French Departments in Gulf Universities in Accordance with the Vision 2030: Reality, Challenges, and

Dr. Nada Mohammed Jameel Brengy

King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia

French is the sixth most commonly spoken language in the world and the second most taught language in the European Union. There are 274 million people who speak French worldwide. Since the introduction of the term ‘Francophone' in 1880 and the establishment of the International Organisation of Francophonie in 1970, countries that use French as an official language and French colonies have exerted their utmost efforts to revive and globally spread French. The French language has been spreading throughout the Gulf countries since the end of the twentieth century, on personal and academic levels. Saudi universities have established French-language departments in Jeddah and Riyadh. Gulf universities in Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Oman, and Qatar have also established French departments to teach French as a foreign language or as an elective course. This study discusses the prospects and challenges of the French departments in some Gulf universities in view of the educational objectives of the 2030 Vision and the language policy in the Gulf states. It analyses their curricula and identifies the most important challenges facing these departments, including finding job opportunities for the graduates, competition in the labour market, and the weakness of certain students. The research will make suggestions as to the prospects for the future of the French departments in the Gulf States.

Being the sixth most commonly spoken language in the world, and the second most learned language in the European Union, the French language is spoken worldwide by 274 million people. Countries that use French as a first language and French colonies have made very important implementations to revive and globally spread French. In fact, French is spread over all continents: Europe, Africa, North and South America, and Asia. In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, the Sultanate of Oman, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Qatar), the French language was widespread at the end of the twentieth century, on personal and academic levels. Universities, colleges, centres, schools, and private institutes began to teach French as a foreign language. In Higher Education, Universities in the GCC states established French units, sections, centres, programmes, and departments to teach elective or mandatory French courses. This research will try to highlight the position of the French language in the GCC and focus on these questions: What are the reality, challenges, and prospects of educational bodies in Higher Education, and what is the future of the French language, in the GCC countries?

The study will mainly focus on the French Departments in the Gulf universities which offer programmes, Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees in French or in translation. Il will also emphasise some French sections, units or faculties that offer French as elementary or elective courses. It will also analyse their curricula, in accordance with the educational objectives of the 2030 Vision in the Gulf states and identify the most important challenges facing these departments, including finding job opportunities for graduates, competition in the labour market, and the weakness of certain courses. Because of the rarity of studies that have covered the subject, the authenticity of the official websites of the French educational bodies, and the need to check the local newspaper which publishes the latest news about the presence of French language in the Gulf, the study had to collect information from several websites, so the notes will include a lot of website addresses.

Moreover, the news articles from French and Arabic newspapers have been translated into English. The World Education Forum held on May 19–22, 2015, in Incheon (the Republic of Korea), set out a new vision for education for the next 15 years. During this forum organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment (UN WOMEN) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 120 ministers, 1,600 participants including heads and members of delegations, representatives of agencies and civil society, official organisations, teachers, youth and the private sector from 160 countries adopted (on May 21, 2015) the Incheon Declaration for Education 2030 which constitutes ‘the commitment of the education community to Education 2030 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, recognising the important role of education as a main driver of development’. (1) Within the context of the Incheon Framework for Action Education 2030, educational quality is a central goal, so the GCC states started to implement ‘Sustainable Development Goal 4 on Education 2030’ in 2016.

All the GCC countries are currently implementing their own 2030 Vision, to undergo a fundamental transformation in the education system to meet the needs of the labour market by establishing a stronger higher education system. The Ministries of Education in these countries formed plans and defined stakeholders to match the outcomes of universities’ departments with the needs of the job market. In the Momentum for Education 2030, the GCC states have used two systems for the management of higher education: either a joint government department for university and pre-university education as in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, or the establishment within national governments of Ministries or Departments of Higher Education, as in Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE.

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