Commentary on the dynamics of “The Question of Creole in Primary Schools in Guadeloupe”, a thesis by Paulette Durizot Jno-Baptiste (CERC, Campus Universitaire de Fouillole, 97159 Pointe-à-Pitre Cedex, Guadeloupe, F.W.I.)
commentary written by Bertene Juminer, Rector, Université des Anitilles et de la Guyane

The question of Creole in schools in Guadeloupe rests to a great extent on the cultural manifestations and social values of languages in contact: Creole and French. The historical evolution of their contact modifies behavior and ideological references making necessary the reformulation of the linguistic and cultural question in the school milieu.

Indeed, the method of learning of the present life leads parents to educate their children through a hybrid language, a lang-uage of linguistic interbreeding (métissaage).

What cultural message does Guadeloupe send to persons in search of authentic identity, through the statement of their new maternal language?

In choosing to write a thesis on ‘The question of Creole in primary schools in Guadeloupe: historical and current manifesta-tions of a language and culture’, Madame Paulette Durizot Jno-Baptise has indicated with maestria (mastery) the road to follow. The author does not get you involved without having deeply reflected on the strategy which she recommends.

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from: Siobhan K. Casson
c/o Department of English Language and Linguistics
University of Durham
Elvet Riverside II, New Elvet
Durham DH1 3JT UK

I am studying for an MA in Applied Linguis-tics at the University of Durham in the UK. For my MA dissertation I am hoping to broadly cover some of the issues surrounding creole in education and creole literacy. Since I am based in the Northeast of England, I am unable to carry out a research project or collect primary data. However, I was employ-ed by the Diwurruwurru-jaru Aboriginal Cor-poration (DAC) in Katherine in the Northern Territory of Australia between 1995 and 1996. With input from Denise Angelo, Jen Munro and the moral support of the Committee of DAC I am hoping to use the experience I gained there to present more than a review of literature in my paper. The provisional title is “Creole literacy: issues and possibilities from an educational perspective”.

My aim for the dissertation is to bring together several strands of creole studies – theoretical, sociolinguistic and pedagogical. By examining both the linguistic and societal perceptions of creoles, I will establish reasons for accepting their status as languages. I shall also look at the importance of Language, Culture and Identity and how the long-time denigration of creoles has muddied the water in this area.

From this base I will discuss the broader issues of creole in education and language rights. I will then focus on studies which have specifically looked at the effects of using creole in education. Additionally, since one of my major interests is in literacy and its functions, I intend to examine the perceived notion that creole literacy serves no economic or societal need – something which an official or dominant language is imagined to serve and which is often a reason for not acknow-ledging the language of creole-speaking children within education.

Some of the questions I might ask are: Can creole literacy work positively against prejudices against the language? Do creole speaking communities regard development of a creole orthography as a positive step towards literacy, or is it a means of undermining a culture? If literacy in creole languages is engendered, will the commun-ities have control over it or will it be owned‚ by the wider society because of its use in education? What would be the best way to promote or use creole in education?

I am still two months away from completing my dissertation, so I cannot say what sort of conclusions I will arrive at – however, I do hope to develop a framework which may be a pointer to future research. I am hoping to conduct further study into the effects of introducing first languages into education undertaken in another language as a means to both maintain home languages and promote literacy in both. As I may stay in Durham to do this, any longitudinal study would probably be undertaken with children from Asian or Arabic backgrounds. How-ever, I am hoping that any sort of study in this area will have some application to creole situations and I hope to get funding to make a couple of field-trips overseas to establish this!

I would be grateful for any sort of input – either on my dissertation or my thoughts for future study.

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