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Bilingualism in Spanish Education

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 3449 words Published: 15th May 2017

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Nowadays, bilingual education has become an important issue in Spanish education. Along the years, education has been modified several times by different laws and political ideologies and it is still happening today. I will focus on the Spanish primary schools, specifically in Andalusia, where I would like to study the current situation, considering the law as the main rule to bear in mind when making changes. However, the system has to be adapted to the new needs in education and the methodology teaching.

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Thus, the legislative frameworks guiding the Spanish education system are the Spanish Constitution (1978), the Organic Act on the right to Education (LODE, 1978), and the Organic Law of Education 2/2006, 3rd May (Ley Organica de Education LOE 2006). Considering that many places are monolingual communities, then it follows that the changes in the education system are being done slowly.

Some educational and pedagogical books have mentioned the situation in the past and how to implement advantages in methodology and language learning. But in the case of Spain, as some studies have referred to, the obligation to improve in terms of second language knowledge is mainly due to the demands in the competitive market in the EU. For example, in the book CLIL in Spain Implementation, Results and Teacher Training, David Lasagabaster makes mention of the setting in our education:

“The fact that Spain finds itself in the penultimate position in the ranking of EU countries in terms of second language knowledge, a figure offered by the latest demolinguistic reports of the continent (Council of Europe 2005; Grin 2002), has wounded the credibility of the educational system and was seen as a real threat to future growth and development” (Lasagabaster, 3).

That is the most commonly held reason, as researchers suggest in their writings, why the government and authorities started to focus on the promotion of L2 competences as an essential step towards modernization and prosperity.

Then, on April 25th, 2005, in Andalusia, the minister for education presented a plan called Plan de Fomento del Plurilinguismo (henceforth the Plan, Junta de Andalucia 2004), the main aim was to provide teachers with useful skills to perform new tasks required of them; in other words, teachers had to adapt to a lot of different functions that are affected in the use of language and methodology, for teacher training in content and language integrated learning. It was of concern to foreign language teachers and teachers in general because of the non-linguistic areas of knowledge, such as natural science, art, physical education… As a consequence, a huge investment was made in human and technical resources, teacher training, mobility and the innovation of the curricula design.

It allowed around 400 bilingual Primary and Secondary schools to be inaugurated. But it brings an enormous challenge to the teachers, as I mentioned above, due to two main reasons: first, they have to put their English language skills into practice, and second, they have to improve their language level. Another difficulty to be faced is the lack of published textbooks for bilingual schools, so teachers will need the help of the assistant teacher creating the materials and also a large amount of time to prepare the tasks.

However, it is also necessary to mention the mobility programs for teachers and students, which facilitate language experiences, teacher training schemes, increased student exchanges, and basically extend adult education and lifelong learning.

So far, many initiatives based on the new trends of foreign language teaching have happened; Curriculum Integrado de las Lenguas CIL, was meant to be the first step in the changes planned, and then CLIL (which seems to share the same ideas), led to agreements between foreign organisations and universities to allow exchange visits and the mobility of students and teachers, Teacher Training Centres, study abroad programmes…

Most of these regulations were created between 1998 and 2004 at experimental bilingual schools, and were finally set up in all the Andalusian provinces, and consequently, many schools will later join the experience of plurilingual education.

Teachers realize that the students have to be responsible for their own learning, they have to be independent learners, and to manage their individual learning needs.

Regarding the student’s learning, an evaluation of CLIL programs in Andalusia was carried out in 2008. There are a lot of benefits in CLIL schemes; Lasagabaster has written in his book about the CLIL program: “The potential of CLIL with respect to the goals of plurilingual education has noticeably been taken into account by the educational authorities in Andalusia and the language education policies that have been implemented” (159).

As far as I’m concerned, many studies and academic writings are carried out in this field. All of them have helped to improve and move forward the study of foreign language learning. However, my project will prove that primary education, which is one of the most important phases in students’ lives, requires changes in schools. Nevertheless, schools have to follow the same pathway, bringing useful skills for students’ lives, and teaching them how to face a changing world with the right tools. I think CLIL brings the possibility of helping students when learning a second language, but it could be a challenge.

3. Theoretical framework and research methodology

Theoretical Framework: 3, 5 páginas

The aim of this study is to investigate bilingual education in relation to the content and methodology used by teachers when students are learning a foreign language, so after exploring many sources (books, internet, library…), I am going to base my theoretical framework on the use of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). The reason I came up with my decision is because I was exploring some teacher methodologies adopted in schools in the past when teaching a second language. Compared with today, in the past teachers basically used to rely on repetition or imaginary situations in their lessons, which had no relation to real life situations, which would serve as a way to gain the knowledge to communicate in another language. Nonetheless, after years of research on teacher training, other ways of teaching and learning have been shown to be more successful, and I can say that studies in language teaching have achieved breakthroughs in the development of a second language. Indeed, CLIL is an example of this process.

We are living in a time of advances and innovation in technology, and this often involves changes in the way we do things. Therefore, integration becomes more important today than the fragmented style practised in previous years, so it is a step forward in our present that brings fusion between categories that might have been divided in the past. As a result, CLIL invites us to the confluence between the learning of content and language. It provokes changes in teachers, as they move away from fragmentation when teaching in separate areas of content and language, which was a situation that arose in the old schools. Therefore, since fusion is a fact, in the present and in the future, the information and communication sectors are integrating technologies due to social demand.

CLIL is a useful theory created to help young people to build integrated knowledge and skills for a progressively unified world. A good definition of CLIL can be found in Uncovering CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning in Bilingual and Multilingual Education: “In short, CLIL is a dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language. For example, CLIL has involved Malaysian children learning maths and science in English.” (Mehisto, 9).

We can start to see the world as a product of globalization, where technology is a useful tool to exchange information and knowledge. It also has an impact in the way we teach and on what we teach.

Therefore, CLIL is a strategy with the objective of using a language that is not the student’s native language, as a way of instruction and learning for primary subjects, such as maths, science, art, physical education, music… Although it is difficult to combine the language learning with content learning, co-operation and the exchange skills among language and content teachers come to be essential when CLIL is implemented in the classroom. Nevertheless, it has to be accompanied by enough time for class preparation and enough time for the teachers to reach a common agreement on teaching strategies and student activities.

Additionally, it is an easy task if we think that the subjects that we are going to deal with have to be updated and students familiar with their use:

“The learning materials used in CLIL classes are often from current sources such as newspaper articles, books, brochures, web pages or blogs. Students are supported in using these materials. The texts are adapted by cutting information into manageable chunks and adding synonyms or a glossary.” (Mehisto, 33)

Moreover, once again it is clear that the purpose of language in CLIL is to be considered and used as a tool, rather than as a particular area of study; hence, this new strategy seems to be appropriate considering the rush for changes and the new challenges presented by the world today.

Teachers are aware that there will be several changes, and as consequence, the atmosphere in the classroom will help students in their development and comprehension of the subject:

“Krashen’s hypothesis on the affective filter states that optimum learning occurs in an environment of high stimulation and low anxiety. According to his theory, the emotional state of the learner acts as a filter. Krashen sees the learner’s emotional state as an adjustable filter that may pass or impede input needed for acquisition” (Rozeta, 3823).

As mentioned before, Europe is making changes related to the necessity of learning languages without forgetting the content, and this is one of the reasons why the EU´s language policy promotes multilingualism, and they promote the interest of every EU citizen in being able to speak at least two foreign languages, which is reflected in schools from an early age. “Knowledge of languages is at the heart of a successful Europe. Multilingualism enables communication and understanding, key elements in inspiring Europe’s many diverse cultures to work together towards common goals. Language teaching is therefore of central importance” (Rozeta, 3824).

Referring to the acquisition of teaching strategies in CLIL, it is not easy to apply and it requires considerable effort to put it into practice: it demands collaboration among subject teachers and language teachers, as well as a greater range of activities than in a regular class. The materials used have to be well prepared and accurate. In the case of CLIL, it is recommended that the material be compiled by both teachers, so good time management skills are also necessary.

It is a fact that CLIL is one of the most effective methods of learning a foreign language, and many places in Spain are still in the process of introducing it in state schools because the process takes more time than in private schools; private schools are more flexible and a new law can be introduced quickly.

Interestingly, a study in Andalusia have proven that CLIL students obtain much better results in communicative skills than in the non-CLIL groups in other languages; however, it is still necessary to invest in more research on this subject: “However, a preoccupying fact in Andalusia is that there is virtually no existing research on non-CLIL language classrooms and the same with respect to content-subject classrooms. Given the very low ratings for Andalusia in the PISA reports this should be a priority” (Bruton, 530).

After all these findings on research in education, and specifically in bilingual education, the government has had to compromise and collaborate with the universities, institutions, schools, teachers… with the aim of investing in teacher training for high-quality education in order to transform CLIL into a reality in all the schools.

Research methodology and design: 3,5 paginas

Before explaining my choices, I will mention the main differences between qualitative and quantitative methods. The term quantitative refers to the fact that the emphasis is on the amount of data. Therefore, the use of questionnaires as research tools is more common in quantitative research. Interviews and observation, however, are usually thought of as qualitative techniques, since the focus is on the quality of the data, not the quantity.

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It was best stated by Best and Khan on their well-known work, Research in Education. On the one hand, “[q]uantitative research consists of those studies in which the data concerned can be analysed in terms of numbers”. On the other hand, “[r]esearch can also be qualitative, that is, it can describe events, persons and so forth scientifically without the use of numerical data”. Furthermore, “[q]uantitative research is based more directly on its original plans and its results are more readily analysed and interpreted”, whereas “[q]ualitative research is more open and responsive to its subject.” As a conlusion, it can be said that “[b]oth types of research are valid and useful. They are not mutually exclusive” (89-90).

The main research tool used in this paper is the interview, which can also be considered a ‘professional conversation’ (Interviews: An Introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Kvale, 5).

In general, the interview can be defined as having a purpose: to obtain descriptions of the world of the interviewee, and to interpret the meaning of the described phenomena.

Thus, the use of interviews in research can be seen as something natural: it is a conversation that has a structure and a purpose. It could be produced through spontaneous exchanges of views in everyday conversation, and converted through a careful questioning and listening approach with the aim of obtaining thoroughly tested knowledge. Usually, it is not considered a conversation between equal partners because the researcher normally takes control of the situation. The researcher is in charge of introducing the topic of the interview, and following up on the subject’s answers to his or her questions.

The conversation has been used as a way of gathering information since ancient times: Socrates already used dialogues to obtain philosophical knowledge from people. In addition, the social sciences that originated in the late 19th century also made use of interviews for research in a systematic way. Ever since, conversations have belonged to the realm of the social sciences, the humanities and philosophy. At this moment, the emphasis on the interview, and on the interpretation of its meanings, practically places interview research within the domain of the humanities.

The numerous advances in technical devices, such as portable tape recorders and computer programs, have made it possible to take accurate recordings of interviews, as well as to easily transcribe them.

Moreover, the research methodology used in this paper is a qualitative methodology because the data used here is termed ‘soft’, which means it is rich in the description of people, places and conversation, and not easily handled by statistical procedures. In this study, I am going to focus my analysis on bilingual education; specifically, on the experiences of two English teachers from two very different environments: one works in a bilingual school and the other works in a Spanish monolingual school.

It could be said that qualitative research is also more natural; this is because the researcher frequents the places where the events he or she is interested in occur naturally. Furthermore, the data gathered is supplied by people engaging in their natural behaviour.

In addition, I used qualitative research because it is descriptive; in an interview, the data collected is based on the words of the interviewee rather than numbers. When using qualitative methods, researchers are interested in the process, instead of simply the outcome. Here, the participant perspective is essential, and the researcher needs to be interested in how different people make sense of their lives, as well as many other factors, in order to accurately capture their perspectives.

The reason I will use a qualitative method is that I think this method is the most suitable one for research in the field of education, which is what I am working on. It is a method that allows us to see and understand events in their proper context. Thus, I will immerse myself in the context, preparing the interview and then interviewing both subjects at their respective schools.

This process will be interactive because the people being studied will tell the researcher about their lives. Moreover, the experience will be approached as a whole, not as a series of independent variables, since the goal is to obtain a unified view of the situation. Hence, a qualitative method seems to be the most suitable choice. As mentioned above, I will analyse and transcribe the interviews relating the experiences of two teachers working in very different environments, but both teaching subjects in a foreign language. The aim is to study their answers and compare them, looking at the different methods and programs used. The decision to use an interview is based on the fact that, through their answers and background information, I will evaluate their ideas and compare how bilingual and monolingual schools differ with respect to teaching a second language in primary school.

My interview will consist of four questions; my intention is to avoid, as much as possible, questions that can be answered by ”yes” or ”no” (closed questions) because in that case I will not be able to obtain the information needed for the study. I am going to use a semi-structured or open interview; one reason for this is that I have just one chance to meet with the teachers and, in that time, I have to cover all the points and to obtain reliable, comparable, qualitative data.

These questions are specifically focused on comparing a bilingual school teacher and a monolingual school teacher; mostly on the use of foreign language when teaching the content, advantages and disadvantages in both cases, and some of the problems that arise in a classroom when the language used is not the native one.

The design of the interview is divided into seven stages, according to Kvale (88):

Thematizing. Before the interview starts formulate the purpose of the investigation and describe the concept of the topic to be investigated. The why and what should be clarified before the question of how-method is posed.

Designing. To design the study in undertaken with regard to obtaining the intended knowledge, before the interviewing starts.

Interviewing. Conduct the interview based on an interview guide and with reflective approach to the knowledge.

Transcribing. Prepare the interview material for analysis which includes normally a transcription from oral speech to a written text.

Analyzing. Decide which method of analysis are appropriate thinking on the purpose and the nature of the interview material.

Verifying. . Establish the generalizability, reliability, and validity of the interview findings.

Reporting. Communicate the findings of the study and the methods applied in a form that lives up to scientific criteria, takes the ethical aspects of the investigation into consideration, and that results in a readable product.

Finally, I have decided on the two chosen teachers because one works in a bilingual school and his native language is English, and the other teacher works in a monolingual school and her native language is Spanish. This will allow me a wider field of work, so that I can analyze as many differences as possible.


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