English in Tunisian Primary Schools: Stakeholders’ Perception and Reform Validity

Imen Ben Amara, Mimoun Melliti


The present study was conducted to test the theory of ‘the younger the better’ (Lenneberg, 1967; Penfield, 1959) by examining Tunisian EFL public primary school teachers’ perceptions of lowering the age of teaching English in elementary schools. In doing so, a quantitative method approach was used to collect data from a sample of 30 teachers working at public primary schools in Tunis and an interview for 5 inspectors of English from different regions of Tunis. They were asked to express their views concerning lowering the age of teaching English and the ability of children to learn more than one foreign language in academic situations. The purpose of this study is to to investigate the influence of age on language learning in Tunisian public educational system focusing on children’s ability to learn English effortlessly at a younger age.

The data analysis revealed that a considerable percentage of Tunisian primary school teachers in the schools visited claim to be aware of the importance of lowering the age of teaching English and of the crucial role that English plays in the curriculum as well as the ability of children to learn foreign language with great enthusiasm. However, this awareness is not met by major efforts toward educational reforms by the ministry of education. Another finding of this research was that all the respondent teachers agreed on the best age for children to learn English in academic situations yet they disagreed with the fact that it is impossible to achieve proficiency in second languages in the second decade of life.

This study provides evidence that English is important in Tunisian schools and teachers as well as policy makers perceive that lowering the age of teaching English provides longer exposure to the target language and is advantageous for children starting L2s at a younger age. Obviously, the age of teaching English in public schools is gaining importance, which suggests that it is going to be an influencing factor in any future educational reforms in public Tunisian schools.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v14i2.19814

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