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Algeria to replace French with English at universities

July 5, 2023 at 3:32 pm

A view of Algiers University as Algeria on Tuesday announced reopening of universities for the new academic year, in Algiers, Algeria on December 15, 2020 [Mousaab Rouibi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

In the latest sign that the French language and influence is on the decline in former North African colony, Algeria, the authorities are reportedly set to replace French with English at Algerian universities, starting with the new academic year in September.

According to Asharq Al-Awsat, on 1 July the Ministry of Higher Education’s Secretary-General sent a letter to university directors requesting a meeting to form pedagogical teams ahead of the summer vacation in order to make preparations for the adoption of English as the language of instruction for the new semester.

The decision follows similar developments last year, after Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune instructed that that primary schools start teaching English. “French is a spoil of war, but English is an international language,” he said at the time. French being replaced with English is seen as evident of France’s waning soft power and diminishing sphere of influence in the country which is the third-largest French-speaking country in the world.

OPINION: Algeria takes ‘French is a waste of time’ to heart with a shift towards English

Algeria’s shift away from the francophone world also comes against the backdrop of political tensions between Algiers and Paris. Algeria is concerned about attempts by far-right French MPs to abolish a 1968 agreement that limits immigration between the two countries. The deal, according to the MPs, has not helped to limit immigration to France. In 2021, Algeria turned down a request from France to repatriate thousands of its illegal migrants. Paris responded by cutting the number of visas issued to Algerians.

More recently, President Tebboune was scheduled to visit France in mid-May but the trip was postponed to June, before likely being postponed indefinitely. Instead, Tebboune paid a visit to close ally Russia where he chaired the Algerian-Russian Business Forum during the three-day state visit.