When Lindsay Clandfield gave his talk at the International House World Organisation Director of Studies’ conference (try saying all that quickly) in early January his title was ‘Coursebooks: what’s hot and what’s not’.
There was one thing Lindsay didn’t mention, and that was CLIL – or, as you all know by now, Content and Language Integrated Learning. So I got to wondering . Do CLIL people (like this lot) and EFL people talk to each other very much? At all?
Then I thought: is CLIL hot, lukewarm or icy cold? Is it taking the educational world by storm as some people suggest or isn’t it?
[A quick preamble: look away now if you know anything at all about CLIL. This is just for those who haven’t thought about it much.
CLIL is (supposedly) not like teaching ordinary EFL (English as a Foreign Language) or ESOL (to speakers of other languages). It is teaching the language and an academic subject at the same time, so that as you learn about physics you learn the language for physics. CLIL advocates dividing language skills into BICS (basic interpersonal communicative skills – that’s familiar EFL territory) and CALP (Cognitive academic language proficiency – that’s, for example, the physics bit!). You can have soft CLIL (that’s a bit of teaching physics and English together) and hard CLIL (delivering a lot of the physics curriculum in English and vice-versa).
CLIL advocates say that it is different from just bi-lingual schooling. It is new and shiny because CALP and BICS have equal billing. Many people have a big stake in promoting and supporting CLIL practice.]
Some governments (well, education ministeries, anyway) are going crazy for CLIL. For example, in Spain it is all the rage; the government of the United Arab Emirates has said it wants CLIL at the secondary level so university courses do not have to spend hours on foundation English courses. In other countries they are promoting CLIL as hard as they can. But Malaysia has just abandoned teaching maths and science in English because, many Malaysians say, it is bad enough having to learn science without the added burden of a foreign language (English).
Hmm. Of course there are many factors behind the decision of Malaysia (and Korea backtracking away from something similar). Three of them might be (a) does CLIL actually work? (b) where can you get teachers who are competent in both the subject and the language? (c) the local language needs defending…….
And yet in an increasingly global world surely teaching subjects through English (and teaching English through subjects?) IS the way to go. Teaching English for no obvious reason (TENOR) has had its day. CLIL and English for Special Purposes must be the way forward. In the ESOL world by the very nature of the students and what they need and want, there’s a kind of CLIL imperative, perhaps?
And yet….here’s what someone said to me the other day, and it is the reason for this post:
“I hear lots of people talking about the advantages for English that CLIL offers, but I haven’t heard anyone saying it’s a great way to teach physics (or geography or maths etc).”
So get your Tarot cards out, polish your crystal balls. Is CLIL the present? The Future (perfect)? The soon-to-be-past (even with the massive investment in it)?
What do you think?