium of instruction creating a lack of consistency in language policy; and
  • Negative stigmas have been attached to local languages as they are not the ones that serve the "elite" classes (Ouane & Amon-Tonoh 1990, Clayton 1998, Watson 1994 & Westley 1992)..

The above underscores two conflicting trends that are prevalent in West Africa today: should they preserve minority traditional cultures in the face of ever-growing supranational bureaucratization OR should they conform to a uniform world culture with a common world language and universal, urban, multinational lifestyles and symbols (Watson 1994). Language, political power, and educational policy tend to be closely interwoven in multiethnic states making policy decisions regarding language very complex. The above also exhibits the difficulties that exist when the ethnic and linguistic configurations of a county differ in character. The complexity of the situation necessitates considering the local situation which is not a feasible endeavor at this time. This is, in part, one of the impetuses behind the development of nonformal education. It is a separate system of education that potentially can complement the formal school system by integrating culture and language into the learning system. Today, nonformal education is often being used to give drop-outs and out-of-school children the basic skills that they need for life in their community.

The use of the mother tongue as the language of instruction in the early years of education has proven advantages with regard to cognitive development. It is the most effective medium of instruction, as it facilitates learning and the integration of the school to the milieu in which the children live. The advantages of teaching children in their maternal language go beyond academic success to include cultural, emotional and socio-psychological benefits.

3.5. Analysis strategy

Quantitative data were analyzed at FSU using the SSPS statistical package. These included test administered to student in both formal and EBAALAN schools in math, reading comprehension, observation, and dictation. The interviews with different stakeholders were analyzed to find common themes concerning the degree of satisfaction with and the impact of the EBAALAN schools. The interviews also served to clarify the results of the quantitative analysis. The statistical analysis consisted of 3 steps: (1) describing the characteristics of the students and other significant groups in the formal and EBAALAN schools, (2) assessing whether there were meaningful differences in the scores of the different subjects in which the students were tested, and (3) asses whether these differences could be explained in terms of age and gender. The third point is displayed in Table 1.

TABLE 1: The Number of Students by Age and Gender in Each Program

GENDER

AGE

Formal Program

EBAALAN Program

TOTAL

MALE

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

18

1

17

33

17

13

1

 

1

4

8

6

4

2

1

1

18

37

25

19

4

3

1

 

Total

82

26

108

FEMALE

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

1

22

26

17

6

1

1

3

6

4

8

6

1

1

23

29

23

10

9

6

1

 

Total

73

29

102

Age and gender were the two variables selected because the EBAALAN schools required equality of gender in recruitment and because the EBAALAN students were much older (therefore allowing for the assumption that these students were perhaps more mature and this would affect their academic performance). These results were compared to results obtained in other studies of the phenomenon of nonformal basic education in West Africa. Among these studies, the Mali survey provided another dimension of comparison to the EBAALAN schools. In that survey, we sought to describe a larger number of nonformal basic education programs funded by Save the Children, UTAH Alliance, and ACODEP.

4. Results

  1. General background: Need for and record of alternatives to classic primary schooling throughout the developing world, and in Africa in particular

EBAALAN is an extension of a program previously developed and implemented among four adult populations in the Loumbila district in Burkina Faso. Both endeavors are based on the premise that by relying on the literacy skills already achieved in the local African language (in this case Mooré), a basic level of competency in spoken and written French can be achieved in a shorter period of time and with greater retention and applicability to everyday situations. In turn, this knowledge of French would permit the students to learn "modern sector skills," such as use of bank instructions, reference materials, business correspondence, etc. essential to both personal and community development, as well as to achieve potential eligibility for continuing formal education.

The EBAALAN project came about as a result of the failure of two national education reforms in 1979 and 1986 in Burkina Faso. The objectives of the reform include: (1) to open the education system to more children and to make it more relevant to life in the community; (2) to educate citizens to be healthy, productive, patriotic, and fraternal; (3) to protect the family as a basic unit of the social fabric of society; and (4) to instill a strong belief in social justice as a foundation for peace. Burkina Faso had opted for local community development both in rural and peri-urban areas. The strategy was multisectorial development in rural areas with an emphasis on agriculture.

This new system of education helped to address the basic needs of Burkinabè. It was envisioned as mass and lifelong education targeting all citizens with no age limitation. The expression used was "education of the citizen from the crib to the grave." Because the majority of the population is engaged in agriculture, education was conceived as unit of production, cycle of production, and lifelong education. These economic units of production were translated in the education system as: preschool education, basic education, trade, business, and craft training, professional and scholastic training, and lifelong education.

This reform gave birth to the notion of basic education. Two types of institutions were created to help compensate for the influx of children in the already strained school systems: the CEBNF (Centre d'Education de Base Nonformel) and satellite schools. EBALAAN is a combination of the ideas of satellite schools and CEBNFs. That is, it uses a nonformal approach to formal curriculum. These new institutions developed out of models from India and Pakistan, with the basic idea of integrating the school with the environment. The goals of these centers include the following: (1) to increasing educational efficiency, (2) to decrease drop out rates, (3) to create gender equity in the classroom, (4) to reduce imbalances between regions and provinces, (5) to provide better quality education and a better rate of promotion to higher grade levels, and finally (6) to encourage local input and pedagogical innovations. The satellite schools were designed to encourage young children to attend school by making it easier for them by not making them travel such a far distance to reach the primary school. Satellite schools are attached to primary schools in the villages with a local teacher for the first 3 years and then the best students go to the primary school next. Organizing the children with a local teacher costs less and it offers them a chance to gain some basic education. This is particularly true for those children who would otherwise not have the chance to go to the primary school. The overall objective of the satellite schools is to help in the recruitment of primary schools by gaining community ownership and interest in the center which ultimately encourages partnership with the primary schools. It also helps to increase parental involvement in a child's later years of their education.

The CEBNFs were conceived for children and youth who, because of age or other factors, are not able to get into school. They target out of school kids from ages 9-15 years. They are designated to fulfill the basic learning need of those who otherwise would not have it. The CEBNFs focus on democratization issues, and gaining the skills and attitudes to better integrate their students into their rural environment. Specific objectives include the following: (1) to increase rates of literacy, (2) to educate their students to be able to independently contribute to local development, (3) to acquire skills and competencies in the areas of health, environment, civic organization, (4) to try to establish a system to bridge these students back into the formal system if they want, (5) to encourage community participation by having community members manage funding decisions and having a local council made up of community members decide on how to maximum community resources in the curriculum, and (6) to serve as feeders to literacy centers where more advances technical and civic education is provided

  1. Relevant characteristics of the specific setting: Burkina Faso and the Manegbzânga area

The EBAALAN centers are both 30 kilometers from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. They are located in Goué and Nomgana which are two villages in the Loumbila district in the province Obritênga. Officially, EBAALAN is a project of carried out by the Manegdbzânga Association (Manegdbzânga means 'development for all' in Mooré). OSEO started the Manegdbzânga Association (MA) which is comprised of 30 village association, of which 15 are solely women's associations. The basic objective of MA is local development using literacy in local languages. They have successfully, with funding from OSEO, created literacy centers that have been in action since 1986 in 23 villages. Each center is self-managed with three permanent full-time staff including a director and two supervisors. OSEO provides 60% of the budget and MA provides the other 40% . The government contributes to their efforts also by paying the director donating material such as chalk.

The MA literacy centers are designed for adults to come to the centers for intensive literacy training. This is done using the ALFAA method (Apprentisage de la langue française à partir des acquis de l'alphabétisations dans les langue nationales). After the adults have successfully achieved literacy in their own languages, they move into the applied literacy (or postliteracy) stage where an effort is made to train them in French by discussing topics such as family planning. MA saw a need for similar training for children because of the interest that children showed in going with their parents to these centers for these discussions. Due to the success of the ALFAA method in training adults, it was speculated that it would also be beneficial in training children at the primary school level.

The EBAALAN program comes from the tradition of literacy. It began in 1994 as a joint project of the National Institute of Literacy, OSEO, and MA. Researchers from the University of Ouagadougou and the National Institute of Literacy (NIL) in Burkina Faso were asked to design an ALFAA methodology to help train younger people, ages 9 to 14 years, to become literate. This was to be done in conjunction with the conception of formal schooling to create a program using the ALFAA method for children too old to go back to school and too young to go into adult literacy programs.

What is unique about the EBAALAN project is that it is an innovative school. It is innovative in that it claims that graduates of these programs should not have to reenter into the formal school system at the primary level, but should be able to go right into secondary school after passing the certification exams required to do so. EBAALAN claims to offer the complete primary school cycle in four years and to get better results from its students based on using the ALFAA methodology for mother tongue instruction. It is challenging the formal school instead of just offering nonformal education. It solves the problem of where to put graduates of nonformal education programs in the primary schools system. After a student passes the examination to secondary school following the EBAALAN program of study, they deserve to go right into the formal school system at the same level as their formal school counterparts, even though they did not attend the primary school themselves.

4.3. Characteristics of the "alphabétisation des petits" initiative in Goué and Nomgana

The EBAALAN program is designed to serve out of school youth ages 9 to 14 years. There are 55 students in the two EBAALAN classes currently in action (one center has 25 students and the other has 30 students). Officially, none of the EBAALAN students had been in primary school prior to this experience. There are 29 girls and 26 boys. There is just one promotion that has gone through which started in 1994 and they go through all of the courses at the same pace. All have progressed forward and no one has been left behind. Table 2 shows the distribution of these students by gender in the two EBAALAN centers, Goué and Nomgana.

Table 2: Distribution of Students by Gender and Center

Center

Boys

Girls

Total

Nomgana

18

12

30

Goué

8

17

25

Based on Table 2, there seems to be some gender weighting. There are more boys at Nomgana Center where the teacher happens to be a male and similarly there are more girls at the Goué center where the teacher is a female. This distribution may just be coincidental as recruitment is done on the basis of proximity to the school to avoid having the students travel too far. Selection criteria for admission to the Center are still not quite clear. They took children who were available and whose parents were willing to authorize their participation in the experiment. There are no children in the EBAALAN program whose parents are modern sector employees. Most parents are farmers who belong to the Manegbzânga Association.

4.3.1. History and "model" of the intervention

The purpose of the EBAALAN project is to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes dispensed in the formal schools but using local languages and a different institutional structure. This allows them to, in theory, acquire the basic education curriculum of formal schools in a shorter time period, in four years instead of the traditional six years. Their strategy in doing this is to use the mother tongue and to restructure the curriculum. The EBAALAN program takes the first year and focuses on literacy in local language and then the students begin to learn French in second year as a language, not as a medium of instruction. French becomes the medium of instruction in the third year but the EBAALAN centers still include Mooré in their instruction. The EBAALAN program keeps the same school calendar as the formal school system in terms of schools days. This is how it is an innovative type of nonformal/ formal schooling because it combines both the concepts of the satellite and CEBNF centers. EBAALAN includes elements of production and culture in their curriculum to establish a connection between school and environment for children. However, it is up to the parents to decide how students get involved in production (agriculture, husbandry, weaving, gardening for market sales, etc.) The EBAALAN centers studied in this research are both using husbandry in their curriculum. The sponsoring NGO, OSEO, gave one sheep to each student and parents contributed one rooster and two hen. The parental participate in the program mainly in the area of production. This also helps to raise funds for the EBAALAN centers. It integrates producing with fundraising as a strategy for lifelong security. The students are gaining skills and constitute capital for themselves. Equal gender participation is mandated by the funders.

In sum, the characteristics of the EBAALAN model include:

  • reducing the primary school cycle from 6 years to 4 years;
  • genuine parental and community participation in the education of their children through productive work, culture, and moral and civic education;
  • linkages between education and production;
  • an introduction of cultural and productive components to the curriculum;
  • bilingual schooling beginning with the mother tongue;
  • making mother tongue literacy the foundation of education;
  • ensuring the participation of both mothers and fathers at school meetings; and
  • ensuring the equal enrollment of girls to boys in the program

Curriculum, textbooks, holidays, and the school calendar are the same for the EBAALAN centers and the formal school system. The only difference is that the textbooks are translated by hired University linguists with the help of NIL. In the first two years of the EBAALAN program (the equivalent of CE1 and CE2 in the formal school system), teaching is done in the areas of history, geography, math, science, civic education, moral education, and Mooré grammar. Students are given accelerated literacy in Mooré using the ALFAA method the first 48 days of their enrollment. This model is a mixture of literacy experiments conducted in the country through three major literacy campaigns all done under different political regimes.

The following is a list of factors that helped to bring the ALFAA model and the EBAALAN program to fruition: (1) a favorable environment for literacy campaigns because lots of money had already been invested in literacy; (2) a need and willingness to try the new model; (3) Burkina Faso is favorable to nongovernmental organizations (NGO) coming in and intervening within their education sector; (4) it is overall not a unique experiment as previous programs such as BRAC have made it an acceptable notion; (5) there had been other tampering with formal school systems in Africa and other developing nations (multishift, multigrade); (6) the success of the Chad experiment in which people took over the system and ran the schools successfully when the central government collapsed; and finally, (7) the low level of enrollment and the disparate population provided a unique situation where unique schools had to be designed. Overall, these factors can be presented in an equation as:

EBAALAN = the history of success of literacy programs + formal school curriculum + the education reform context (new emphasis of life in rural community, including indigenous language)

Table 3 is a comparative representation of the EBAALAN program to the formal school system.

Table 3: EBAALAN and the Formal School Systems Structure

Formal

CP1

CP2

CE1

CE2

CM1

CM2

EBALAAN

ALFAA Literacy Cycle

French as Second Language

Accelerated Primary School Cycle

4.3.2. Teacher characteristics

The EBAALAN schools have two teachers: one is female and the other male. The female teacher works in Goué and the male teacher works in Nomgana. They were recruited at the beginning of the experimentation by officials of the MA. They were trained by NIL staff in writing, reading and mathematics, in Mooré, and in the methodology of how to teach these disciplines. The training in Mooré covered the rules of transcription, specialized educational terminology, and teaching methodology. The teachers at the two EBAALAN centers are both secondary school graduates from the village. The teachers receive lots of support from NIL. Every day is a challenge for them, however, because they have learned everything from scratch over the past four years. They are never sure of what they are going to do in the classroom from week to week which makes it difficult to prepare lessons. This is because in preparation of the texts in Mooré, the material has not come in on time or it needs revisions. Fortunately, as in any other innovation, the teachers have maintained a willingness to try new ideas and to be creative. They enjoy the advantage of using two languages in the classroom which makes it easier for them to explain lessons to the students. The most challenging part of working with the two languages though is that, at times, it is difficult to find ways to express abstract concepts in Mooré. These teachers are people who have been trained in an environment that is constantly changing because they are the first tranche making it necessary to experiment with what works and what does not work. For this reason, they are very flexible people.

4.3.3. Current implementation status and description of actual teaching process and setting

EBALAAN is a demonstration program. Fifty-five students were selected to test the assumptions of the program designers. Their strategy is based on the following assumptions:

  • the student will achieve better if they receive initial intensive literacy in their mother tongue;
  • French is introduced as a subject and only used as a medium of instruction in the last 2 years;
  • the equivalent of the formal school curriculum for the first two years is delivered in Mooré;
  • curriculum and calendar of the EBAALAN schools are the same as in the formal schools;
  • the entire curriculum of the elementary schools can be delivered in the EBAALAN schools in four years instead of six years;
  • culture and production components can be added to the curriculum to make it more relevant to the community in which the EBAALAN school is located; and
  • parents are responsible for the delivery of production and culture units of the curriculum.

Implementation of this experimental program has been a challenge as there has been no previous planning. They are building the road as they travel with their pilot program. As mentioned in the previous section, materials are being developed or translated during the school year which is an ongoing process. There is not much opportunity for preplanning lessons and teachers need to be trained consistently because tomorrow is uncertain as to where the program is headed. They do not have land for classes such as physical education because the building centers were designed for literacy classes.

At the same time, the MA in the community has been more than willing and able to respond to the demands of the program. This is because, as in any pilot program, the children are excited about learning and the opportunity that it presents. In addition, the parents are not discouraged by the implementation challenges. There have been many questions, but people are coming together to solve them. They believed EBAALAN to be their project and are taking on the responsibility of helping to create it. This is in sharp contrast to the formal school which is experiencing a decline in enrollment due to the uncertainty of jobs. The below table depicts the dropout rate in the formal schools. EBAALAN claims to have no drop outs.

Table 3: Enrollment according to year

Class level

CP1

CP2

CE1

CE2

CM1

CM2

Boys

1000

859

732

647

562

576

Girls

1000

859

730

636

533

573

Average

1000

859

731

641

547

547

Although it has been a challenge, EBALAAN has been able to implement their strategy. They have had the resources to do it, the context, and the community support. The context is favorable to the realization of this project. They receive community support, financial support from OSEO, and technical support from NIL. Translation is done by linguists at the University of Ouagadougou who comprised the braintrust that conceived the ALFAA program. They also solve program problems such as adaptation of the program, readjusting the program based on lessons learned, and feedback. Proximity to Ouagadougou allows for continuous monitoring of progress.

Although a new method, EBAALAN is a new approach to delivering the formal school curriculum. These things were already thought out in the 1979 reform in an environment that was conducive to its success. The EBAALAN program is working in part because people have now bought into the idea that nonformal basic education can be beneficial for children and can complement the formal school system.

  1. Results of the tests: descriptives and differences in group means

The first basic question asked in this research was can the content of the formal primary school really be given through the form of nonformal basic education? A second major question is, can EBALAAN students achieve at a level comparable to that of formal school students? Thirdly, to what extent does a nonformal program such as EBALAAN offer a solution to the "crisis" of the formal school? (How can it offer a solution to the problem of basic education for all as defined by the Jomtien conference, which is the idea that education should be designed to allow people to live in dignity in their community?

In relation to the first question, it was found through classroom observation that effort was made to deliver the curriculum of the formal school in Mooré and in French as mediums of instruction. Textbooks and pedagogical material were translated in Mooré. It was not feasible to ascertain the intensive literacy part in our evaluation, but it looks like that participants were indeed functioning and literate in Mooré. Class discussions were conducted in Mooré. Transition to French had begun. The Minister of Education visited the EBAALAN centers and determined that this is the direction that the country needs to be going in terms of primary school and basic education. In his mind, they have proven that this methodology works and is feasible.

To answer the second question, tests were conducted to compare and contrast the levels of achievement of the two groups of consideration. Table 4 represents the results of these tests, which were designed by the formal school teachers.

Table 4: Distribution of means by types of school and gender

SUBJECT

FORMAL SCHOOLS

EBAALAN SCHOOLS

TOTAL

 

MALE

FEMALE

MALE

FEMALE

 

READING

5.71 (82)

6.16 (73)

7.40 (26)

7.17 (29)

6.27 (210)

DICTATION

.29(82)

.O3 (73)

1.83 (26)

1.30 (28)

.53 (209)

READ.COMPREH

3.48(82)

3.78(73)

4.77 (26)

4.09 (28)

3.83 (209)

MATH

5.87(82)

4.47(73)

7.85 (26)

7.41 (29)

5.84 (210)

OBSERVATION

6.52(82)

6.26(73)

8.67 (26)

7.78 (29)

6.87 (210)

The above table shows the disruption of means by gender and school system in the five disciplines in which students were tested. These results suggest that our two comparison groups are for the most part homogeneous. In terms of age, on the average the EBAALAN students are older than their formal school counterparts. The EBAALAN schools also have more girls than formal schools in the classroom and in one EBALAAN classroom, there are more girls than boys.

Students in EBAALAN schools had higher mean scores in all subjects in which they were tested than their counterparts in the formal system. There is a significant difference in the mean score of EBAALAN students versus the formal school students in all subjects. It is difficult to explain why EBAALAN students are doing better than their counterparts. There are two hypotheses that come to mind: one is that the use of mother tongue instruction has facilitated learning and student achievement and the other is that the innovative and experimental nature of the school with all of its resources make it easier for students to learn. As mentioned, there is a high level of support in EBAALAN centers in terms of resources that the students have at their disposal. Also, they do not have to walk long distances to get to school.

Girls in the EBAALAN schools had higher mean scores than boys in the formal school system. Girls in the EBAALAN schools also had higher mean scores than girls in the formal school system. Within the EBAALAN schools, girls in the Goué school had higher mean scores than boys. They may be the effect of teacher gender. In the two systems, boys have higher mean scores than girls. The scope of this research does not present an explanation for this. However, it may hypothesized that this is due to societal and parental pressures on boys to succeed.

Regression and covariance analyses were conducted to test if observed differences were significant. This is presented in Table 5.

Table 5: Results of the Regression analysis

VARIABLES

N

R SQ

B

SE B

T

SIGN T

AGE

GENDER

READING

210

.16

1.58

.27

5.79

p<.005

NS

NS

DICTATION

209

.24

1.03

.23

4.48

p<.005

S

NS

READ.COMP

209

.02

.94

.48

1.96

p>.005

NS

NS

MATH

210

.20

1.44

.53

2.69

p>.005

S

S

OBSERVAT

210

.11

1.88

.44

4.24

P<.005

NS

NS

A regression analysis was conducted to control for the effect of age and gender. Results show that for the students tested, age had a significant effect on dictation and math scores. Results also show that for the students tested, gender had a significant effect on math scores. With the stringent alpha level adopted, the mean scores for reading comprehension were not statistically different. These results are similar to those obtained in the evaluation of non-formal schools in Mali which will be discussed in a later section.

Interviews with EBAALAN stakeholders were also conducted to ascertain their attitudes towards the EBAALAN schools as an innovation. Interviews with the two teachers revealed that the lack of teaching materials and textbooks at the beginning was a major challenge. Teaching materials and supporting documents were being prepared on day-to-day basis. This was a major threat to the success of the innovation. Yet, another area of frustration was the in-service training. One teacher felt that the constant intervention of the NIL trainers in the classroom adversely affected teacher's authority, making him/her look like a simple intern. On the other hand, they also indicated that the training that they received was adequate and that they have accumulated a great deal of experience and confidence. Both believed that they can now sit for the teachers' certification exam and be hired in the formal school system.

Of most concern to the teachers is the question of job security. While they are content with their current salary, they pointed out that it does not include retirement and other benefits given to teachers in the formal school system. However, they express great satisfaction with being from the villages in which they are teaching because it provides constant contact with students and their parents.

Interviews were also conducted with 14 parents and association leaders (8 men and 6 women) in a focus group-like fashion. These revealed that the parents questioned clearly prefer the EBAALAN school over the formal primary school. They felt that their children learn faster in Mooré and perform better academically using their mother tongue. One parent stated that he had enrolled the most promising child in the formal school system and was lukewarm about sending the other to EBAALAN school because little was expected of this second child. However, he has noted that this second child has become more responsible. He felt that what he learns in school has a strong rapport with domestic activities. In fact, this child teaches his younger siblings what he learns in school with no difficulty. He is able to explain things that his older brother who attends the formal system cannot. This parent stated that the second child learns things which are tied to their lives at home in the language that all the family members can understand. This second child also does house chores with less complaints and excuses than his brother in the formal school system. This gave him confidence in the EBAALAN school.

However, another parent pointed out the importance of mastering French which, he said, was the language for working in large cities. Yet, another pointed out that children in the EBAALAN school will know more about their culture than their counterparts in the formal system. Virtually everyone felt that EBAALAN schools were a bonus. They have allowed them to enroll children who otherwise would have no chance of attending school.

The basic research question was the degree to which new nonformal schools, such as the EBAALAN experiment, can be viewed as a potential solution to two of most serious problems of the formal school system: exclusion of the large majority and unsuitability with regard to the milieu of the learners. One major hypothesis was that the use of a local language in first year of learning will facilitate the integration of the school in the realities of the milieu of the learners and foster a rapid acquisition of the basic skills of reading, writing and math, and lead to rapid mastery of French. Although these results suggest a superiority of EBAALAN students, we cannot jump to the conclusion that the hypothesized scenario is indeed taking place. This is an experimental school whose stakeholders still have a lot of resources, the most important of which being enthusiasm.

Until final financial and pedagogical data becomes available, it would seems that:

  • The EBAALAN program suggests that a solution can found to the financial deadlock reached by the current educational system. Indeed, a reduction in the number of years needed to complete primary school, can result in significant savings in per pupil expenditure.
  • EBAALAN proposes an educational system that takes into account the needs of the people that it serves, and their environment.
  • For the first time, parents are involved in the decision making and contribute in the management of EBAALAN centers.

One of the major advantages of the program is that it was conceived by Burkinabè specialists who have a keen interest in development of education within the region. The program provides an alternative and a response to local needs which is to provide access to the masses so that they can participate in the development effort.

The problems and concerns that exist for the EBAALAN program include the following:

  • The programs is still experiencing material, pedagogical and linguistic difficulties.
  • The program experienced many delays in its debut. Textbooks did not arrive on time and were never in their final form. Writers and designers were busy with other priorities.
  • While teachers had high school training, they never attended teacher training school.
  • With regard to the use of the language, children experienced some pronunciation difficulties, largely because of interference of the mother tongue in French. With children at an advanced age, the phonatory system was already set for Mooré. Such sounds as u, j, ch, do exist in Mooré. There are also French words and expressions that have become part of Mooré language, with a distinct pronunciation (e.g. dinzan, detar, ninette, monto, ...) which are now difficult to correct.
  • The structures that are housing the EBAALAN program were initially designed as literacy centers. Turning these structures into classrooms for children has been a real challenge. There is a need to reorganize and acquire more land to build playgrounds and space for physical education.

At the conclusion of the current experiment, the MA wishes to open additional centers in other villages. The Mandzâbanga Association strongly believes that it has a secure future because of its investments in EBAALAN participants.

Mali

This literature review conducted in Mali demonstrated CEDs as viable alternatives to the formal primary school. From villages in Kolondieba in 1992/93, this rural community type of school has spread into about 500 villages throughout the country. The study also suggests that with a little sensibilisation, peasants can complement government's efforts to educate their children.

These are relatively new programs which do not have an established record in human resource development. There have been efforts to evaluate them (Save the Children in 1995 and Plan International in 1996) which would hopefully lead to positive changes in the programs. Thus far, it has been shown that the current funding system, from the parents' monthly contribution, does not inspire confidence in the future of these programs. Communities are experiencing difficulties in paying their one teacher. With planned future expansion of these programs where a village may need two or three teachers, this may become a serious problem.

To formalize these CED programs, the question of equivalency with the formal system needs to be addressed. This question entails addressing the issues of standards. CED do not have to necessarily push for equivalency. It is possible to develop a parallel system based on reduced cost, geographic, and linguistic familiarity.

 

4.5. Reactions of stakeholders to these results

Overall, the stakeholders in the EBAALAN program think of it as an interesting experiment. This applies to the student participants and their parents but also to those who have a stake in the nonformal basic education concept as a mean of delivery for basic knowledge, skills, and attitudes required a meaningful life in the community. However, it is difficult to answer what kind of impact the EBAALAN program has had on its stakeholders at this point. For one reason, there is only data for what might be called a formative evaluation. Participants of the program have not yet graduated and certainly they have not entered the labor market. The opinion of different stakeholders as to how they feel about the experiment thus far is the only means of assessment right now.

Students, parents, community, members of the MA and government officials, including the Minister of Education, who have come into contact with the EBAALAN schools are fairly unanimous in their positive evaluation of the program. They agree that youth who were excluded from the formal school system are now performing at a higher level than their counterparts in the formal system. Most of these children have siblings in the formal school system. Thus, parents inevitably compare the performance of their children in the two systems of education. The experiment does not tell us why EBAALAN participants perform better than their counterparts, but two factors seem to merit attention: the use of national local language and initial intensive literacy may be worth looking into in a more detailed analysis. As an experiment, EBAALAN is a unique combination of nonformal approaches to deliver the content of the formal school curriculum. From a sociological point of view, attempts at either the use of national language or the "nationalization" of curriculum have failed because of perception by powerful stakeholders in the school system. that an internationally accepted curriculum delivered in an international language was being discarded in favor of a "homemade, watered-down" less stringent curriculum that would never give students access to modern sector jobs both within and outside of national boundaries. The EBAALAN experiment seems to challenge this perception by enabling its participants to achieve as well as their formal system counterparts. The nonformal approach that it uses to gain knowledge seems to be producing students who can compete in their command of the national curriculum. The major question is, what are the next steps at the end of the four year program?

5. Analysis and Interpretation

5.1. Results of covariance analysis: parceling out the effects of the method itself

The results of the data collected indicate that it is possible to take those who have been excluded and give them the opportunity to either get the basic tools that would allow them to live in a world that is changed and that requires basic knowledge, skill, and attitudes or to recycle them into the formal school system. These results also show that the slightly older and female students from EBAALAN are performing better than the traditional younger, male-dominated population in the formal school system. The strategy used in the ALFAA method is an innovation that needs to be further studied for its contribution to the success of these EBAALAN students. It may be that maturation due to age or a stronger emphasis on achievement can overcome the image of second class nonformal education that is characterized.

EBAALAN has some features that exist in many nonformal primary education programs and many features that are somewhat uncommon. As in several other programs, EBAALAN offers basic education opportunities to children who are typically left out of the educational system. This school is not intended to operate as a permanent institution, but rather to address a single cohort of students who enroll during the same school year and move together during the four years of schooling . EBAALAN will cease to exist when the cohort graduates. The program opened in response to concerns voiced by adult enrolled in literacy program

The EBAALAN program has attracted the attention of major educational policy makers in Burkina Faso because it is showing that primary school participation can be improved, even with those populations that have been traditionally excluded. School quality, the medium of instruction, and parental and teacher follow up appear to be contributing to the fact that students are scoring as well as their formal school counterparts in achievement tests.

6. Conclusions and Policy Implications

This instructional program is an extension of a program previously developed and implemented among four adult populations in the same district. Both endeavors are based on the premise that by relying on the literacy skills already achieved in the local African language (in this case Mooré), a basic level of competency in spoken and written French can be achieved in a shorter period of time and with greater retention and applicability to everyday situations. In turn, this knowledge of French would permit the students to learn "modern sector skills" essential to both personal and community development, as well as to achieve potential eligibility for continuing formal education.

The EBAALAN model shows potential applicability on a wider scale. The environment within which EBAALAN operates is one that is common to many developing countries. Burkina Faso lacks the human, financial and managerial resources right now to run the program on their own so they rely heavily on foreign assistance funds to achieve the goal of basic education for all. One of the strengths of the EBAALAN program is that it is able to target a specific group of people who are excluded or underserved by the formal education system. The following is a list of elements from the EBAALAN program that are potentially transferable to other areas in or outside of the country:

  • focus on the goal of basic education for all, a goal that is perceived as important by parents, students, communities, NGO's and government;
  • active parent and community involvement;
  • a management support system that emphasize collaborative delivery of services, training, logistics, and follow-through;
  • a small targeted population where parents and students are not far removed from their social, cultural, and political environment;
  • teachers selected from the community, with short pre-service training, continuous in-service training, and strong supervision; and
  • a mutually beneficial partnership between an NGO and the local community.

Some of the lessons learned from this study for primary schooling and basic education strategies in West Africa include the following:

  • programs like EBAALAN are well positioned to contribute to the goal of basic education for all;
  • programs like EBAALAN are now serving an ever larger proportion of the primary school-age population.

There is currently a subtle change that is beginning to challenge the centrality of formal schooling as a key to achievement of human resource development. With the relative stagnation in economic development and the dwindling of public sector jobs, children perceive a changing profile of the successful role model in society. Success in formal education no longer guarantees success in real life. Many of the successful people who act as role models owe their success mainly to substantial political leverage and acute market place savvy, two skills that are not acquired in formal schools. Alternative avenues of social and economic mobility are now being developed and strengthened. People are increasingly relying on nonformal education and training programs to acquire employment related skills. Herein lies the potential and strength of nonformal approaches to basic education.

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