The situation of the development of application of the techniques of the Freinet pedagogical approach in Cameroon and their implications for African countries
Despite the fact that we have entered the phase of change in Africa which will continue until 2035, unfortunately the educational systems of the sub saharan countries in general and that of Cameroon in particular still function based on foundations established at the dawn of its independence in the 50s. The learning models are either traditional based on behaviorist approach which advocates following the curricula closely or they are modern which could be considered a great deal of work and a chore. The modern approach has its roots in a teacher-centered model but positions the learners at the center of their learning. Nevertheless, the physical structure of the classes have remained teacher centered to a great extent. Moreover, the Cameroonian ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity which is highly enriching, when set against the learning environment, slows down the improvement of learning and the success of the learners (A. Mengue Abesso, 2013).
By becoming members of the association of Cameroonian teachers of l’Ecole Moderne (AECEMO) in international federation of the movements of l’Ecole Moderne (FIMEM) has been an initiative to reflect upon the transformation of teaching practices. The process of incorporating the techniques of Freinet pedagogical approach has been perceived as arduous in terms of organizing learning space as well as the working hours of the teacher in a collaborative environment. It is for this reason that only individuals who aspire to change the vision of learning and improve their teaching practices have started to participate in this movement. Almost over fifty teachers as members of the Cameroonian association of teachers of modern school of teaching have been applying the principles of Freinet approach in their teaching.
These teachers have applied Freinet techniques such as free texts, warm up activities, individualisation and personalisation of learning through projects, democratic participation through monitoring and cooperative organization of the class as well as communication with learners etc.
In fact, the efforts to incorporate Freinet techniques and cooperative organization of the learning environment, lead to a huge transformation of education and a creation of the opportunity for all learners’ success. The above mentioned techniques also lead to creation of possibilities for children as well as the teachers to learn more actively allowing for a creative attitude and a training of competent and thoughtful future citizens. Moreover, this cooperative approach promotes socialization and provides civil education thanks to creating opportunities for continuous exchange of peers and adults. Consequently, the learning environment becomes a space in which learners express, appropriate, acquire and enjoy their rights and responsibilities towards their peers and the adults. It is also a privileged environment for young children to learn how to learn by regular self-evaluation of their comprehension and by acquiring the required knowledge and resources to enrich their learning experience. Such experience will create the possibility for all learners to succeed and for teachers to acquire an inclusive vision of learning.
The Freint method of teaching creates an environment for equal participation in a cooperative class and it allows for training learners who will be involved citizens in the future. By allowing them to enjoy their rights and fulfil their responsibilities since childhood, they grow up to become responsible adults and citizens.
However, the problem that Freinet educators of Cameroon face numerous problems related to a lack of mastery of information technology and communication. These issues include: the dire need for information technology tools (which are highly expensive in Africa), lack of electricity in schools (inconsistent electricity or its lack), lack of internet connection, lack of adequate space. In addition, projects which were proposed to alleviate the situation should adhere to 14 conditions of l’ISTE. These conditions include: shared vision, availability of responsible leaders, implementation plan, finance, fair access, qualified personnel, professional training, technical support, curricular framework, concentration of learning on students, control and evaluation, committed, politics and support, external support.
However, Freinet educators are aware that one of the reasons for Célestin Freinet’s success in her classes was the introduction of a typewriter to the learning environment. Today, incorporation of personal computers in the learning environment must happen. Computers not only have connected users from all around the world and turned the world into a village but also have created an indispensable opportunity for the emergence of Africa.
Personal computers seem to be the sufficient tool allowing not only improvement of learning and success of the learners in an inclusive education environment but also access to vast knowledge and diverse resources in order to cater to the needs of the learners and follow the curriculum. Freinet educators in Western countries have moved ahead of others in this regard. Therefore, focusing on issues such as information technology tools, energy, connectivity and training should be a priority in Africa.
To create an atmosphere of learning where students’ learning improves, Freinet educators in Cameroon believe that it is not only about having a reflective vision or even incorporating principles of Freinet pedagogical approach in their teaching. At the moment it is important to have the support of the educational system allowing teachers to achieve their objectives by implementing this new teaching method. The true wish of the members of l’AECEMO is to “see the creation of a condition that leads to the availability of more resources and tools for learning and teaching in primary and secondary classes”. These educators also believe that the novel practices should be implemented while adhering to the curriculum in order to avoid detours (Laferrière, Bracewell et Breuleux, 2001). In order to achieve this objective, teachers should organize communities of practice that permit cooperation and co-creation of knowledge and allows teachers to improve their ability to incorporate technology in their students’ learning experience and to experiment with the new teaching method.
The members of l’AECEMO firmly believe that African countries will evolve if the actions taken by small groups such as l’AECEMO are taken seriously by officials of the ministries of education. Support of the officials can help save the education system from remaining stagnant because of lack of motivation and vision. However, it will always be important to show teachers not only the necessity of changing their perspective on teaching but also the significance of creating an environment of learning where children accomplish tasks. Homework could be an element that can create such awareness in learners.
I conclude by highlighting a lack of inclusive strategy of teaching, teachers’ lack of vision for a learning environment that promotes progressive, profound, situated and distributed change. Such lack of vision is combined with the absence of an adequate welcoming structure, absence of material and information technology tools, old-fashioned methods of communication that renders cooperation, collaboration and co-creation arduous in learning. Members of the association of Cameroonian teachers of modern school fully invest in reflective practices to form a community of cooperation, collaboration, co-creation of knowledge. Such initiatives can increase teachers’ interest and motivation in creating educational curricula that can transform Africa to an emergent continent and make Cameroon a prosperous country.
Antoinette Mengue Abesso
Director of the association of Cameroonian teachers of Modern School
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