Globalisation and curriculum in African classrooms: is there space for the local?

One of the biggest challenges of globalised education for minority language communities in Africa is the way in which national curriculum priorities are influenced by forces beyond the nation-state. Curriculum development is of great interest to players in the international education arena, as well as to reform-minded national education leaders; as such, it is vulnerable to expectations and agendas that may give only scant attention to quality, equitable education for all learners - especially those in marginalised, local language-speaking communities. 

The influence of globalisation on formal education curriculum is touted as the key to a prosperous global future. Yet this influence is one of curricular uniformity, prioritising ‘global’ knowledge and realities. This is a problem because most learners in African classrooms experience very different life realities from learners in classrooms of the global North. Not only so, but African learners themselves vary tremendously in terms of their language fluency, knowledge, life experience, and expectations. So where globalised thinking dominates a formal education system, the real national curriculum challenge is to support equitable learning for all, shaped by local linguistic and cultural context. 

What alternatives exist to such globalised curriculum? To what extent can communities, assisted by international players, influence curriculum content in such a way that it reflects realities and priorities that are most helpful to all African citizens?

This presentation will draw on the author’s research and consulting experience over the past 13 years in Cameroon, Kenya, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Ghana to assess the degree to which quality, equity and inclusivity in the formal education curriculum can be enhanced by giving space to local language, knowledge and perspective.

Barbara's background includes local-language literacy programme facilitation, leadership of country-level literacy programme initiatives, capacity-building, building alliances of concerned individuals and institutions around language and education; and consulting. Recent publications have focused on language policy formation and implementation; reading and culture; community processes of language development; and issues related to the use of African languages in formal education.