Publication details [#55779]

Hebblethwaite, Benjamin. 2012. French and underdevelopment, Haitian Creole and development: Educational language policy problems and solutions in Haiti. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 27 (2) : 255–302.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This article argues that Haiti's French-dominant school system is an impediment to the nation's development, whereas Haitian Creole-dominant education will lay the foundation for long-term development. In that Caribbean country, 95% of the population is monolingual in Haitian Creole while the portion that additionally speaks French does not exceed 5% with an additional 5-10% having some receptive competence (Valdman 1984: 78; Dejean 2006). Even though French is the language of the school system, as many as 80% of Haiti's teachers control it inadequately and only a minority of students completes school (Dejean 2006). Economic, historical, sociolinguistic, and demographic factors are a part of the explanation for Haiti's low educational achievement. Another important but often ignored factor is educational language policy. Data on educational language policy compared internationally show that the use of a second language in schools correlates with high illiteracy rates and poverty (Coulmas 1992). The article rejects arguments in favor of maintaining French-dominant education in Haiti (Lawless 1992; Youssef 2002; Francis 2005; Ferguson 2006, etc.) because the resources for it are woefully lacking. It is argued that the progressive promotion of Haitian Creole throughout Haitian education will lead to improved learning, graduation, and Creole literacy, in addition to a more streamlined and coherent State, economy, and society (Efron 1954; De Regt 1984; DeGraff 2003; Dejean 2006). As Haiti rebuilds after the earthquake of January 12th, 2010, aid workers, government employees, and researchers who get involved in the recovery also unsuspectingly perpetuate French, English, and Spanish hegemony in development work (DeGraff 2010). The long history of suppressing Haitian Creole and promoting French in education and administration — and French, English, or Spanish in development work — form underlying obstacles in the nation's struggle to produce an adequate class of educated citizens, to achieve universal literacy, and to make socioeconomic progress.