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Bilingual Education: A Project of Support for Basic Education in the Bijagos' Archipelago (PAEBB)

Beginnings

In 1986-87, CEEF - the Experimental Center of Education and Graduation (a movement promoted by the Portuguese NGO, CIDAC, in collaboration with Guinean entities, the European Community, and several European cooperators) began a bilingual education program. Its objective was the implementation of an experimental curriculum in basic education with cultural adaptations, the integration of teacher training in preparation for classroom activities, the use of Creole as a language of instruction, and the teaching of Portuguese, Guinea-Bissau's offical language, using a foreign-language methodology.

In 1998, the project was given a great boost thanks to a Round Table discussion, held in Bubaque and organized by FASPEBI, in cooperation with CIDAC and the EU. Eighty people participated, including the Minister of Education and Head of Basic Education.

This meeting resulted in several important recommendations aimed at improving the use of Creole as Language of Instruction. These included:

- to adopt an official document to determine the ortography and phonetics of Guinean Creole;

- to develop methodologies for the transition from Creole instruction to Portuguese;

- to invest in the education of teachers;

- to differentiate between the teaching of Portuguese as mother tongue and the teaching of Portuguese in Guinea-Bissau, where its status is that of a "privileged" foreign language for being the official language as well as one of the bases for Guinean Creole.


Implentation and Evolution of the Project

In 2000, the European Commission approved the financing of the project, "Support for Basic Education in the Bijagos' Archipelago (PAEBB), which counted FASPEBI as its promoting organization. It proposed to develop, in the four years of primary school, the following programs:

a) Phase One (1st and 2nd grades)

Begin with oral Guinean Creole and then pass to written Creole and the introduction of oral Portuguese. At the same time, the other disciplines of official education are developed.

b) Phases Two and Three (3rd and 4th grades; 5th-6th grades)

When students are able to read and write in Guinean Creole, they progressively begin the learning of reading and writing in Portuguese. It's a phase in which the teachers and didactic materials ought to pay great attention to the languages' similarities and differences, allowing students to perceive the two different codes.

This phase's objective is for the students to attain the level of Portuguese expected by official education programs. In this phase, Guinean Creole continues as a discipline and language of instruction, together with the other disciplines of official education.

In the 2000-01 school year, PAEBB began with its first class. Supporting teachers' manuals were elaborated for the disciplines of Creole and Portuguese (as a privileged second language), as well as a grammar book and a bilingual Creole-Portuguese dictionary. For disciplines such as math, social studies, handwriting, and others, the Project adopted School-Editors' manuals.

For the 2011-12 school year, the programs of each grade of basic education are now in place, encompassing a total of 12 schools and 1600 students on 4 islands of the Bijagos' Archipelago.


The Project's Objectives

General:

To support and re-structure existing systems of Basic Education in the Bijagos' Archipelago, by integrating the knowledge mandated by local wisdom with that necessitated by economic development, by relating school activities to activities of local development, and by connecting school to the community.

Specific:

a) Make a connection between schools and the communities in which they're inserted;

b) Help the institutions responsible for Education in Guinea-Bissau - in the Bijagos' Archipelago, particularly - to continue the pedagogy of bilingual (Creole-Portuguese) education, already adopted by the CEEF during the years 1986-1994;

c) Adopt a spelling, a grammar, and a lexicon for the Creole language;

d) Improve the teaching of Portuguese, adopting a pedagogy for teaching as a privileged second language;

e) Maintain a quality education up-to-date and conscious of those global problems affecting humanity, and particularly within the regional context, giving great attention to questions related to preservation of the archipelago's eco-system - as an increase in tourism and modernity have arrived, and their influences have collided with traditional Bijago culture.

f) It's therefore necessary to aim for this education to have positive and practical applications in the students' future lives, within their communities;

g) Prepare methods of training and educating teachers, especially in areas of instruction, such as Portuguese and the cultural mediation between tradition and modernity;

h) Prepare a technical team of instructors to accompany, systematically, the development of the school-year, with frequent visits to schools.

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