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Enrichment Bilingual Education

Chapters 4 and 5 have shown that the civil war did not solve fundamental debates over the identity of Lebanese citizens and the foreign orientations of the state. Yet it largely solved past clashes over language policy. Chartouni argues that after the Taif Agreement, arabisation did not appeal to a ‘Muslim community [that] has become more pluralistic in its cultural orientation and ethos and engaged in a massive policy of educational modernisation’.49 Similarly, Bizri demonstrates that Christian political parties abandoned the idea of a Lebanese language as distinct from Arabic as ‘utopian and economically harmful for Lebanon’.50 A consensus emerged over Arabic as the mother tongue and language of national affiliation, English as the language of business and science, and French as the language of high culture.51

The 1995 New Framework for Education established that schools should ensure proficiency in the Arabic language ‘as the official national language’, but also teach at least one foreign language to further children’s ‘openness to foreign cultures’.52 The 1997 curriculum effectively ratified the unofficial practice of multilingualism: schools could choose their language of instruction and the new curriculum entrenched bilingual education according to an enrichment model.53 Thus, Arabic and one foreign language (English or French) are studied from first grade: foreign languages join Arabic as languages of instruction from grade 7 (and a second foreign language is taught from grade 7). As clear in Fig. 6.1, 52 % of schools teach in Arabic and French, about 24 % teach in Arabic and English and about 24 % offer instruction in the three languages.

In this Arabic-French-English trilingual education system, Arabic remains the only language of instruction that all students share. This is partly because successive governments have insisted that the Arabic language is the only effective instrument by which to teach an overarching identity and affiliation to Lebanon. Thus, the national curriculum requires schools to teach the national subjects (Citizenship and Civic Education, Geography, History and Arabic) in the Arabic language and students sit these four official exams in Arabic.54

Still, Shaaban found that the quality of Arabic teaching in state schools declined steadily since the 1970s and that despite political rhetoric, Arabic ‘occupies a second place’ in most Lebanese schools.55 This may be due to mnemonic and passive methodologies and to the lack of interesting contents in curricula and textbooks, which, according to some teachers, hinder

Lebanese schools by language of instruction in 2010 (Central Administration of Statistics, State Statistical Yearbook (Beirut

Fig. 6.1 Lebanese schools by language of instruction in 2010 (Central Administration of Statistics, State Statistical Yearbook (Beirut: Central Administration of Statistics, 2010))

the learning of Arabic fusha.56 Moreover, deprived households and communities rarely speak standard Arabic and this hampers children’s learning. The conflict between different forms of spoken Arabic (ammiyya), together with the lack of teacher training programmes and reference materials, also sustains the preconception that Arabic is barely ‘good enough’ for national subjects and not suitable to teach sciences.57 Ultimately, many Lebanese students struggle with reading and writing Arabic fusha.

Even many Islamic schools, which previously taught only in Arabic, started employing English and French as languages of instruction since 1999. For example, the Makassed schools, pressed by the ‘reality’ of student desire to master a foreign language, abandoned the ‘dream’ of Arabic instruction.58 Terc argues that this decision exemplifies an ideological shift from viewing students as bearers of Arab unity and cultural heritage, towards a desire to form modern, adaptable, technologically savvy students who can combine ‘religion with national affiliation’.59

Indeed, in contrast to history, language policy has been largely depoliti- cised in Lebanon and parents often send their children to schools affiliated with different communities to learn English or French.60 The Arabic language has also emerged as an overarching marker of Lebanese identity, and is employed as a medium of instruction for the national subjects, in domestic life and in religious activity.61

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