Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rise of bilingual schools in Wales

It appears that all around the globe parents are realizing the endless benefits of bilingual education and schools are stepping up to the task of providing more language options.
Around 80% of parents who send their children to Welsh-medium schools don't speak the language themselves.

In Northern Ireland the figure is even higher - 90%.

So why the rise?

For many parents, sending their children to a Welsh-medium school is viewed as a way of reclaiming part of their culture which wasn't available when they were young and the sector was much smaller.
Others are acutely aware of the impressive exam results delivered by many Welsh-medium schools, while for some, the changing face of Wales and the post devolution world could explain their choice..

Of course, it shouldn't come as a surprise that progress doesn't come without a struggle.
In Cardiff, Welsh-medium schools are all heavily oversubscribed and the local authority is currently attempting to institute an ambitious city-wise reorganisation plan which takes into account this swing towards education in Welsh.
But it has been highly controversial - initial attempts to close some English-medium schools with falling rolls has met with huge opposition.

View the full article here.


Joy said...

Maybe we here in the US will stand up and take notice as a nation. Bilingual education is vitally important in this day and age. I think we in the US have the wrong idea, for the most part. The main focus seems to have been mostly on teaching non Englsioh speakers English at a young age. But what about the native English speakers? Shouldn't they be given the advantage of learning a second language at a young age too?
I grew up in Puerto Rico where I did learn Spanish starting in Kindergarten when I moved there. Had I had to wait until high school to start learning, I doubt that I'd have the command over the language that I do today.
I think it would be a good idea for the US to send educators to countries like Wales that have gotten it right and are successfully teaching a bilingual education.

Joy Delgado
Illustrator and publisher of bilingual children's books

Liza Sánchez said...

I agree, all children should have the opportunity to become bilingual. It is sad that that is seldom the case.

luke:) said...

Im afraid i would have to disagree. I currently study at College in Wales and despite being taught the Welsh language since the age of 5 i find it to, as yet have been no use to me. The simple fact of the matter is that whilst spanish is a broadly spoken, modern language Welsh is not. The percentage of fluent welsh speakers of the total population is low. The only plus side of learning welsh is keeping up the national pride of having our own language, however i feel by trying to encourage its use in schools etc we are merely keeping a dead language clutching onto its last breath.I would much prefer to have been taught other modern languages more in depth rather than effectively wasting time in learning Welsh.

Lady from Wales said...

As a non welsh speaker who has undertaken all their education in Wales and I am now a teacher in Wales. I wish I had been taught bilingually from an early age. I believe that having the ability to speak welsh only enhances your job prospects if you decide Wales is where you would like to live in the future. Having studied at university in North and West Wales I don't believe it is a dying language. In many parts of the North and West, Welsh is the main language spoken by the local population. Also, my partner was taught Welsh in school from a young age and I am convinced that this has helped him to pick up other languages with ease. When we go on holiday in Europe he often translates to me what others have said on a train or bus and he can converse basically with the local people whilst I stand there amazed. There is an emphasis on all schools to converse bilingually. I think the main flaw in this method is that there is not enough training for teachers to learn the language to a high enough standard for this to be successful. I have undertaken 10 days of training and try and incorporate bilingualism in a natural way on a daily basis but my skills are limited and I yearn to improve them. My partner works away during the week, otherwise I'd encourage him to help me. I believe bilingualism schools in any language / culture can only enhance children's experiences.