Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune has announced that the former French colony and overseas territory will start teaching English in elementary schools later this year.
“French is a spoil of war, but English is an international language,” he said.
Algeria gained independence from France in 1962 after an eight-year war that continues to complicate relations between the two countries.
Arabic and Tamazight, which is spoken by the Amazigh or Berber minority, are the country’s official languages. The continued institutional use of French is a sensitive topic.
In a television interview, President Tebboune said he was responding to growing demands from academics and undergraduates who say that English should be offered as a subject earlier as it is the language of instruction at university for those studying medicine and engineering.
Under the current curriculum, English is offered at high school to students from the age of 14, while pupils start French when they are nine years old.
A similar initiative was launched in the early 1990s for parents to be given the right to choose between French and English for their children at middle school, but it caused outrage in France and a pro-French lobby within the Algerian government called for the scheme to be dropped, resulting in the firing of the education minister.