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‘Bilingual programmes may negatively affect academic results’

These students and teachers are making an additional effort because they have to teach and learn the subjects in a language that is not theirs

By: PTI | London |
September 27, 2016 8:23:17 pm

Bilingual educational programmes -practised in countries such as India – for subjects taught in English may have a negative effect on the level of competence and knowledge in students, a new study has claimed.

Bilingual education programmes, in which a substantial part of the teaching is done in a language different from the mother tongue and from the language of the students’ surroundings, have been fully established for years in countries such as India, Spain and the US, researchers said.

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In order to analyse the effects of these programmes, researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in Spain evaluated the programme that the Autonomous Community of Madrid introduced in a group of public primary schools in 2004.

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“We have found a negative effect on the level of competence and knowledge displayed by the students who have followed this bilingual programme in those subjects that were taught in English,” said Jesus Carro, one of the researchers from the Department of Mathematics.

“These students and teachers are making an additional effort because they have to teach and learn the subjects in a language that is not theirs,” Carro said.

“They have to spend more time and make a greater effort to learn English, which can affect their learning of the specific material taught in subjects such as Science, History and Geography,” the researchers said.

Another consideration is that these students take the official exams in Spanish, given that the same test is administered to all the students.

This negative result is more pronounced in those students whose parents have a lower level of education, while the difference is hardly noticeable in students whose parents have a higher level of studies, researchers said.

“We can establish a number of hypotheses with the regard to the reasons behind this, such as that they receive more help at home, they have greater resources, they are more exposed to situations where other languages are used or that are linguistically richer,” Carro said.

“Because the negative effect is so localised in a specific group of students, it would be easy to establish a tutoring programme to solve the problem,” he said.

Carro noted that none of the students in the bilingual programme obtain worse results in the area of reading comprehension in Spanish.

This evaluation only refers to the bilingual programme that has been carried out in public schools, he said.

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