Education in Post-Colonial Algeria
In the immediate aftermath of independence, post-colonial governments in the Middle East prioritized education as a cornerstone for economic growth. This included revamping the curriculum, turning classrooms, in many instances, into battlegrounds in political and ideological fights. When Algeria obtained its independence from France in 1962, for example, after 132 years of colonization, Algerians determined to forge an identity free from western influence. The arabization of the Algerian school curriculum began in earnest in 1971, banning French and requiring Islamic law and the study of the Qur'an. Today the Algerian government is trying to reverse the momentum of Islamists and aims to reengineer the Algerian identity through the schools.
This source is a part of the Education in the Middle East, 1200-2010 teaching module.
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At a time of religious revival across the Muslim world, Algeria's youth are in play. The focus of this contest is the schools, where for decades Islamists controlled what children learned, and how they learned, officials and education experts here said.
Now the government is urgently trying to re-engineer Algerian identity, changing the curriculum to wrest momentum from the Islamists, provide its youth with more employable skills, and combat the terrorism it fears schools have inadvertently encouraged.
It appears to be the most ambitious attempt in the region to change a school system to make its students less vulnerable to religious extremism.
But many educators are resisting the changes, and many disenchanted young men are dropping out of schools. It is a tense time in Algiers, where city streets are crowded with police officers and security checkpoints and alive with fears that Algeria is facing a resurgence of Islamic terrorism. From 1991 to 2002, as many as 200,000 Algerians died in fighting between government forces and Islamic terrorists. Now one of the main terrorist groups, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, or G.S.P.C., has affiliated with Al Qaeda, rebranding itself as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
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The two natures of the country reflect the way in which Algerian identity was cleaved in half by 132 years of French colonial rule, and then again by independence and forced Arabization. Once the French were driven out in 1962, the Algerians were determined to forge a national identity free from Western influence.
Michael Slackman, "In Algeria, a Tug of War for Young Minds," New York Times, June 23, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/23/world/africa/23algeria.html?ref=world (accessed July 1, 2010). Annotated by Heidi Morrison.