Good CLIL Hunting

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Bilingual maths - not a problem?

Why go overseas for a CLIl training course? Melanie Butler explains

There is no mystery about why an increasing number of state school systems across Europe are adopting CLIL: it works, as the Spanish study we describe on the opposite page has shown.

The mystery is why so few local private language schools have adopted it. There are one or two honourable exceptions: the St James Language Centres in Seville, Spain adopted it as a method for younger learners at least a decade ago; while in China, the Language chain offers English through CLIL in Maths, Science, Music and Art.

In general, local language schools have stuck with the knitting: general English courses taught by native speakers leading to international tests offered by boards such as Cambridge, Trinity or People Cert. And, outside the summer schools where CLIL is beginning to blossom, the same is generally true for private language schools in the English-speaking world.

So, here’s another mystery. Why do so many CLIL teachers travel to private language schools in English-speaking countries every summer to do CLIL training?

The short answer is, it is to improve both their language levels and their teaching methodology. To be more precise, they need to improve the English needed to teach their subject in the classroom, because the evidence is that unless teachers are at least B2 in that subset of language, their students will learn very little.

And, of course, since they are teaching both an academic subject and a language, they need to find out how to include language teaching methods into their classroom practice.

So, where should these teachers head to and what kind of language school should they look for?

One obvious starting point is the language training giants and these are mostly to be found in the UK. Perhaps the biggest name worldwide is International House. Known to its friends as IH, this group of affiliated schools pioneered the use of the short, handson teacher training course and adapted it over the years for many different teaching situations, including CLIL; both IH Newcastle and IH London offer CLIL methodology courses.

Of course, the other big training names also offer CLIL methodology courses, including Bell, Pilgrims and the fastest growing newcomer, British Study Centres. But in CLIL specialists, the name that stands out is NILE Norwich, whose tradition of hiring expert trainers from across the world to teach on their summer courses has meant that they have been at the cutting edge of CLIL development since the beginning.

IH, Bell and NILE have another thing in common: they are up in the top twenty in the EL Gazette rankings, based on the scores they received on their British Council inspections.

“Unless teachers are at least B2 in that subset of language, their students 
will learn very little.”

Scoring high in British Council inspections is another area to look at for CLIL courses. High scorers include top-ranking schools like Lake School of English, which employs CLIL material-writers to teach on its teacher training courses; Liverpool School of English, one of our top year-round schools for young learners; and one of our top-ranking Further Education centres, Hilderstone College, which has been running CLIL and other overseas teachers’ courses for more than 40 years.

In fact, three out of the six schools who achieved a perfect score on inspection have long-running CLIL courses, including ELC Brighton, LSI Portsmouth and Wimbledon School of English, whose own Young Learners summer programme is an EL Gazette Centre of Excellence.

There must also be equally good schools in other countries but since their inspection reports are not published, we have no objective way of identifying them.

But there is another kind of provider which is common across Ireland and the UK – the specialist trainers – schools which offer a wide range of training courses specifically for non-native teachers.

These include schools which mostly concentrate on training, such as IPC in Exeter and ADC, now in both London and Dublin. Then there are those which offer a broad range of training programmes, as well as year-round student courses. These include schools like Cork English Centre and Alpha College in Ireland, ETI in Malta and Richard Language college in Bournemouth, which also arranges attachments in UK state schools.

The growth in CLIL courses in Malta seems an obvious next step. CLIL programmes are essentially bilingual, using two languages in the same classroom, so why not run the programmes in bilingual countries?

We are looking forward to the advent of CLIL training in Cyprus, a bilingual country where the use of CLIL methodology is common in schools. And how about CLIL courses in the UK’s only bilingual bastion – Wales, where, as the saying goes, “Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb gallon” (A nation without a language, is a nation without a heart).

Image courtesy of PIXABAY