Content and Language Integrated Learning: The Basque Country
Keith Kelly, UK/Bulgaria
Keith Kelly is a freelance education consultant based in Bulgaria. He has an undergraduate degree in Modern Languages and a PGCE in French, Russian and German from Bristol University. He then took a Masters degree in English Language Education at Manchester University. He is an experienced teacher and teacher trainer, a team member of Science Across the World, and an Associate Tutor for the Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE). Keith is also a founder and coordinator of the Forum for Across the Curriculum Teaching (FACT). From 1999-2003 Keith was coordinator of the English Across the Curriculum project for the British Council in Bulgaria where he worked in and with bilingual schools around Bulgaria and the region. Keith, along with John Clegg, is co-author of the CLIL MA Module for NILE and Leeds Metropolitan University. He has been working as a freelance education consultant since August 2003 on education projects mainly focusing on the teaching of content through the medium of a foreign language. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: factworld.info/people/people.htm
Basque CLIL Training
Basque CLIL materials
Official recognition for CLIL
CLIL teacher confidence
Testing and assessment in Basque CLIL
What the future may hold
I have been involved with the Basque multilingual project as a trainer and consultant on a number of occasions and it was on this basis that I was asked to give a talk on the state of the art of Basque CLIL in comparison to other contexts around the world at an anniversary ELT conference organised by the British Council in Bilbao, May 2006.
My talk focused on the areas of 'contexts', 'integrating content and languages', 'training', 'materials', 'recognition', 'teacher confidence', 'testing', a broad range of issues to do with CLIL and where the Basque project performs very well.
There are many contexts where CLIL is being carried out around the world. It is interesting to consider what makes the Basque project so successful in comparison to these other contexts. Basque Government support and recognition of the multilingual work is beyond question. In fact, the BHINEBI-INEBI initiative is a government one with high investment over the long term which has been producing an online curriculum written in English, Basque and Spanish and which has gone through the whole of the primary years and is now in its third year of Secondary (www.gipuztik.net/ingelesa).
The network has a team of some 20 writers and trainers who visit schools every two weeks to present the latest materials all over the Basque Country. The materials are written by the team and are written specifically with Basque children in mind. Until now the project has focused on primary curriculum materials, and more recently secondary English lessons. It is interesting to note that the programme now has some 18 schools which offer whole content teaching through the medium of a foreign language and there are moves afoot to offer numerous foreign languages, not just English. So far, training in the project is not university-based and tends to be school based and in-service. There is no pre-service CLIL teacher preparation.
The following table offers a comparative glance at CLIL contexts around the world. Notice that the end product is still mother-tongue school leaving exams in all contexts. This is the case even in contexts where there is high investment and high recognition from government and institutions.
Table 1: Global CLIL Comparison
||Translated + specific
||Bottom-up + top-down
||Content + ELT
||Lack of trainers, great regional differences
||Content + ELT + Buddies
||Adapted, some specific ELT CLIL
||Bottom-up + some top-down
||Regional, EU funds for training
||Low - medium
||Combined content and subject
||Some specific content textbooks
||Some but little integration
||Low - medium
||Content + ELT + Buddies
||One-off trainings, bottom-up
||Some specific, adapted
||One-off publisher training
||Annual conference, school visit
||ELT + Some content
||Team of trainers + writers, Regular
CLIL is nothing new in its advocacy of good study skills, how it deals with new terminology and its language awareness focus. The Basque project offers much practice for learners in presentation work. The materials present a variety of activities for teachers in dealing with content specific vocabulary: presenting new words, organising words, activating words, consolidating words, recycling words. The materials also exhibit a mature respect for language awareness activities which bear little resemblance to traditional grammar presentation in FL courses. The visitor to the site can find language focus sections which ask the learner to consider structure for its purpose in the content.
As for CLIL 'new' ideas, central to content and language integration is the 'guidance' for processing content language through listening and reading and 'support' for the production of content language through speaking and writing. The 'instruments' needed for this guidance and support is at the heart of teacher preparation. Since there are few of these instrument in the published content materials, teachers need the skills to be able to write their own. The BHINEBI materials do offer these instruments to a large extent. There are frames for listening and reading and there is language support for speaking and writing as well as sheets of language support phrases to enable learners to function in the language without too much difficulty and so concentrate on the content, which is exactly the point.
It is possible to find examples of training programmes around the world like those in Germany which offer preparation in two subjects (like History and ELT) but in parallel rather than integrated in methodology. We can see training which comes from publishing houses as a means of promoting their course books and training which offers a methodology, of course, based on these textbooks themselves.
Comenius funds are available to teachers to attend CLIL training programmes around Europe. One example is the Language Across the Curriculum course offered at the Norwich Institute for Language Education (www.nile-elt.com). The great advantage of such courses is that they tend to be multinational and this means that participants can get first hand experience of what is going on in CLIL from all over Europe and beyond.
Training needs to be integrated. There are some contexts where teachers need pure language input, but generally speaking where teachers have moved to a certain stage of their own foreign language development, they need to be trained in delivering the subject in a way which respects the (language) demands of the subject according to the (language) needs of the learners. So far, this is very rare in teacher education anywhere. Even in this Basque project, the training is materials led. The positive aspect of this training is that the materials are very good, but I am sure that the colleagues would be the first to admit that the training has some way to go to be able to claim to prepare teachers to deliver CLIL lessons. What is needed is an investment in bringing these trainers and writers together with other teacher trainers from pre-service education and also other in-service providers, and perhaps in collaboration with other trainers and writers from the region and other countries to share good practice, to write standards, to standardise training materials and to begin to implement this training in pre-service training institutions.
My own feeling is that materials writing for teachers should be a part and parcel of the training programme for CLIL. So much of the work of a CLIL teacher is materials writing or adapting because of the lack of appropriate published materials. Materials writing focuses the attention of teachers clearly on language demands and on the provision of an interface between the learner and the subject which is central to CLIL.
Some contexts are lucky to have locally published CLIL materials written with specific local curriculum demands in mind and bearing in mind local learners' needs. To a greater or lesser extent (and with varying degrees of success) this is the case in Germany, Spain/Mexico, Bulgaria, Malaysia and a number of other contexts. Some contexts translate from MT texts as in China and Bulgaria. A lot of countries import British or other textbooks. In most contexts teachers still need to adapt these materials to suit learner needs. Supplementing, adapting and DIY materials are predominant in most contexts being discussed here except for Malaysia and of course the Basque project. It is time that writers received training for doing what they are doing. CLIL writer training should bring together expertise from diverse contexts where possible to share good standards, models, tasks and descriptors for materials evaluation. This training should also be in collaboration with textbook publishers since they are in the trade of producing course books and it is in their and the CLIL profession's interests that they are on board from the very beginning.
Until this happens even very good projects like the Basque one will still be random, one-off initiatives which in the long run will not have a long shelf life.
The governmental support and investment in the Basque multilingual project is central to its success. Clearly, bottom-up initiatives without recognition from the 'institution' cannot hope to develop beyond the random and 'one-off' no matter how high a quality of material or method they offer. Having said that, it is also true that there needs to be a balance between the weight of the institution and the dynamism of classroom practice. The two need to feed into each other and it is heartening that the Basque government is able to listen to teachers, to their needs as well as interests.
The success of a project, whether or not it achieves 'acceptability' in the system, whether or not we give it the 'rubber stamp' of authority will largely depend on how well documented the project is as well as how much access we have to this documentation. In any educational initiative the bottom line is results. The learners will need to be assessed and how well they do will in part determine the future of the project. The learners for their part will demand recognition for their work in the form of certification of some kind. All of the above we might label 'institutionalisation' of CLIL. Until we can identify these characteristics, our CLIL initiatives will only partly be given the stamp of approval and the standards upon which we develop the project for the future will risk being incomplete.
Lastly, recognition also comes from communication among the teaching community in any project. It is here perhaps that we can see a major strength of the Basque project. The regular meetings between the trainers/writers and teachers ensures transparency within the project, understanding, and the possibility for consensus.
The above is related to teacher confidence. Teachers feel happier in a group, more confident if they can share their thoughts with their peers, if they can hear others talking about their work, successes and failures. Teachers need the opportunity to share what they do, to share their experiences in a non-threatening environment. In this way, they can support each other in their work and feel that they belong to a community of peers both within their school and within the project as a whole. As this develops, method- and materials-based action research will grow with a teacher's confidence and teachers can be encouraged to observe each other and talk about teaching. Additionally, colleagues need opportunities to shout about what they do, to advertise their work and achievements.
One aspect of confidence surely is the level of teacher foreign language competence, or, for that matter, the level of content confidence a language teacher has. There needs to be opportunities for language and content development for those who need it.
The Basque project is extremely ambitious in its presentation of test and assessment instruments for CLIL. The observation sheets for teachers are large, detailed and potentially very hard work to fill in for those who are not experienced in using them and already under pressure from diversity of areas around teaching. It is not intended that teachers fill in all of the details for all of the children all of the time, but that they make decisions about who, what and when. Variety of data collection is very important as we know in assessing our learners. The project is also ambitious in its range of instruments for data collection. There are peer assessment instruments which are innovative and cutting-edge.
Some contexts import external examinations like the International Baccalaureate, or the IGCSE and these exams are very popular in the private schools circuits around the world but there has yet to be devised and published a test instrument which focuses on both language and content. CLIL, as much if not more than other contexts, needs to have instruments for formative and accumulative assessment in CLIL. The scope of the task of CLIL is such that learners are being done a disservice if they are not offered these instruments in their assessment.
It needs to be noted that for all the talk about integrating language and content, in contexts where the content classroom is the place where CLIL is being introduced, it will no doubt be the content curriculum which dictates the parameters for assessment. Children who do Chemistry in English need to pass the Chemistry exam despite having done it in English. If the programme of study of Chemistry in English is not adequate for getting the learner through the Chemistry exam, then it is not acceptable.
In some contexts, such as Innsbruck, Austria, learners are now being given the option of being examined through the medium of English in their school leaving examinations and then having this recorded in their graduation diplomas. This is clearly a desirable offer to the young people of Austria and perhaps will become the norm in Europe in the future facilitating mobility in the workplace and for study.
The future will bring in more content teachers working through the medium of a foreign language. The greater the level of language achievement in the learners the more they will demand to be doing more with their language. Traditional language education will not be able to cope with this demand and the step to offering the curriculum in a foreign language is a logical yet challenging one many school directors are already beginning to take. Networking for these colleagues in such a dynamic context is essential through organisations like the FACTWorld network (www.yahogroups.com/factworld - www.factworld.info) and the ELTeCS list of over 20000 teachers around the world (www.britishcouncil.org/eltecs) as well as other lists and groups.
The Basque trilingual project seems to have covered most if not all of the ingredients for success. The growth of the project and the quality of the materials is impressive. It will be interesting to see where the project goes on in terms of teacher development, trainer training, and writer training in the future as well as how CLIL pre-service teacher training is eventually implemented.
Please check the Secondary Teaching course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the CLIL-Teaching Other Subject Through English course at Pilgrims website.