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In for the Clil

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A snapshot survey reveals teacher training providers in the UK and Ireland are benefiting from a growing number ofcountries jumping on the Clil bandwagon.

When the French need to invent a name for something, you know it’s a success. Content and language integrated learning, commonly known as Clil – or Emile by the French – has been taking European primary and secondary schools by storm. Many countries now require secondary schools to teach some subjects in a foreign language (the most common is English) and similar projects are also run at primary level.

The methodology is also one of the most debated policies in education. There are those who see it as the solution to all language learning problems. But there are others who doubt it is effective for teaching the actual subject content.

The debate can become political at times, with language purists getting involved in defence of mother-tongue education and politicians accusing bilingual schools of being discriminatory.

Where do teachers stand? Some have stronger ideas than others, but most teachers we have spoken to over the years prefer to concentrate on the practical aspect of the issue: training, or lack thereof.

Many teachers across Europe have taken advantage of Erasmus plus funding for their teacher training abroad, especially for language learning and Clil. We surveyed some teacher-training providers in the UK and Ireland to identify current trends and future areas of growth.

The general situation seems positive. Of the fourteen respondents, eight reported that demand for Clil teacher-training courses had increased over the past three years, five said it had stayed about the same, and only one highlighted a decrease.

What about Brexit? That doesn’t seem to have had a significant effect yet – eleven providers said that enrolments were still about the same, two reported a decrease and one UK provider, Oxford International Study Centre, said numbers had actually gone up. Bell put its trust in the popularity of English-medium education: ‘Education ministries and local education authorities all over the world continue to implement [such] policies,’ it said.

In line with education policies abroad, in which Clil is compulsory in many secondary schools, the most common courses offered are Clil for secondary and primary school teachers, followed by vocational and university. Providers report that the most popular level is secondary, but the fastest growing is Clil for primary school. Again, this follows trends such as the ones observable in Spain and Italy, where bilingual and Clil courses are being piloted at primary level.

In terms of subject areas, science is the most popular, followed by maths and geography. Science and geography are the fastest growing, according to the majority of providers. But the Irish Active Centres for English Training (ACET) said instead that its fastest-growing subject was physical education. For other providers it was difficult to pinpoint a specific subject as the most popular, partly because some offer history and geography as ‘humanities’. ‘Primary school teachers,’ IH Newcastle added, ‘tend to have a mix of subjects.’

Where are teachers coming from? When we last did this survey about three years ago, the scene was dominated by Spain and Italy. Today, to no one’s surprise, the scene is still dominated by Spain and Italy, but the picture is more diversified. Poland and Germany, for example, have been reported in the top three by six providers. Poland is also the fastest-growing source market for these courses, according to our survey – followed, you guessed it, by Spain and Italy.

More nationalities are reported in the top three: France, according to four providers, then the Netherlands and the Czech Republic for two. Other markets mentioned by our respondents were Colombia, Austria, Finland, Switzerland,Turkey and Slovakia, which was mentioned as the fastest-growing country by Pilgrims.

And how about the future? Optimism and initiative seem to abound. Some providers, such as British Study Centres Oxford, would like to include more technology in their courses or incorporate online elements. Language Link, among others, is thinking of taking Clil courses overseas. British Study Centres London Hampstead pointed out that, with more Esol speakers in the UK, there will be a greater need for A-level, vocational and university teachers who might need assistance in the field.

However, as ADC College and Richard Language College remarked, the future is still uncertain. For the UK, it all depends on whether the country will remain part of the Erasmus plus scheme after Brexit.

The membership of Erasmus plus is crucial to this and other scholarship programmes, such as the Pon, that bring students to the UK. It is definitely in the interests of the ELT sector for the UK to remain part of the scheme.

Training providers who responded to our survey included ACET, ADC College, Bell, British Study Centres Brighton, British Study Centres London Hampstead, British Study Centres Oxford, Globe English Centre, International House Newcastle, Language Link, Lake School of English, NILE, Oxford International Study Centre, Pilgrims and Richard Language College.