Global Education

The class is always greener on the other side of the world

By Hannah Maleson and Justin Quinn
Published: April 2010

During the last week in March, Youssouf Tangara, a teacher from Burkina Faso, came to Newton South while he visited his friend and South’s French teacher, Aboudou Karim Dao.

In addition to visiting South, Tangara received an award at the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages convention, an organization that recognizes teachers from around the world.

When Tangara visited South, he noted differences in cultures and learning styles between his country and the United States.

Burkina Faso is a small, land-locked country in Western Africa with a population of 14.5 millions people.

The main language in Burkina Faso is French, which students learn in school at a young age. Unlike America, English is a second language taught in high school.

There are two types of schools in Burkina Faso: government run schools and privately run schools. While the two school systems differ in many ways, both schools teach the English language.

The government schools tend to be cheaper and consequently, they are more crowded. Nonetheless, parents are sometimes forced to send their children to these schools.

Private schools also have crowded rooms, with classes of 100 to 120 students. The private schools cost more, but some families who can afford it see the benefits in the education that the schools offer.

Children officially start school at age seven, but many start at five or six. The students who go to school sit in an empty room with only so much as a chalkboard.

As students at South stress over the SATs or ACTs, students in Burkina Faso have the GEC, or General Certification of Education, to worry about.  The GEC is a test that students in junior high are required to pass in order to gain entry into high school.

Towards the middle of high school, when students are about 16 years old, they choose to focus on either studies in literature or science. Before students graduate high school they must pass the Baccalaulerat, a summative test of all areas of the subjects students have learned throughout their years in school.

Tangara’s oldest son will be taking the GEC this year and notes the parallels between the stressful tests in Burkina Faso and in the Unites States.

After college, students go on to jobs that reflect those in America. Professions in education, medicine, administration, and service jobs are common in Burkina Faso.

Driven to become a teacher to help kids, Tangara chose to follow an educational path.

Aside from all of the jobs that follow an education, there is a large population of farmers who are illiterate in Burkina Faso.

Within families who own farms, parents will often try and send their children to schools, and during the vacation, the only time when it rains in Burkina Faso, the children join their family to work on the farm.

Unlike South, few students have supplies in Burkina Faso.

The American government  considers education a top priority. The American government puts an emphasis on education and provides resources and accessibility to the public schools.

Tangara said that the government does not care as much about education in Burkina Faso.

Tangara had a very successful and informative trip to the United States.

“He had some problems with the weather at first, but he really enjoyed [the trip], said Dao.  “He is now back home sharing his stories.

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