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Bilingual and Multilingual Teaching

Bilingual and Multilingual Education

When children are taught in the language they are learning as an additional language, they are denied the educational right to access knowledge and skills in a language they understand, at age-appropriate levels. The (Australian) Northern Territory's Bilingual Education Program provided access and equity through home language and English-additional-language education from 1973 to 2010.  

As bilingual programs are no longer actively supported through a systemic approach, I hope to provide some support and guidance for Bilingual Schools through resources and information on this site. These ideas, resources, combined knowledge and experience represent the collective knowledge of many people who worked in the Bilingual Education Program. Where relevant, appropriate and possible, copyright has been acknowledged.

Success in Bilingual-with-Biliteracy Programs

It's all about the model......schools catering for bilingual and multilingual students through a Bilingual-with-Biliteracy Program have great intentions and implement some sound instruction using more than one language.

However, the successful schools adhere to a model of delivery that suits the learner group. School and systemic policy strengthens the sustainability of any chosen model. Where the model followed, along with effective pedagogy, irrespective of teacher turnover and leadership change, the student outcomes speak for themselves.

For minority language speaking students from oral cultures, the most successful model, as researched internationally, is one that follows a 'Staircase' shape.

In very isolated, remote Indigenous  contexts, children arrive at school speaking one or two language/s that are not English. Hopefully they walk into a classroom where two teachers work together: one a speaker of the children's language/s and another a speaker of Standard Australian English OR into a classroom with a competent bilingual/multilingual speaker.

In the filedocxModel A represents all such schools that teach literacy in English but use both English and the children's language (the latter on an informal basis) in the teaching process. Children are instructed in English all day with some discipline, explanation, answers provided in the children's language.

Model B represents a staircase view of Bilingual Education where initial literacy is taught in the children's language while Oral English is taught and where Oracy and Literacy in children's language is used to teach across the curriculum. Around Year 4 learning through English Literacy is introduced while learning in and through community language continues. Children are now literate in their own language at age-grade level and should have a sufficient level of Oral English as taught through the previous years to support reading and writing in English. The literacy skills themselves are transferred without having to teach literacy again.

Model C represents a 50/50 mode of delivery through two languages. This suits learners from bilingual homes where they have been reared bilingually and have sufficient oral language across both languages to learn through either language and to learn literacy in both languages simultaneously.

As Cummins' work has proven, it takes between 7-10 years to learn an additional language for Cognitive Academic Language purposes. Successful Bilingual-with Biliteracy Schools give these students time to learn English whilst continuuing to develop cognitively and in literacy skills using the language they speak.

pptThis presentation compares Bilingual-with-Biliteracy (Model B) schools with Blingual Schools (Model A). The comparison at Year 3 compared to the comparison at Years 5 and 7 is evidence of Cummins' research.

In the words of one Principal in a remote Indigenous School in the NT "Bilingual Education is not just an hour a week learning Language and Culture". 


How did a new pedagogy influence the quality of team teaching practices?

Schools using Walking Talking Texts as the pedagogy and overall planning tool for the whole-of-school Languages' teaching have structures and policies in place to ensure that  valid, rigorous, and productive teaching and learning takes place.

These structures include a school policy outling the planning, teaching and assessing processes. Policy and process guidelines for collaborative planning and team teaching. The latter is crucial in cross-cultural and multilingual contexts where the students' languages are incorporated into the teaching learning programs. 

docThis article describes how one Walking Talking Texts' Indigenous school in the north of Australia met the criteria to win a National Literacy Award for the learning progress demonstrated. This school used the methodology for the teaching of and through both home language and English.