Language, education, and citizenship in Africa

Language, education, and citizenship in Africa

African states are known for their linguistic diversity. Few have spread a single official language widely through their education systems. The preservation of many local languages seems a benefit in terms of minority rights, but some fear that fragmentation may inhibit national cohesion and democratic participation.

This article examines language competence of individuals in 10 states in Africa, highlighting distinctions in types of education systems. It also assesses their attitudes about citizenship and democracy, using Afrobarometer survey data. It shows that immersion systems appear much more effective in spreading a standard language, but that national sentiment has very little to do with proficiency in this official language. It also reveals that citizens armed with literacy in local languages tend to be more participatory, more demanding of greater accountability in government, and more critical of authoritarian rule.

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