The impact of french and british colonial rule on the he system in cameroon from the perspective of students

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This thesis has sought to understand how Cameroon’s colonial legacy, has impacted students experiences in the contemporary system of HE. The Cameroon government has set out to create an HE system that is bicultural and bilingual in nature. However, it has not been successful in balancing the standards of each colonial legacy. Historically, the French system has been around longer and is still the dominant one….

The following is a summation of the main points that this thesis has discovered. Overall this thesis has uncovered that the HE system in Cameroon has impacted a particular segment of Cameroonian students. It is set up to favour the students that follow the French system of HE in terms of a more positive university experience, access to instructors and access to the labour market.

These issues have resulted in lots of limitations on the future of students; this can be seen from the following: First of all, how the student’s fate is determined during post-formal education. Students from the English system of education are familiar with an educational curriculum which has a general system with little or no orientation on practical work at the pre-university level, they only get familiar with specialisation only at the HE level while their French counterparts are exposed to specialisation at the pre-university level because their education system is focused most on practical training but at HE level for French student is the reverse it is difficult for a French graduate to be self employed. The French system of HE do not belief in specialisation at the university level they hold the concept that a university graduate has to write an entrance examination to get into a professional school where the student can get professional knowledge in his or her respected field of study. Respondents have witnessed that graduate students from the English system of education find it easier to be self-employed this is as a result of the way their educational curriculum has been designed at the university level. Here, a specific issue has been discover only with the case of Cameroon where despite a more specialise English HE system very limited number of English graduates do gain employment into the public service and private sector.

Secondly the French population in Cameroon is made up of about 70 % of the total population its well noticed that much educational infrastructure are being concentrated in this region of the country. Now Cameroon is being faced with a centralised system of government, students from English Cameroon always find it a problem to be integrated to the French system especially at the HE level since; they are faced with the challenge of studying in the French language, to adapt with French culture and environment. An outcome of this has resulted to the problem of English students spending more years in a French University than their French counterpart in the English University because French students who attend the English university enrolled in programmes which are sciences inclined such as mathematics, physics, chemistry just to name a few.

Thirdly since eight of the ten administrative regions in Cameroon are made up of the French speaking population, this give a serious problem on how the students faces the job market, it is well believed amongst Cameroonians that, there is the struggle for supremacy between the French and English system of education. The French Cameroonian sees their system to be more efficient and effective, while an English Cameroonian sees their system to be more effective and perfect. They view the French system to be ineffective and corrupt. In this case students are faced with the issue of degree recognition and equivalent. Degrees earned from an English University when taken to the job market in the French region seem to be less valuable and this has a serious effect on the development aspect on the Cameroonian society because this region accommodates most of the valuable institutions and industries which are necessary for Cameroon economy.

The issue of the lack of economic space and employability for English students, it was well noticed that since a graduate from an English University does not see a good prospect after graduation, they turn to move to some foreign country either to further studies or to work in some of the sectors that will be in need of their services. This brings us to the reason why the English speaking Cameroonians migrate more than their French counterparts. This has resulted to brain drain and the affect has been felt in the Anglophone communities and evidence of such has resulted in the backward nature of these communities of origin.

As a result of the centralised system of government some instructors have been transferred from French system to the English system with little or no idea of how the system works. They come in with their French ideology and this makes it difficult for the instructor- student relationship. With a close look at this issue one can see that there is a serious problem in the education system in Cameroon which has resulted due to colonisation and this problem has to be addressed in the Cameroon society if all of the students in the country are to be considered competitive on both the nation and international levels. A look at the education system of Nigeria, she also shared an inherited traditional British system of formal education but there are slid differences with the case of Cameroon. Nigeria’s education system started slowly but developing during the colonial period but after the end of the World War II, the Christian missionaries introduce western education system in Nigeria in the mid nineteen century. From 1990, three basic education systems existed in Nigeria namely; the Indigenous system, the Quranic School and the Formal European-style Educational Institution. The education system in Nigeria had four stages; six years of primary school, three years of Junior Secondary schooling, three years of Senior Secondary Schooling and finally four years of university education directed toward bachelor degree level. HE in Nigeria originated from the creation of Yaba High College in 1934 by the colonial government. By 1979, education in was kept responsible in the hands of the state and local councils with this system everybody was involved in contributing to the education system15. But with Nigeria series of military intervention to take over power left the country in the hands of political interventions in the higher education system under a series of military governments imposed distortions and constraints on the system’s development. By 1980, Nigeria had established a well-regarded higher education system offering instruction at an international standard in a number of disciplinary areas. The universities of Ibadan and Ahmadu Bello, for example, earned global recognition for their research in tropical health and agriculture, respectively. Under successive military governments during the 1980s and 1990s, however, this sparkling reputation steadily tarnished. Acquiescing to the political pressures of social demand for access, the system was permitted to expand rapidly. Enrolments grew at an annual rate of 12 to 15 percent. Between 1980 and 1992, an additional 11 universities were established, some of them seemingly elite influence. Government interference in university affairs (e.g., the direct appointment of vice-chancellors and, in some cases, of military "sole administrators") steadily increased. As university autonomy was usurped by central government, incentives and rewards for research productivity, teaching excellence and associated innovation gradually disappeared. In consequence, research output dropped, educational quality declined, and management structures rigidified. As the universities bodies were trying to protest they where seen as political pressure groups and the consequence of such an act was reflected on the government financial prospect to support university research. With the coming of a democratic government in Nigeria the education system was reform and all university activities were autonomous, there where responsible for their management. From this period Nigeria education system had gone reforms where all the right of vice chancellor to have 10% of the number of fresh men intake each year was cut off,16 reconstitution of all university governing councils with broader representation, the licensing of seven private universities, exemption of university staff from public service salary scales and regulations, and a 180% increase in funding of the university system that raised per student allocations from the equivalent of USD 360 to USD 970 per year (Federal Republic of Nigeria 2001). A comparison situation can be seen from the Tanzania and Mauritius Island, these two nation are joined by Indian Ocean but had contrasting view with HE. While Mauritius is making considerable progress in HE by increasing enrolment and enhancing quality her neighbour is barely struggling. Today with Mauritius tertiary education progress she has moved from being low income according to 1960 classification to a middle income country while her closest neighbour Tanzania still remain one of the world’s poorest nations. The interesting point of this situation is that Tanzania has all the potential to develop her HE system, with the presence of diverse natural resources treasures from gold, diamond, tin and natural gaz. she could use this to boost her tertiary education as compare to her Mauritius neighbour who lack the potential but relied on sugarcane, export of textile, banking and tourism. This has improved the life expectancy to 72 years while in Tanzania is 42 years. The HE system in Tanzania was said to been influence with lots of government control for example in 1999, the country HE policy expressed, concern with gender imbalance in favour of male, a proliferation of private tertiary institution and weak performances in science related subject17. HE in Tanzania took a giant step in 1961 with the establishment of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) as an affiliate of the University of London. In the early 70s, UDSM became independent and the government of Tanzania provided all funds and this university was seen as the country’s pride. There was great anticipation that this university will be oriented toward training students who will be at the front line of Tanzania economic development. With economic problems in Tanzania and the event in the East Africa region at that time quickly lead to financial difficulties at the University of Dar es Salaam. This university was stroked with low point, inattention to students, administrative problem, faculties’ deterioration and student strikes characterised the order of the day. These factors lead to the decline of teaching staff and leaning quality. In 1990 there was an educational reform which saw the interception of Institutional Transformation Programme which to the improvement of enrolment rate from 3,164 in 1993/94 to 6846 in 2000/01 and 14221 in 2003/0418. The improvement of this figure tried to narrow the gap of gender imbalance which stood at 30% of the female university population. A considerable view of these above mentioned countries education systems and the various crises their HE systems had under gone, I think to resolve the current situation in Cameroon could be done by drawing inspiration from the experiences of these above mentioned nations. The legacy of HE training student for public employment is actually one of the concept which lead to bureaucratic inefficient. The government of most African countries of which Cameroon is part need to rationalise this sector. With Cameroon’s HE system which has been affected with the problem of two education system differences running in a single country, some few problems had been diagnosed and more are still to diagnose base on future research finding which this research is unable to lay hands to the facts. With the concept of relating tertiary education to economic development, most African countries believed HE contributed just a minimum amount in economic development and the alleviation of poverty. But education is widely accepted to be leading factor in promoting economic growth. For a continent like Africa where economic growth is important there is the high demand to improve on education. For several decades the development agencies had gave more attention on primary and secondary education. They have neglected HE as means of improving economic growth and reducing poverty. The Dakar summit on education for all, in 2000 for example advocate only for primary education as a driver for broad social welfare. It left HE in the background. One of the reasons why HE had not been given enough attention on the African continent is the lack of empirical evidence to support the fact that HE affects economic growth poverty reduction19. Until, after WW II where several economist including Milton Friedman, Garry Becker and Jacob Mincer developed the “human capital” theory to examined the benefits of education for individual and society. Friedman and rose suggested that HE does not yield any social benefit as compare to the benefit accrue to the individual student themselves. They predicted that HE will lead to “social unrest and political instability” 20.Today recent studies suggests that, HE is a determinant as well as a result of income and can produce public and private benefits.

With such empirical evidences there is the need to improve on the HE system in the African continent and with a host of issues diagnosed according this research Cameroon can embank on suggested reforms such reforms as liberalising the HE sector by limiting government influence on making valuable appointment of university officials, the management and approval of HE programmes. Cameroon proposed to increase it HE budget from 3.8% to 5.8%, increase private sector involvement in capacity development (including transport and infrastructural) and create new universities. Furthermore, Cameroon can create National Education and Training Plan to support technical education and university programmes like the case of Burundi21. New universities should be created that reflects the regions reality, the need to improve on infrastructure of universities with the involvement of private sector in capacity development. University curriculum should be designed to match the employment opportunities and needs and to partner with business. It will be important for Cameroon to develop the private sector and the ministry started to address this issue in 200222. If the private sector is full developed most the problem of unemployment of graduate will solved. Another very vital issue is the aspect of language, bilingualism should be maintained but the education system should be harmonised to suit a common system nation wide. This can be done by the coming together of both French and English scholars to draw a common curriculum to be use in the system. The both languages should be the nation’s responsibility to teach children as the enrolled in the elementary school. This will save them from language problem if the happen to find his or her selves in either the French or English region in the near future. Taken a close view with few exceptions, Canadian postsecondary schools was partition into universities and colleges. In the twenty-first century, the term "colleges" usually implied to community colleges because of cultural differences among the nation's disparate groups, it took hundreds of years before the people of Canada concentrated on their common beliefs and values to form a quality standard of education23. Colonial legacy had actually played an important role in setting a ground work for a possible education system, where Cameroonian can boost of having an experience in either one or all the system but the political complication on how these systems are implemented is actually what the researcher seems to stress here. The students are the most affected especially the English students with a series of problems faced in contemporary analysis of student and propose suggestions with

other experience learnt from other countries example Cameroon can begin from there. The issue of colonial legacy is a very sensitive issue in all areas of Cameroon’s, social, economic and political development. This research on colonial legacy on HE in Cameroon has just open a new page for further research since recent study on HE suggested that it can handle the huddle of global economic crises and improve a country’s economic growth and alleviate poverty.

Contemporary approach on education had gradually wiped out the old and former ways of education. Nowadays, rather than the old aristocratic and Socrates form of philosophical thoughts of schooling, educations is based on mostly professionalism where technology, innovation and creativity has taken the lead. Most countries in the West, Africa and the East, have adopted the professional system of schooling. Generalities do not longer seem to be of any importance except in pursuit of an academic position for example such as PhD.

Based on the different forms of educational systems, in as much as I apprehend the fact that a system of schooling is instituted for proper orientation of its youths especially that which is geared towards professionalism, I must say that, systems which do not promote specialization and professionalism is not seem to be of any importance.

A system based on innovation, creativity and professionalism can go a long way to reduced unemployment and expand the private sector. This happens when the generation is orientated based on certain professions which are valuable promote economic growth. They become creative and seek ways of employment themselves either by setting up enterprises. This will reduce the pressure given by the students as they seek employment into the public sector because of situation the French education system has created. An academic system that is based on single subjects will rather leave the generation in despair as the may not likely realised what they are capable of doing and may seem rather confused and will be required to carry on with some additional professional courses after university study in order to get employment. Sometimes such moves are time constrain and financially costly.

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Beekens, E. (2004) Ch.2 ‘Globalization, and Higher Education, Global Opportunities and Institutional Embededness’. Higher education Consortia in Europe and South East Asia ss 7-28,261-274, CHEPS.
The McNair Scholars Journal of the University of California, Davis, Vol VI, 2003.
Amaral, A. Jones, G. & Karseth B. (eds) (2002). Government Higher Education: National Perspective and Institutional Governance, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers
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Canton, E& Venniker, R. (2001). Economics of Higher Education. In Higher education Reforms: Getting the Incentive Right. Enschede: CHEPS, 35-51
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Van der Wende M. (2000). The Bologna Declaration: Enhancing the Transparency and Competitiveness of European Higher Education. Higher education in Europe 25(3), 305-310

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I am a Master Student at Aalborg University in Denmark in the Department of History and International Affairs. This questionnaire is in partial fulfilment for a Master degree in Development and International Relations. I am investigating the role of British and French colonial education system on the development of Education in Cameroon. This will be carried out by getting student perspectives outlined in the questionnaire. Please fill in the appropriate boxes and return the survey to me. All responses are anonymous.

Basic information:

1) Sex: Male Female

2) Age group: 18 – 29 30 – 39 40 – 49 above 50

3) Marital status:




4) Education Background:
French System
English System

5) Occupation: ____________________________________

6) Language:


Qualitative Questions
7) Based on your personal experiences, what are your general thoughts on or feelings about the

education system? Elaborate on your likes, dislikes and any relevant experiences.

8) What do you think about the standard of education? If you have studied outside Cameroon,

how do you think the standards in Cameroon compare to those of your host country?

9) What did you think of your teachers in general?

10) Would you like your children to go through the educational system?

11) How do you find the system of education in Cameroon? Does this favour the job market?

12. Do you prefer Cameroon to run a single education system or the double education system?, give reasons for your choice.
13. What is your experience about the management of higher education institution in Cameroon?


14) Do you think any reforms or improvements are needed in the education system? If your

opinion is “yes,” what suggestions do you have?

Thank you for you time!

Kind regards, MacDonald Sigalla N.


2 Reforming a National System of HE

ADEA Working Group on HE

July 1999

3 Tertiary-Education-Africa-Peter-Materu-African, 2007.

4 Read more: Cameroon –HE-Training, University, Students, Graduates, Bank, and Douala

5 Stumpf et al., 1994

6 The difficulties facing graduates in the job market have been underlined by the latest figures released by the HE Statistics Agency - July 2009

7 MINESUP report on educational development 2009

8 Reforming a National System Higher Education: case study Cameroon

9 History of Cameroon since 1800 pp, 174

10 Le Vine, 1964,p.73-74

11 V. J. Ngoh (1996). The History of Cameroon Since 1800 (pp 136)


13 La grand majorité des Canadiens et des Belges sont resteés monolingues. Un Ḗtat biligue ne suppose donc pas necessairement des individuals, des citoyens bilingues. Mais pour nous,au cameroun, ce serait une meconnaissance des avantages qui s’offrent a nous et un manqué regrettable d’idéal que de nous contenter d’avoir créé un Ḗtat bilingue.


14 Normalement une universite bilingue est une universite dans laquelle un etudiant peut suivre des cours dans chacune des langues a son gre. Cest en fait une double unversite comme cest le cas de l’ universite de lauvain ou le neerlandais et le francais sont les deux langues d’ enseignment.



16 Federal Republic of Nigeria 2001

17 Damtew Teferra and Philip J Altbach, edu.(2003) African Higher Education , An International Reference Handbook. Indiana University Press

18 University of Dar es Salaam 2004 UDSM Ten Year Experience of the Institutional Transformation Programme. (ITP)

19 JBJ Tilak (2003) Higher Education and Development Conference Paper International Seminar University XXI. Internet : univxxi/pdf ( Last Accessed May 6, 2005)

20 Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman (1980) Free to Choose: A personal Statement, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich. P34

21 Higher education and Economic Development in Africa, Bloom et al (2006) p8

22Higher education and Economic Development in Africa, Bloom et al (2006) p40

23Read more: Canada - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education - Enrollment and Rate -

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