In 2004, the Bureau of Catholic Education designed a literacy and numeracy programme coined ‘Prevok-BEK’ – the first mother-tongue based curriculum introduced ‘informally’ through the ‘formal’ national framework of Prevocational Education with Kreol Morisien being used as both a language of instruction and a language subject. Since 2005, this programme has been implemented in 12 secondary schools representing 900 students, 55 teachers and 70 staff.
Prevok-BEK is grounded into several UNESCO Member States declarations and conventions for a ‘multilingual education’, encouraging education in the mother tongue alongside bilingual or multilingual education. In 2008, Prevok-BEK devised an innovative bilingual (English/Kreol Morisien) mode of assessment. In 2009, textbooks were first produced in Kreol Morisien and bilingual format (Kreol Morisien/English) for Mathematics.
The Bureau of Catholic Education adopted the use of Kreol Morisien as a means to solve the problem of school drop-outs and a high rate of failure at the Certificate of Primary Education examinations. After seven years in the primary school cycle and three years in national prevocational stream, students were still not achieving functional literacy and numeracy, mainly because the medium used is English, the third language of the students after Kreol Morisien and French. The main objectives of using Kreol Morisien as a taught subject and as a medium of instruction are to enhance students’ self-esteem, ability and confidence; rekindle students’ interests and motivation in learning; improve student-teacher relationships; and activate students’ participation.
Prevok-BEK is led by an action research team comprising one project co‑ordinator, one linguist/consultant, 12 school co-ordinators, teachers’ learning teams, one administrative body (Bureau of Catholic Education) and one formation agency (Institute Cardinal Jean Margéot) in applied pedagogy. The action research team works on beliefs and understandings, ensures leadership and co-ordination, sets standards and targets, monitors and assesses, designs classroom teaching programmes and intervenes and provides special assistance. It also nurtures and fosters home, school and community partnerships.
Impact and effect
Prevok-BEK breaks taboos about the status of Kreol Morisien. As from 2005, it gradually impacted public opinion and informed government policy decisions. Considered as a ‘patois’ or dialect, Kreol Morisien was not recognised officially as a fully-fledged language (while it is the home language of 80 per cent of Mauritian families) until 2010 when the government finally acknowledged the standardised written version of Kreol Morisien, and announced its introduction in Standard I as an optional language in primary schools as from 2012.
The work accomplished by teachers, with the support of parents and students, bears witness to the rightfulness of the use of mother tongue for equality of opportunity and equality of agency in education. Prevok-BEK looks ahead for a Mauritian mother-tongue based curriculum alongside multilingual education within the Commonwealth.