Language education policies and inequality in Africa: cross-national empirical evidence

Author(s): Coyne, Gary

Date: 2015

Pages: p. 619-637

This article examines the relationship between inequality and education through the lens of colonial language education policies in African primary and secondary school curricula. The languages of former colonizers almost always occupy important places in society, yet they are not widely spoken as first languages, meaning that most people depend on formal education to learn them. The relationship between two related aspects of language education is tested with data on language education policies from 33 African states. Results show that the percent of teaching periods devoted to a colonial language as a subject of study has no association with income inequality. However, where colonial languages are the medium of instruction, income inequality is significantly higher even controlling for robust predictors of cross-national inequality. Results suggest that very heavy emphasis on such languages increases inequality by impeding progress through school, particularly for marginalized groups.

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