Je suis heureux de vous proposer la dernière partie de la traduction en anglais du compte-rendu d’une conférence-débat, organisée le 7 octobre 2014 à l’Assemblée nationale, à l’occasion de la première session de l’Assemblée des Français à l’étranger, avec le soutien de la revue Sens Public.

J’avais voulu, à travers cette conférence-débat, discuter de l’opportunité de diffuser la francophonie dans le monde grâce au numérique. La traduction de ce compte-rendu en anglais, effectuée par Amudha Lingeswaraan, était néanmoins importante pour moi, car elle permet de faire circuler les idées proposées par le débat hors des frontières de la francophonie. Je vous invite donc ici à découvrir le dernier extrait.


Annick GIRARDIN, Secretary of State for the Francophonie

I would have liked to split my time with my colleague Mrs. Axelle Lemaire to highlight the fact that digital praxis and the Francophonie are inseparable. However, let me say it differently.

Digital praxis provides the opportunity to successfully spread and teach the French language. It is not the only solution but is a key element for promoting our language. A prophecy of 800 million French speakers in the middle of the century that comes to our attention will only be achieved through new techniques for spreading the French language.

The French Institute’s experience in offering distance education shows that this mode of instruction brings about three changes. The learner who is at the center for reverse education begins to learn before developing interaction with teachers. The teachers are no longer acting as trainers but as facilitators, or coaches. Courses are evaluated and validated within a new framework. The changing teaching methods beckon us to anticipate future trends and to adjust to new realities.

Digital praxis opens up new opportunities for supporting French education. The “100,000 professors for Africa” program launched this year focuses on distance education for teachers and on networking through devices developed by the French Institute. The program relies on a digital vocational French education base and on the social network of French teachers. These two tools will be presented next month at the Francophonie Summit to be held in Dakar. The devices complement those developed by the International Organization of la Francophonie and, which regrettably cannot receive more support from us. The revolution in digital education involves the use of DVD to complement the teachers’ work. Moreover, RFI and TV5 Monde develop French language training programs on their stations and their websites. The two networks are exceptional tools.

The provision of French language training and French education must be part of the comprehensive offering. If we fail to do so, our language will become less interesting and less useful. I am convinced that the French language will live on, thriving into the world, as an opportunity by those who practice it. The Francophonie must also convey a positive and dynamic message. It must be culturally and economically appealing in terms of training, entry into the labour market and business potential. The availability of networks to spread content to the most remote regions will bring about this change. Electricity is necessary. France is now encouraging public and private actors to get more involved in the immense Access Network Project in Africa.

When it comes to content, our program aims at making a widespread online course offering for every form of learning. The success of this program depends on the increased provision of vocational and university training in French. The late French offer catches up. Moreover, we must continue to innovate, using the digital tablets to replace traditional textbooks. The French Development Agency is trying it out at colleges in Madagascar, Niger and Senegal. This type of innovation falls out of scope. Last week, I received the Minister of Education and Culture of Uruguay, an observer member of la Francophonie who mentioned about the distribution of a low-cost laptop to each student. Following an experiment conducted in 2007, the practice became widespread leading to the distribution of more than 500,000 laptops. Today the country benefits from the development of the online content offering. They wished to develop distance education in English and, I was asked to develop a French online course. We are yet to know which of the public or private actor in France will be at the forefront to meet this solvent demand. The Attali report invites us to work collectively to respond in a timely fashion.

We must not address the Francophonie as a separate issue. Instead, it has to fit in with our solidarity and development policy. Therefore, we are in favour of creating the Franco-African Foundation for growth, to develop an exchange of young talent, university learning partnerships, as well as a digital platform. We will ensure that the Francophonie participates fully because we must use all channels to promote the French language. I hope that the innovation for development involves the Francophonie. We have a development policy for the sixteen top priority countries, all of which are French-speaking countries, except one country. Often, our responses are formulated in English with the support of our European neighbours. In the French-speaking African countries, the activities aimed at preventing climate risks or strengthening health systems are most effective when conducted in French. The Minister of Guinea told me that the UN had appointed an English coordinator, as head of the mission to fight against Ebola. He does not speak French while many French-speaking countries are in the West African region.

We need to be vigilant on this issue. Other languages must not compete with the Francophonie. We must strive to ensure that our language is at the forefront of concrete and innovative projects involving public and private entities.

Hélène FARNAUD-DEFROMONT, Director of the Agency for French Education Abroad

The Agency for French Teaching Abroad (AEFE) includes the French schools abroad approved by the French Ministry of National Education and, which offer French programs. This school year, 500 schools in over 133 countries cater for 327,000 students. France is the only country in the world to have such a network resulting from a proactive policy. The network has a threefold mission :

  • Integration of French students residing abroad ;
  • Integration of foreign students who choose the French education system ;
  • Educational cooperation in a number of countries where institutions close inward on themselves ; Our institutions are increasingly open to the language and culture of their host countries.

Hence, the Francophonie is a transversal concept. For example, of the 327,000 students enrolled this year, more than 200,000 are not French. The majority of them are not native French speakers. French is therefore the language of the school according to parental choice. This is a major challenge in terms of teaching methods employed in our institutions. We are trying to be a step ahead because we teach trilingual children. We teach excellent French speakers and we are working to make sure that they progress in their native language and they learn English. These trilingual children approach higher education with ease. The Francophonie coexists harmoniously with other languages.

Innovation is the implementation of the institutional rebuilding plan and this makes digital praxis a priority for the French education system. We have documented a number of innovations implemented spontaneously by our teaching staff. We share these innovations with the Ministry of National Education. One such innovation is the paperless certification system in the Baccalaureate. Our goal is to have all documents automated within two years. Currently two thirds of the 15,000 students have their documents automated. To accomplish this, we use a French technology in line with the Ministry of National Education.

Digital praxis is required for creating an international network and best practices in work and communication between teachers and institutions. Like others, we are prone to international crises, be it political or health. The Ebola virus attacking West Africa mainly affects us, as we have institutions in Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria. The authorities have postponed the new school year by three weeks in all the educational institutions throughout the country. All our students and teachers were present on 2 September in the facility. For these three weeks to be covered, we have put in place an educational platform, which allows everyone to stay home. At the time of the French intervention in Mali, teachers had created an educational platform for students of the Liberty school.

In spring next year, we will introduce the first mathematics MOOC in French tailored for public schools. This MOOC will be co-developed by the French network abroad. The creation of a specific educational platform for teaching philosophy is one reason for families wanting to enrol their children in French schools. We are facing a shortage of philosophy teachers


Pierre OUEDRAOGO, Director of Digital Mission for the Francophonie at the International Organization of la Francophonie

The Digital Agenda was adopted in 2012. From a technical perspective, an American company is addressing the issue of the domain name “.fr”. The sharp companies draw profit from this environment where everything is allowed. The “wine” or the “champagne” must be reserved. It is better to capture the soft power.

If we lose the diacritics, we lose part of the soul of our language. We must become the owners of technology.

The Charter of la Francophonie sets out a number of humanist values. We believe that Francophones should work together. All Francophones should benefit from the public paying for a tool.

Regarding the Internet ecosystem, those who win are countries that create ecosystems for sharing. There are countries where people do not talk to each other and pay a very high price for an outside expertise while it is already available at home.

We seem to be timid with Francophones who cannot stand up. Innovation is the answer, according to the forum organized in Namur. We need to invest in new technologies to enable young people and women to dare and create.

Experiences show that starting to learn in the national language improves learning French (IFAM). The issue of tutoring underlies the FLOTS and the CLOMS.

When we bring Francophone Africans and Anglophones together, we find that Francophones are less daring. We need a francophone society that is economically strong because if we are the poorest and the last ones, our language will die.


1. We need to be smarter with digital praxis for meeting the needs of Francophones and Francophiles. The Americans have invested more than 500 million dollars in the MOOCs. Are we not missing a new action ? If we do not gain market shares, then we must not be surprised that others take them for us.

2. I am the President of the learning industry association. There is not much public money available with the Francophonie and Europe having a huge market. The Americans are astonished by our underfunded status because we have 7 million euros when they have 70 million euros. The Americans are planning to invest 1.6 billion euros. It is foreseen as the Blue Ocean because there will be huge profits.

3. Digital praxis is a cross-cutting issue. We have not looked at food safety for further discussion.

4. The future of the Francophonie is not just a question of economics. It is important that the Francophonie exists in time and if the trend continues, predictions will be made. Thus, the people must speak French tomorrow or the day after. We must share the responsibility to achieve this. The French, Canadians, Walloons, Swiss people and the Africans must themselves get involved. Africa must import anything it consumes because it has no domestic market. The African market can facilitate the dissemination of the Francophonie. This is very important because there is a plurality of cultures even with a common language.

5. I am quite shocked at gaining market shares from teaching because we have very low returns on the MOOCs. I think we should not invest huge amounts of money simply because the Americans are doing it.

Clara DANON, Head of the Digital Mission Wing of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research

Only 10 % of the learners are getting certified and many do not want to go all the way. Institutions can use these courses as products that attract the persons to enrol in degree programs.

People have been prompted to think about distance learning. The MOOCs are not the alpha and omega. Success also involves online human tutoring. Companies are demanding that employees should not stay on longer in training.

Christophe PREMAT, Deputy for French residents overseas, for the Third constituency of Northern Europe

We have identified three key areas this evening.

From the prophetic age of the Francophonie :

  • We code in a newspeak that disseminates standards. We need to think about having more Francophone networks ;
  • Digital education : there may be a market opening. We must promote multilingualism with the Francophonie.
  • We must reinstate a strong political project for restoring the Francophonie. Since the Kinshasa summit in 2012, the OIF has begun laying the foundation of an economic organization. It had to be done almost 40 years after the Treaty of Niamey. We now need to have a debate on the structuring of emerging markets.
  • North Francophonie : it is necessary to explore gaps. Alongside the OIF, it would be interesting to find other partners for promoting multilingualism.

Retrouvez cet article sur Sens Public, la première partie ici et la deuxième ici.