Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bilingual Schoolchildren - Footnote

In the last post, a teacher was quoted as saying, "'Bilingualism isn't a learning difficulty."

Here's what the UK legislation has to say about it:
"A child should not be regarded as having a learning difficulty because the language or form of language of the home is different from the language in which he or she is or will be taught." (The Education Act, 1993, section 156)
It must be rare to have this attitude enshrined in law. A local education authority, the Hampshire County Council, adds:
"Lack of English should not be equated with lack of knowledge, skill or understanding. Bilingual learners are no more likely to have special educational needs (SEN) than any other pupil.
"Bilingual learners acquire social, conversational English quickly, so it is important that teachers are not misled by pupils' surface fluency. Some pupils, however, take a long time before they feel confident enough to participate actively in classroom activities and use the English they have learned. A 'silent period' is natural and should not be construed as the child having learning difficulties. Lack of progress may be due to the abstract nature of tasks rather than underlying learning difficulties."
The HCC also mentions social and cultural factors:
  • new arrivals may be going through the 'silent period' whilst they are becoming accustomed to the language and to a new school.
  • they may be adjusting to a more informal system of education, having come from an educational system which relied heavily upon rote learning.
  • they may be slower at understanding lessons and tasks because they are having to translate everything into their first language. They may not have enough time to record the homework which has been set or to complete tasks.
  • they may feel insecure without the support of their friends.
  • the subject contents may be very different, especially in History and English. Some subjects may be completely new.
Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS). Special Education Needs (SEN). Hantsweb, 2011. Click here.

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