November 13, 2008

LIFE'S A LOTTERY



Before he rushed off after the last class, Jesús briefly described where our upcoming intercambio de conversación fits in the Grand Plan or plan de educación bilingüe de Andalucía as it’s called here.

He explained that thousands of pupils throughout Andalucía (39,000 to be exact) are learning mathematics and other social and natural science subjects through English, French and German, as part of the ambitious bilingual education project introduced in 2005. Since then, a total of 80 primary and secondary schools in Malaga province alone have been participating.

The idea is, apparently, to improve the overall level of foreign languages by using these languages to teach other subjects on the curriculum. In primary schools, these include Knowledge of the Environment and another non-language course chosen by the school such as physical education while in secondary schools, the school chooses from Social and Natural Sciences subjects such as mathematics and technology.

However, according to Jesús, there is already a sense of anxiety about the entire project. Parents are asking if their children are receiving the same standard of education when they take a subject in a language of which they have only scant knowledge. (The level required in the target foreign language provides them with merely a general knowledge and is generally agreed too basic to be of any real practical value.)

Many pupils, too, have enough problems in learning the subjects in question in their own language. The qualifications of the teachers involved in the project are also being scrutinized since many of them have only a rudimentary knowledge of the language through which they are teaching!

And finally, a problem familiar to those of us in the UK. The case of those successful schools and academies where demand outstrips supply and where a selection system by lottery still arouses enormous controversy. No such qualms here in Andalucía though. Wherever demand outstrips supply, schools simply hold a lottery to decide who’s in and who’s out.

And parents can complain in vain that, while some classes in a subject are given in the desired foreign language, parallel ones in Spanish are all that are available for those who are out…

1 comment:

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Margaret

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