Refugees, immigrants, and language in Ivorian education


  • Michelle Solorio Michigan State University


Language teaching, refugee parent preferences, Côte d’Ivoire


Through the Ministry of Education program Programme des Écoles Integrées (PEI) in Côte d’Ivoire, 26 rural public primary schools may use one of 10 local languages as the language of instruction in Grades 1-3 prior to switching to a French-only system. The purpose of a PEI school is to support basic academic skills development and French language acquisition for students who enter primary school with limited exposure to French. Students from PEI schools demonstrate stronger academic and French language outcomes compared to students from traditional French-only schools. However, neither the PEI program nor traditional schools account for multilingualism in the communities they serve nor do they provide language support to non-native students. In this exploratory study, I seek to understand how academic and learning outcomes for refugees and immigrants are supported in different school settings in Côte d’Ivoire. I observe three classrooms and interview three teachers, one stateless migrant parent, and two refugee parents about PEI and traditional schools. While teachers expressed mixed opinions about the benefits of PEI schools for non-native students, parents expressed positive opinions despite their limited knowledge of local languages and the lack of local language learning support. Observational and narrative analysis reveal that teacher strategies to support students who do not understand the language of instruction vary based upon teaching experience rather than training or available resources. Pedagogical techniques include ignoring students, call-response, and individual attention.

Author Biography

Michelle Solorio, Michigan State University

Michelle Solorio recently earned a PhD in education policy from the Educational Administration Department at Michigan State University.