Conflicting modernities: battles over France’s policy of adapted education in French West Africa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


From the outset, the public education system in French West Africa was designed to meet a number of objectives: to consolidate French influence by establishing a network of elementary schools throughout the colony; to ensure that the education given to Africans was appropriate to their (presumed) level of intellectual development; to promote manual work and raise productivity; to train loyal intermediaries to staff the lower levels of the colonial administration and European firms; to educate Africans without ‘uprooting’ them from their society or creating a source of social instability. This chapter traces the development of the policy of ‘adapted education’. It shows how debates surrounding education during the 1930s raised questions about who had the right to define colonial modernity and its implications for ‘traditional’ Africa. It then examines how colonial education came to be recast as part of France’s ‘modernising mission’ after WWII. With Africans now citizens of the French Union and part of the ‘one and indivisible’ French Republic, education policy was no longer the reserved domain of the colonial government. Instead, it became a key site of contestation for both French and African actors—some advocating a ‘modern’ reformed adapted education and others demanding a full metropolitan-style French system. The chapter concludes by showing how these struggles were ultimately not just about education policy, but raised wider questions about the means and ends of France’s post-war French colonial project: from incorporation, differentiation and exclusion within the Republic to the future maintenance of French sovereignty in Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrance's Modernising Mission
Subtitle of host publicationCitizenship, Welfare and the Ends of Empire
EditorsEd Naylor
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-55133-7
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-55132-0
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2018

Publication series

NameSt Anthony's Series
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan


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