Looking back on our preparations for coming to Algeria the one thing I regret not doing is giving the eldest children French lessons. When my eldest daughter joined us after finishing her ‘A’ levels in England she was able to get an equivalence and enroll in University studying science subjects, she struggled as everything was taught in French. Not every University teaches through French, some teach through Arabic and often it depends on what subjects you take, with the Science subjects usually in French and the Islamic Sciences in Arabic. My eldest son also struggled at the beginning with his lack of French education, as they have a co-efficient system whereby some subjects like Arabic, Maths and French are worth a lot more in marks than others like History, Geography, Civics etc.
Something I am happy about is that they had a good grounding in Arabic. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to do this, but this was my husband’s domain and I am so grateful to him as it was a good preparation for their school life here. One of the things my second daughter said that she didn’t do well in when she first came here (as an 8 year old) was Arabic dictation – a lot of time in school is spent taking notes and you need to be very fast in your writing skills!
Maths is not my thing and this was something else I left to my husband when I was home educating my children in England. I remember my 8 year old asking me why I did long division the way that I did… and I just couldn’t explain it to her, because I didn’t know. I had always done it that way, but didn’t really understand the methodology behind it. So I got her father to explain, and he did it in an entirely different way altogether, and it’s the way that they do it here in Algeria. My eldest daughter who also loves the subject says that, although it seems to be more convoluted, it actually shows the methodology behind it much better and gives the child a better grounding in the subject. They also were acquainted with the Maths terminology in Arabic, again thanks to my husband.
Staying back a year is something perfectly normal here and commonly done and does not have the same stigma at all that it has in England. If the children’s average throughout the year comes below 10 (out of 20) then they are automatically kept back to repeat the year again, which is why you will have some older children in the same year as younger ones. Having said all of this, girls do a lot better here than boys and it is more common for boys to stay back a year than girls.
Their transition here was made a lot easier as they had a smattering of derja before we moved. My husband used to speak mainly Arabic Fous-ha to our children, but he also spoke in derja especially when he and they were with other Algerians, and the older two had spent a few holidays here and so had a good foundation. This is the spoken language here in the schools (outside of lessons and sometimes even in the lessons also, although the lessons are given primarily in Fous-ha), in the streets and amongst the family. It made such a difference in helping them to adapt, and they weren’t even very fluent, but with a basis they picked it up in no time. Within a short time of moving here they were all very fluent alhamdulilah.
We were here almost 6 months before our second and third child started school, and I think that those months of settling in, adapting to their new environment, making friends, improving their use of the derja language all helped them to find their feet and acclimatize to the country and their new home.
I would never go so far as to say that my children like school but they never dread it either. At the end of the school holidays and the beginning of the new week they all, without exception, go off to school quite happily and it never fails to surprise me that they ARE so happy. So it can’t all be that bad. I think having friends and having a good laugh with them is what encourages them and eases the day for them. Or else….. it’s that school, bad and all as it is, is still preferable to staying at home with ME!