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"Bilingual pupils do better in exams, report finds" (UK)

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  • Don Osborn
    FYI (fwd from MultiEd-L)... DZO The Independent Bilingual pupils do better in exams, report finds By Richard Garner, Education Editor 31 October 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2006
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      FYI (fwd from MultiEd-L)... DZO

      The Independent
      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
      cultural perspectives."

      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
      at home.

      "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.
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