"Bilingual pupils do better in exams, report finds" (UK)
- FYI (fwd from MultiEd-L)... DZO
Bilingual pupils do better in exams, report finds
By Richard Garner, Education Editor
31 October 2006
Bilingual children are far more likely to get top-grade passes in
exams in all subjects, a report has found.
A study of Portuguese children at secondary schools in London showed
that those who were encouraged to continue studying their native
language were five times as likely to achieve five top grade A* to C
grade passes at GCSE.
The study also found that 11-year-olds in Hackney who speak more than
one language at home were outperforming pupils who only speak English,
even in reading, in their national curriculum tests.
The report, Positively Plurilingual, is published today by Cilt, the
national centre for languages, to coincide with a drive to encourage
the take-up of community languages.
In an introduction to the report, Sir Trevor McDonald - who led a
major inquiry into the teaching of languages in schools and is now
Cilt's patron - says too many schools miss out on the opportunity to
ensure bilingual pupils develop their skills in languages other than
English. "Rather than thinking in terms of an 'English-only' culture,
we should be promoting 'English-plus'," he says. "We know that
children are capable of acquiring more than one language and that
doing so brings a range of educational benefits, including cognitive
advantages, enhanced communication skills and an openness to different
The report also cites research by Ellen Bailystock of York University
in Canada, which showed that bilingual people were better at
multi-tasking than those who only speak one language. This is because
they regularly exercise the part of the brain known as the pre-frontal
cortex which reinforces attention span.
The report says that more than one in eight primary school pupils in
the UK - about 850,000 children - speak a language other than English
"People who already speak more than one language find it easier to
learn new languages than monolinguals," it adds.
It gives several examples of schools that take advantage of the ethnic
diversity of their children - including Newbury Park primary school in
Redbridge, east London, which adopts a different "language of the
month" so its pupils get a grounding in all of the 44 languages spoken
at the school.
Peterborough now offers classes in Italian, Urdu and Punjabi in its
primary schools. "The linguistic map of the UK is changing," concludes
the report. "The number of languages in use is growing and diversity
is spreading to parts of the country where previously few languages
other than English were spoken."
Dorset County Council, for instance, has teamed up with Tower Hamlets
in east London - where 60 per cent of pupils are of Bangladeshi origin
- to provide distance learning for Bengali speakers. Cumbria offers
Saturday classes in Chinese and Bengali.
More than 200 representatives of schools and local education
authorities will gather at the Polish embassy this morning to promote
the teaching of Polish, in a meeting timed to coincide with the launch
of the report. Children of Polish origin are one of the fastest
growing ethnic minority groups in UK state schools.
Today's drive comes in the wake of the decision by Alan Johnson, the
Education Secretary, to set up an inquiry into the teaching of
languages in schools - following the disastrous slump in take-up of
the subject at GCSE and A-level when compulsory language lessons after
the age of 14 were scrapped. It is to be headed by Lord Dearing, the
former chairman of the Post Office, and is expected to make its
interim report in December.