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EL European Union: Clil – The Italian Model

Claudia Civinini talks to the British Council’s Maria Norton about Clil and bilingual programmes in the Italian school system

British Council Italy is collaborating with the Ministry of Education to support the implementation of Clil and bilingual programmes in Italian schools. Maria Norton, the regional business development manager at British Council Italy, believes that communication is a key factor.

‘Clil benefits greatly from a communication strategy that engages audiences, particularly school heads, subject and language teachers, and parents of pupils,’ she says. ‘It is important to communicate widely to bust myths too.’

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In the picture, Maria Norton, Regional Business Development Manager British Council Italy, at a conference in Siena.

Norton explained that ‘the implementation of the Clil approach in Italy did initially stipulate a CEFR C1 level of language competence. In summer 2014 the government lowered this to B2, and this was welcomed. I believe that a teacher’s confidence and passion in conveying their subject can come across regardless of specific levels of language competence. A successful Clil lesson will have learners engaged in purposeful activity, with exchanges and interactions carried out in the vehicular language. In the case of Clil in Italy, 90 per cent of the time that language is English.’

What is the best age range to implement Clil? According to Norton, ‘Clil methodology can be applied to practically any school sector – what changes is the level of literacy assumed when starting out in primary school. The British Council provides consultancy for primary schools interested in developing a bilingual programme and there is a significant focus on developing literacy.’

And how does Clil impact on learning? ‘Implementing Clil methodology has been seen as a key lever in realising a number of the eight key competences for lifelong learning as recommended by the Council of Europe,’ Norton explained. ‘They can be considered interdependent with emphasis in each on critical thinking, creativity and problem solving. I therefore consider Clil as transformative, developing skills and competences in learners and teachers that outweigh those that would be gained from monolingual study. Clil has been found to be additive (one language supporting the other) rather than subtractive (one language working against the other).

Regarding the IBI/BEI project, Norton told the Gazette that ‘through the delivery of 25 per cent of the school curriculum in English, the pupils were able to reach A2 level of competence by their final year of primary school. This achievement puts them three years ahead of mainstream education targets set for foreign language competence.’

The project evaluation report also observed that pupils who participated in the programme demonstrated greater problem-solving skills, cognitive skills and confidence in self-expression compared to peers who followed a monolingual track. Such a remarkable achievement was possible thanks to a training programme that involved 62 teachers and ongoing mentoring and support.

Maria can be contacted via maria.norton@britishcouncil.org