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English-speaking children in Catalan schools (Read 10213 times)
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English-speaking children in Catalan schools
Nov 17th, 2010 at 6:11pm
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New advocacy group for parents of English-speaking children in Catalan schools

Dear Tortosa Forum,

I am writing to you on behalf of a group of parents of English-speaking children in the Barcelona area. Our children attend Catalan schools which, which public or independent, lack special programmes for native speakers of English. By the end of January, our group should be registered as an association. Once officers are in place and a membership roll formalised, we plan contact policy makers (at Educacció and with political parties), the media, and academics to begin making our case.

We believe that publicly funded schools should stream children who are native or near-native speakers of English into enriched, content-based English classes. We believe that programmes tailored to the English skills these children already posses will better enable them to use written and spoken English with the same depth and breadth of skills and purposes for which they are being educated to use Catalan. We believe that fostering a dual-language, cosmopolitan identity in these children, both as learners and as future citizens, will be of incalculable benefit to Catalan society as it meets the challenges of a knowledge-based, globalised economy whose lingua franca is English.

In the long term, we would like to lobby for public funding of English-Catalan bilingual education. Dual-language schooling is a well-established option in publicly funded primary and secondary education in New York City, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and some German Länder. (In France, the sections internationaux  provide a lower percentage of classroom time in the second language of instruction.) It often involves quotas of native speakers to ensure the viability of both languages as languages of socialisation, and graduates fully bilingual individuals who academically out-perform students from other schools. As an added benefit, it creates a far more attractive environment for both foreign companies and foreign researchers.

Some fifty individuals have expressed interest in joining the group, among them a number of Catalan academics and scientists. 

I hope this initiative will be of some interest to you and Tortosa Forum readers, and that we can count on your support as we move forward.

Best wishes,

Dr. John Stone
Departament de Filologia Anglesa i Alemanya
Universitat de Barcelona
Gran Via 585
08007 Barcelona

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Re: English-speaking children in Catalan schools
Reply #1 - Feb 15th, 2011 at 9:06am
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This post is what motivated me to renew my membership of this site and to want to post again.

It seems curious to me that in the point in history in which we are, when we are seeing more and more feelings stirred up against certain groups in our communities, when the Uk government has finally admitted that multuculturalism doesn't work and so on and so forth, that someone has the nerve to speak out asking for "special programmes for native speakers of English".

Why is it that some people believe that because you are a native speaker of English you deserve a special programme whereas if you are a native speaker of, say, Arabic, you don't.

Dr Stone, working as he does, in education, albeit at further ed, ought to know that schools already exist in Catalunya that have chosen to work as bilingual schools.  You can, already, opt to educate your child in a school where English is the main language (subject to the normal rules on catchment areas etc.)  More than this is just favouring a certain special group, native English speakers, for no particular reason.

If you enrol your children in a normal public school in Catalunya they WILL receive a bilingual education that, supposing you continue to maintain their level of English, will result in them being tri-lingual eventually.  If your children live in Catalunya and are being educated here then it is logical to think that they will continue to live and then work here, why then would you want to opt out of them being educated in the language of the country in which they live.

Sometimes this sort of ex-pat blind belief in the automatic merits of England and English makes me really puzzled.
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Re: English-speaking children in Catalan schools
Reply #2 - May 29th, 2011 at 7:09pm
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Many thanks to Nigel for posting on my behalf back in November.

The group on whose behalf I wrote would welcome content-based classes for native speakers of any curricular language. For the time being, that means English, French, German, or Italian. In Canada, the US, and Australia more than a dozen other languages are taught in regular language classes or as immersion languages in public and publicly funded schools, among them Arabic. Catalunya hasn't gone down that path: I wish it would, but that's not the immediate, stated aim of the English-Speaking Children's Parents' and Guardian's Association. If Arabic-speaking newcomers here want a to sign their children up for a bilingual school where Arabic is the medium in half the classes. they'll have to pull up stakes and move to Edmonton, Alberta, or New York City.

Our first point is that a child who already speaks a curricular foreign language may not be learning much in the same foreign language classroom as his/her classmates. On the contrary, he/she may feel frustrated or bored. Gifted education provides a close parallel: gifted children deserve streaming because their needs are different. (Under Spanish law, special ed. is mandated for gifted students, but it's never been implemented.) Thus our request that the system's approach to teaching these kids English be changed. Nothing in my post suggested that the kids be withdrawn from Catalan-medium education. We don't want to isolate kids or subtract from the community: we want to contribute something.

Our second point is that Catalunya is throwing away a great resource. In a dual-language school, half of the children already speak the immersion language at home. When it's time to play, some of them play in the other language. When the teacher speaks that other language, some of them speak up without a second thought or a twinge of embarrassment. If you set up Catalan-English dual-language programmes (and I'm not talking about physical education, art, or math in English: I mean half the school day), everyone will benefit. The Catalan-speaking kids will come away from the experience speaking and writing very good English. The English-speaking kids' English will be shored up. It's win-win.

As for the schools where English is the main language, as far as I know they are all private. If I've been misinformed, please tell me.

Catalunya, and Spain, have an education deficit. Youth unemployment stands over 40% in part because 30% of young people never finish their secondary education. Skills levels here are low, and language skills are no exception. We want Ensenyament to consider dual-language education (in English, French, German, and Italian, for starters) as a way of addressing the problem. 

Thanks again for your interest.
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