Bilingual Education

Jarrod Brauer, Principal academia Bilingual School Basel 20.09.2019

The rise of bilingual education in world-wide schooling systems in the last 20 years has been immense.

With monolinguals gradually becoming the exception within the world’s population, this development is perfectly normal.

The rise of bilingual education in world-wide schooling systems in the last 20 years has been immense.

The goals of the European Union in this regard are even more ambitious:

One of the EU’s founding principles is to enable every EU citizen to communicate in 2 languages other than their mother tongue.

Today, curriculum design, best teaching practices and evolving language learning methods have all moulded bilingual classrooms.

There are four factors critical to a child’s educational journey towards bilingualism.
(See e.g. Flege et al. 1999, Piske et al. 2001, Piske 2013a, b.)

These include:

a) as early as possible start

b) continuous and intensive contact with the foreign language

c) frequent use of the foreign language in diverse and relevant contexts

d) authentic and rich input in the foreign language through teachers with a high level of linguistic competence

All four points are of great importance,

but the latter two require more reflection in a modern classroom setting, as they resonate clearly with the philosophy of immersion.

Immersion programmes stand out as being regarded as the best way to learn an additional language, based on empirical evidence.
(See Wesche 2002, p. 362, Burmeister & Daniel 2002, Kersten 2009.)

The immersion philosophy encompasses the diverse, authentic input from native or native-like teachers enjoyed by students in a high-quality bilingual classroom.

All four points are of great importance,

At academia International School Bilingual, a consistent approach to immersive education is embedded in our routine operation.

Our instruction is split evenly into half German and half English weeks with respective native speaker class teachers.

These class teachers working together as a team is paramount to the successful delivery of our curriculum.

All subjects are taught progressively in a balanced way by both teachers through both languages, much like the traditional school model.

The relatively strict separation of languages during the course of the week supports the development of linguistic boundaries, which makes it easier to learn a foreign language.

Taking things one step further, a lot of effort has been made at academia International School Bilingual in the last two years to strengthen the alignment between class teachers.

An example of this are our primary school maths text and workbooks.
After a year of translating and fine tuning, we started to teach with our brand new bilingual maths books in August 2018.


Maths World 1 for cycle 1 (Foundation Years to Grade 2) published by Schulverlag plus AG is a wonderful addition to help students and teachers develop a clearer continuity in our numeracy programme.

The first steps for a continuation in cycle 2 (Grades 3 and 4) were taken in August 2019.
Based on the Swiss curriculum, this numeracy programme is the most up-to-date publication for maths in Switzerland, while the English version is exclusive for academia schools.

The direction it has added to our maths instruction has been invaluable. Looking at the exact same layout, style and progression in both German and English is immensely helpful for staff to deliver a clear and continuous methodology to, and for, our students.

Taking things one step further, a lot of effort has been made at academia International School Bilingual in the last two years to strengthen the alignment between class teachers.

Nowadays it is empirically proven that bilingual students match or surpass the abilities of their monolingual counterparts.

It has been confirmed that numeracy skills also benefit from this form of instruction.

No wonder that the citation “Bilingual Education is the only way to educate children in the 21 century” (Garcia 2011) is quoted so often by researchers.

Suggestions for further reading

Elsner, D. & Keßler, J.-U. (eds.) (2013), Bilingual Education in Primary School. Aspects of Immersion, CLIL, and Bilingual Modules.
Tübingen.

Massler, U. & Burmeister, P. (eds.) (2010). CLIL und Immersion. Fremdsprachlicher Sachfachunterricht in der Grundschule.
Braunschweig: Westermann.

Rüschoff, B., Sudhoff, J. & Wolff, D. (eds.) (2015). CLIL Revisited: Eine kritische Analyse zum gegenwärtigen Stand des bilingualen Sachfachunterrichts.
Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Steinlen, A.K. & Piske, T. Academic achievement of children with and without migration backgrounds in an immersion primary school: A pilot study. ZAA Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik.
A Quarterly of Language, Literature and Culture 61.3, 215-244.

Steinlen, A.K. & Piske, T. (eds.) (2016). Bilinguale Programme in Kindertageseinrichtungen: Umsetzungsbeispiele und Forschungsergebnisse.
Tübingen: Narr Verlag.

Suggestions for further reading
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