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English a la Andaluz

December 19, 2008 – 9:24 am

In my near 15 years in Spain I’ve heard many complaints about how few Spaniards speak English. Therefore, before I dive into the latest news about our regional government’s attempts to raise the level of English instruction in state schools, I’d like to address this bit of criticism levied by visitors and expats alike…

Because the reality is, those of us who enjoy Andalucia so much will always be much better off focusing on our Spanish skills than pointing a finger at our Spanish neighbours. After all, as the old saying goes, every time you point a finger you have at least three pointing back at you (try it and you’ll see).

At any rate we now have 40,000 students in 518 state schools across the region participating in the recently established bilingual curriculum that is spreading to new centres all the time. This is good news for parents and children alike, and good news for business. Because after all, bilingualism and multilingualism is the key to future success in a global economy.

Recently a group of eight researchers from Seville’s Pablo de Olavide University spent a good six months studying our regional bilingual programme and found that – surprise, surprise – it’s actually working (i.e. our tax euros are being put to good use!) Parents indicate their children are indeed making progress, but best of all, an exam showed that state school students are making good progress.

There are still a few kinks in the system. Parents and teachers both complain about a lack of teacher qualification. Parents want better trained teachers and teachers want more training. Also, school directors took advantage of this study to point out that teachers need better treatment if schools are to retain quality workers over the long term and thus be able to create stability in their language programmes.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on the progress made in Andalucian schools. Education is always the basic, root key to development and the investments made today are sure to pay off tomorrow.

In the meantime, we foreigners living in the south of Spain have a multitude of opportunities to practice our Spanish. And it might be an interesting idea to create a programme where expats and Spanish school children teamed up for linguistic “intercambios” (language exchanges) where we give them a hand with their English while they give us a leg up on our Spanish skills… :)

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