January 19, 2016
News /
Posted by NCID

Yannick Dupraz from the Paris School of Economics presented his paper “French and British Colonial Legacies in Education: A Natural Experiment in Cameroon” at the University of Navarra, a seminar organized by the Navarra Center for International Development.

As Yannick explained in the beginning of the presentation, both countries, France and England presented clear differences in their approach to colonization. According to the literature, the British colonial education system had the main purpose of converting the population to Catholicism, contrary to the French education system that was focused primarily on training a small administrative elite.

From that fact, his research Yannick Dupraz tries to answer this question: To what extent can these approaches be seen up to the present day in Cameroon? And more broadly, does colonial history matter for present day development?

In answering these questions, “you don’t have two sets of countries that are comparable… so the next-to-ideal experiment would be if we have a region that are equal in everything that matters, such as precolonial history and geography,” explained to the audience. For this purpose, Cameroon is highly suitable as it was divided between the French and the British after World War I, with divergent colonial regimes, before being reunited in 1961.

Dupraz used exhaustive geolocated census data (1976, 1987 and 2005), allowing him to track people who were going to school at the village level. By measuring differences in attendance at villages near the border, he was able to compare between populations who had nearly everything in common, except for their colonizer.

In his conclusions, Dupraz finds that the British effect on education is positive for individuals of school age in the 1920s and 1930s, and that this effect fades away and eventually it will become negative, favoring the French side, resulting from increased educational investments.

“Finally,” –Dupraz concludes in his paper— “this paper shows that, when studying the legacies of historical institutions and policies, there are benefits to decompressing history — trying to understand what happened between a historical event and its present-day legacy.”