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Assignment - CLIL

Assignment - CLIL









September 25, 2016

Assignment CLIL


In order to define a position that may help us answer this question, it is necessary to try to precise what CLIL stands for. Among the many definitions we believe that the most appropriate seems to be the one stated by David March (2002) which refers CONTENT AND LANGUAGE INTEGRATED LEARNING (CLIL) as a dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language. It means that a target language serves as a medium to teach the content of a specific subject.

Throughout the last 10 years of implementation in Europe, there is a lot to say about CLIL, based on the many examples that can illustrate this definition: CLIL has involved Malaysian children learning Mathematics and science in English. CLIL has been a means for Norwegian students to do drama in German, for Italian students to learn science in French, for Japanese students to learn geography in English and for Australians to learn Mathematics in Chinese. The combination of languages and subjects seem to be limitless.

As time is passing by, CLIL appears to be gaining strengths that make us wonder if we are living the boom of a new method or approach that will “solve” our long-lasting “how” to teach and learn a language the best way.

We have come out with many ideas from the material we have read so far, and our experience and previous knowledge lead us to choose a side regarding CLIL as the approach for the future.

When getting informed about the process for implementing CLIL in European countries such as England and Spain, we ought to analyze some of the advantages and disadvantages

Assignment CLIL

that its application could have in the everyday teaching of our Latin American context, before defending or refuting the thesis that CLIL is or not the approach for the future.

Let us start by saying that CLIL has been introduced as a complete approach, which involves content and language, which would lead to an improvement in the bilingual education. But at the same time, it is pertinent to reflect on what is the setting necessary for implementing this method/approach, what kind of teachers are needed, what characteristics should learners have, what kind of materials are necessary for a successful process and what socio political and cultural conditions are required.

We are going to analyze the two sides of CLIL, the positive and negative aspects because CLIL supporters never seem to get tired of telling about the benefits of CLIL. However, it is wise to deepen on the problems CLIL pioneers have faced documented when developing their projects and to learn how to deal with them if we plan to customize its philosophical concepts. CLIL creates long-term expectations, and since our Latin American scenarios are culturally different, a smart first step is to analyze our own short and long-term capacity against some of the challenges others have faced with CLIL.

Some researchers say that students studying in a second language cannot possibly learn the same amount of content as students studying in their first language; some people are even convinced that CLIL students will fall behind their peers academically and that their native-language skills will suffer. However, far from interfering with content acquisition, CLIL can actually facilitate it. Academic results reflecting testing in a wide variety of subjects show that students generally achieve the same or better results when studying in a second language. However, it is honest to recognize that learners’ native-language suffer. Just as a matter of example we mention here the case a bilingual school coordinator (from Cali), shared with one of us about the 11 th graders of the bilingual school where she works. Those students have to take a national test when they finish high school. The conflict they face


Assignment CLIL

when taking the test, which is conducted in Spanish, is that they lack vocabulary and struggle to understand instructions, to do mathematical operations and to express ideas

in their mother tongue. Because of that, the school average of the test results is not as high as expected and some students and parents get discouraged. These students and the school authorities are suffering because children receive their education in English since pre-school and the purpose of such an effort is to see them succeed when they finish high school.

Truth is that CLIL students develop metalinguistic awareness. This means that they are better able to compare languages and be more precise in their word choice and in passing on the content of their message. They learn to check whether the listener accurately received their message. They also learn to draw out meaning from context. They become more skilled at using languages in general, but in the case of the example given above, the reality is different: school administrators had to made changes in the curriculum. One of the changes has been to reduce the number of subjects taught in English in the last two grades and increase the number of subjects given in Spanish; they balance them in 50% / 50%.

Another misconception regarding CLIL is that it is suitable only for the brightest, most academically inclined students, but there are several countries that have established multilingualism as a nationally aim and where students undergo their education in several languages without problems. Research shows that average C-grade students do well in CLIL programs. They still have a C-grade average, but they learn to speak another language and gain many socio-cultural skills that will enrich their professional and personal lives.

Another problem faced when implementing this methodology is the shortage of CLIL teachers. Teacher training institutions in many Latin American countries do not yet specifically prepare teachers for CLIL. The number of individuals who speak a given CLIL language and have subject-area qualifications is limited. In addition, even if they have the prerequisite skills, not all teachers are prepared to focus on content and language goals.


Assignment CLIL

Therefore, the staffing issue does not refer only to finding suitable teachers, but to keeping them. Teachers need training and support for the program implementation.

Researchers and pioneers of CLIL promote it as an opportunity to bring subject teachers and language teachers together (to share knowledge, experience and expectations toward

their students’ learning process in the same way multidisciplinary projects take place in a

company). Nevertheless, that integration requires the teachers to receive training, in the same way monolingual schools set transition plans for moving from that modality to the bilingual one. Then, it would be a good choice to have a transition plan for introducing CLIL

methodology in Latin American schools in order to avoid misunderstanding among the members of the school community. The plan is an important tool that will allow all the members to reflect on the outcome expected after one or more years of implementation. Besides, it helps to raise awareness among teachers, students and parents about the expectations of the new methodology application.

Since teachers play the role of promoters in the implementation of the method, they do not need only the school support, through training. What they mostly need is the support of universities, by introducing changes in their curricula for graduating new professionals not just as language teachers, but also as specialist in a specific subject. That would be a guaranty for students, parents, school authorities that the CLIL project in the end will give the expected results: learners ready to express themselves properly when dealing with a defined subject orally or written. What happens in Latin American universities nowadays is that they continue graduating education professionals in separate curricula such as Biology, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Modern Languages (English, French or Spanish) and in those cases the target language (English in our case) is not a fundamental subject in the integral formation of the future professional. As read in our subject material (Chapter 3, section 3), one of the basic types of CLIL practice that tertiary institutions offer today is the one called “plurilingual degree course” that is just offering various subjects or module in a foreign language and students decide if taking them or not. If that is the beginning of a transition process in those institutions, there should be also options available for


Assignment CLIL

undergraduate students that are majoring in education. Yet, so far, that possibility is not part of innovations in university curricula.

Another way to integrate subject language teaching with language teaching could be offering undergraduate students of education subjects, the option to articulate their formation with a specific language; that is to say offering them dual-degrees with emphasis in languages. In that case, the new professional will be able to implement CLIL without facing much trouble.

An example to illustrate this possibility is evident in the tertiary institutions where one of us is working now: That University has the Early Childhood Education program for learners that want to graduate and go to teach in preschool and primary school of the private sector. Those undergraduate students have the privilege to study seven levels of English in their major, (64 hours per semester / 60 minutes each). With this scenario, it would be easy to offer these future professionals the option to complement their language learning and get a dual-degree. Once they get their degree, they could be potential CLIL teachers for any school and will contribute to enlighten and strengthen the language teacher status that in some schools is not the same of a subject teacher. That would be the beginning of a fruitful integration; to provide opportunities for local teachers to start working not as assistants for native speakers, as they do in the local market, but as direct homeroom subject teachers.

You, reader, may wonder why not taking the initiative or taking the risk to put this idea into practice. Simple because the people leading the undergraduate program do not see English as a tool to enrich the life of the future professionals, just because it implies changes in the curriculum and it is not easy to leave out of the comfort zone or just because the executives of this tertiary education institution have not foreseen the future of languages.

The situation commented above makes us think on the other problem stated as one of the constraints to implement the Content Integrated Language Learning methodology: CLIL taken as the Trojan horse in a country where political issues interfere in educational decisions made by the government. We all know that politicians sometimes influence educational policies for the convenience of their parties. It also happens in Latin American


Assignment CLIL

countries such as Colombia. In the intention to improve the English communicative competence of the professionals and scholars, the government is investing a lot of money to bring that language to public schools. In that sense, English is a core subject of the school curricula nowadays. English is the foreign language that required in schools. Because of that, teachers from primary and secondary school in the public sector are receiving training to learn and master the language with the intention that they improve their skills and performance in class, in the belief that if teachers improve their language skills, the students’ communicative competence in English will improve.

However, it is not an easy task. Besides, teachers get the training in new methodologies where CLIL has no space yet because the conditions in the schools remain the same. Some of the limitations teachers have to do their work in better conditions are the same they have had for many years: Some of them are: 1. Reduced number of schools to accommodate so many students; 2. No enough language teachers for doing a good job in pre-school, primary school and even secondary schools; 3. Little time allocated for classes. 4. Lack of material (visual aids, computers, among others.), 5. Very large classes. 6. Pressure to comply with the content defined in the school programs, etc. All of that make it difficult to advance in the implementation of new methodologies for teaching languages assisted not only through the teacher but also through the new technologies.

Another drawback that we have to consider regarding materials in CLIL is the shortage of materials. Teaching in CLIL requires more preparation time and greater co-operation among teachers. It takes a conscious effort to set content, language and learning skills goals for every lesson and to develop activities that involve a maximum number of students at a given time. Teachers often spend considerable time developing and/or adapting existing learning resources because finding appropriate materials is a particular challenge.

Most of the books for teaching language through subjects come from other countries and their high prices limit access only to high-class students who usually attend schools from the private sector. If you focus on the universities, the situation is quite similar because private universities provide better material and sources in their libraries for their students.


Assignment CLIL

To sum up, the CLIL approach aims to guide language processing and support language production in the same way as ELT by teaching strategies for reading and listening and structures and lexis for spoken or written language. What is different is that the language teacher is also the subject teacher, or that the subject teacher is also able to exploit opportunities for developing language skills. This is the essence of the CLIL teacher training issue.

As the approach or methodology of the new century, CLIL is gaining space around the world and as it has happened with other methods or approaches in history, it is reaching American countries. The boom of CLIL is just beginning around here and as it has taken more than a decade to become popular in Europe, maybe it will take another ten years from now to be spread in Latin America and for governments and school authorities to realize that the way of learning languages demands for a change. Of course, as other methods have come in and out leaving their threads and features imprinted in the teaching learning process, CLIL will remain among language researchers and teachers who are always looking for the best way to have our learners succeed.


Peter Mehisto, David Marsh & Maria Jesus Frigois (2012) Uncovering CLIL Content Language Integrated Learnig in Billingual and Multilingual Education




























Phillip Ball (Bachelor of Arts ( University of Lancaster) (2016) FINIBER Subject material: Content and Language Integrated Learning