Posts Tagged ‘how many continents are there’

Cross-Cultural Conflicts in Education Between Francophone and Anglophone Countries

May 5, 2011

How many continents are in in the world?  The answer is not as straightforward as readers might imagine.  This is only one example of a cross-cultural conflict in education between countries.

As an American teacher, I was extremely shocked when I was criticized by parents in the Francophone country in which I was teaching, for teaching “incorrect” information.

In the English-speaking world, we are taught that there are seven continents:  North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica.  One year while teaching this to my third-graders (age eight) in an American International School in the Middle East, I was informed by a parent that I was incorrect!

French Map of the Continents

The parent told me that there are only five continents, and went on to inform me that these were:   America (North and South being included together as one continent, and telling me that both were on the same plate–which is incorrect, by the way), Eurasia (I could go along with this one), Africa, Australia, and Antarctica.

After some discussion, I discovered that the entire French-speaking world teaches that there are only five continents, and that is what this parent had been taught in school as a child in a Francophone country.  She didn’t believe me when I told her what English-speaking countries teach, until I showed it to her in a text book.

We were both surprised by what we learned from each other.

So any more, when I get this question, I have to answer by saying, “That depends upon whether you want to take an Anglophone or Francophone perspective.”  I then tell my students if you go to England or America, they consider that there are seven continents, while if you go to France, or a French-speaking country they teach that there are only five.

American Map of the Seven Continents

If any of my readers happen to know what is taught in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, South America or Asia, or Russia, or any other parts of the world, I’d be very interested to know, and have them share it here in the comments below.

–Lynne Diligent