French Caribbeans in Africa: Diasporic Connections and by Véronique Hélénon (auth.)

By Véronique Hélénon (auth.)

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Additional info for French Caribbeans in Africa: Diasporic Connections and Colonial Administration, 1880–1939

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According to William B. Cohen, the number of candidates from the old colonies of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane, and Réunion dropped after 1896, due to the increasingly high level of the competitive examination. Cohen considers that, until 1896, the Ecole was not seen as a serious institution, and that a large proportion of its students (about one-fifth) came from the old colonies. In fact, natives from the colonies, and particularly the Caribbean colonies, consistently represented a significant portion of the student body well after 1896.

They were not compulsory, but their students usually scored better on the Ecole Coloniale’s competitive entrance examination: in 1934, all 53 students admitted had been in a classe préparatoire. 44 FRENCH CARIBBEANS IN AFRICA With this new mode of selection, the competitive examination had been profoundly reorganized. It became more general, with three tests in French, history of French colonization, and general geography, and in 1939, a test covering morality and sociology was added. Under Georges Hardy, the legal component of the training tended to decrease to focus more on the colonial aspects of the curriculum and make them more concrete.

Although republican school opened education to the larger numbers at the primary levels, the lycée was conceived as the driving force for the creation of this intermediary social class. “We need, here more than anywhere else,” said the chief of the public instruction service in 1898, “these middle classes who are the honor and the strength of a democracy,” of these “benevolent and enlightened guides” who could best direct and “if necessary contain within just limits agitation and demands”45 the majority of the population.

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