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Bilingual education

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by iago88, Sep 25, 2019.

  1. iago88

    iago88 New commenter

    I've recently started at a 'bilingual school' - it's a fancy name they've given to an ESL post at a public school here in Taiwan. The label 'bilingual' seems to have been slapped onto the post to attract more local / national media attention here in Taiwan and attract more funding (which seems to be working)

    There appears to be no cohesive strategy / plan. Basically my impression is that someone in the government dreamed up the idea and made the money (for my job) available and I'm here filling in the blanks. I've been given a bunch of text books in the local language and told to use these to teach the children English.

    I'm a qualified UK MFL teacher so teaching language is no problem, but teaching maths in English to 6/7 year old children with no previous level of English is proving to be very taxing.

    Furthermore, I am not really familiar with 'bilingual education' (the school doesn't have a policy document to show me...) and not sure exactly how to implement it / what it's supposed to look like. For example, the maths text books introduce lots of logical concepts (taller / shorter / longer / thinner) but then when you turn this into a lesson for kids who can't yet read and have to complete a text book that's in a language that's not the same as the language of instruction, things get very confused.

    The money is there and the school is committed (at least to the positive publicity and the extra cash) so there's a lot of scope here for me to make my mark - I'm just looking for suggestions please :)

    So any suggestions about bilingual education would be welcome please.
    Any thoughts about my situation would be especially welcome too.
  2. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Lots of so-called "international" schools are really bilingual schools. Why is this a big problem? When I was teaching in Shenzhen, nearly all of my students spoke Mandarin as their first language. However, the school was really an English school that just happened to be in China. All of our textbooks were from the UK, most of the teachers were Brits and we more or less followed the English National Curriculum. (Yes, each day my charming and hard-working students had a lesson of Mandarin, there was the Chinese flag on the wall and they spoke Mandarin in the playground.) Therefore my advice would be to see how things are done in similar schools and then replicate it at your present school. I had five happy years in Shenzhen. The parents and the students seemed to be happy too and you can read all about it in my blog bulgariawithnoodles.blogspot.com

    As for this idea of spending all of your time translating textbooks, I would say that on the whole this does not seem to me to be very sensible. There might also be issues of copyright, as I believe that they do have copyright in Taiwan. (Of course no one bothers about copyright in mainland China!) If there is so much money sloshing around your present school, then I would say that some of that cash should be spent on proper English textbooks. At the moment I am teaching in Bulgaria and we use Oxford English for Cambridge Primary as our main English textbooks in the primary school and very good they are too. They also lead on to the Cambridge Checkpoint tests at the end of Grade 4 (Year 6 in the UK). If you want a proper English set of textbooks for Mathematics, then maybe you should consider Abacus. I am not really a Maths teacher, so maybe I am not the best person to advise you. Cambridge Checkpoint is a good preparation for IGCSEs or so I have been told.

    Send me one of those silly TES Conversation things if I can be of any further help.
  3. Unconventional33

    Unconventional33 New commenter

    Authentic bilingual education would mean that the students are receiving initial education in their native language across all content areas and then slowly transitioning into English or second language. For example, a level 1 class would probably be 90 percent native language instruction and 10 percent other language and progress to something like 70/30 by the end of the year. Level 2 would start at about 70/30 and end at roughly at the other end of the spectrum at 30/70. Level 3 should end the year at 90/10 and then have full instruction in second language going onwards. The purpose of this is so that students don't miss out on essential content area instruction as they are developing knowledge of their new language. For example, someone who comes from a new country in the 5th grade would miss out on so much content area instruction in science, social studies and even math because they do not have content specific vocabulary in their new language or any knowledge of the new language at all. Bilingual programs hope to ameliorate that by providing a transition by giving students content instruction in both languages in a sliding scale. So present new information mostly in the native language while giving them key vocabulary in the second language and then presenting that information in the second language a second time where the student would now be able to pick up more of the content. Students would also have basic language classes in the second language.

    Now, dual language programs are slightly different. There are a few where I am currently located as well. This is where students get instruction across all content areas in two languages. This would mean math classes in English and Spanish for example. Students usually start in kindergarten and progress with the students in their group. Each school does it differently, usually on a weekly basis...so one week is language 1 and then the other would be dedicated to language 2. These programs are well structured and have highly specialized and trained staff to ensure that they function as intended.

    Unfortunately, I don't believe most international schools in certain regions understand what true bilingual or dual language education is or for what it is intended. Having a french class in school or speaking French at home with your family but having all of your other education completely in English is not really developing your academic language or writing in French. You may be able to have a conversation fluently but you would probably lack when it comes to technical or academic writing and speaking. It's really complex.

    I think for starters you might want to give your students math vocabulary in their native language that relates to the content you are currently teaching. So you mentioned longer, smaller, etc...give them those words in both languages so that can see them and create that relationship. You would obviously do your lesson in English but since they have been primed with the vocabulary beforehand when they see it in the notebook in their native language they will more easily make that connection. Good luck
    lardprao likes this.
  4. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Well, Unconventional33, we could argue about what is (and what is not) "authentic bilingual education", just as we can discuss ad nauseam what we mean by calling a school "international". If your students are going to be doing their IGCSEs in a few years' time, then of course you should be focusing on improving their English language skills. If they are going to be doing all (or nearly all) of their exams in Mandarin, then maybe the standard of their English is not quite so important. Most Chinese parents I met had a very pragmatic approach to these things.

    Yes, priming your students beforehand with the vocabulary they will need is a good idea, on the whole, as it will certainly save some time. Perhaps it would also be a good idea to decide whether or not to use "American" English or "British" English. Skipping from one to the other every five minutes is not going to help anyone. Are your students going to be studying "math" or Mathematics, iago88?
    Unconventional33 likes this.
  5. lardprao

    lardprao New commenter

    Unconventional33 likes this.
  6. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Extra absolutely.

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