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The British Tradition

    Although a large number of British people are bilingual, bilingual education is still in its infancy

    1978: The Commission of European Communities recommended teaching through the medium of more than one language

  • not supported by the British government
  • largely ignored
  • 70% of young people completed their compulsory education without any formal qualification in a foreign language

    1988: ERA (Education Reform Act)

  • introduction of a national curriculum
  • the study of one foreign language became compulsory for the five years of secondary education

    1989: The Ministry advised the working group for National Curriculum English to keep in mind that English must continue to be the medium language

  • "take account of the ethnic diversity of the school population and society at large, bearing in mind the cardinal point that English should be the first language and medium of instruction for all pupils in England "(DESIWO 1989)
  • The government's message is that models of bilingual education are inappropriate to the mainstream British education system.


Case Study: Millais School West Sussex, Horsham

Business Studies in Spanish

  • single-sex girls' comprehensive 11-16 school
  • 1991 the bilingual section was opened
  • supported by the West Sussex Local Authority and Spanish Embassy
  • Embassy agreed to provide a native-speaker teacher for a period of 3 years

William Ellis School (London)

Geography in Spanish

  • single-sex boys' comprehensive 11 - 16 school
  • 1990: the Geography in Spanish project was established, recommended by the British Spanish Colloquium (Department of Education / Spanish Ministry of Education), since then Spanish is taught as a first foreign language equal to French.




  • lack of suitable resources (Spanish Geography textbooks unsuitable in
    style, content, layout)
  • lack of statistical data, visual clues, maps and diagrams - often self-
  • teacher often resorts to translating English resources


  • limited supply of British teachers experienced and qualified in both, language and content subject,
  • native speaker might lack expert knowledge in the subject area,
  • non-native speaker might lack competence in the target language.


  • in the general criteria document of 1990 by SEAC (Secondary Education Assessment Council), it is stated that "in England, syllabuses and examinations use the medium of English".
  • no GCSE exams in the secondary language content subject (Geography in Spanish) any more
  • bilingual section at William Ellis School might close down, since neither teachers, students nor parents want to accept assessments in English of a course conducted in Spanish

The Future

  • European movement for bilingual education involving the integration of
  • experimental projects into mainstream curriculum is not a national priority
  • examinations should be available in the foreign language content subject
  • support from the Department of Education is strongly needed to set up bilingual sections all over the country
  • should be an organised network for participants
  • should be training opportunities and better supply of qualified teachers
  • The Department of Education encouraging new Language Colleges to teach subjects through a modern language, but no further contribution and supply from government.



MBE in Wales differs from MBE in England or France in the following ways:

  • The function of bilingual education in Wales to preserve Welsh (the minority language) as a living language for the Welsh people.
  • Unlike children in, say, Germany, children learning Welsh in Wales do not learn the language and culture of a foreign country.
  • Compared with bilingual education in other countries, the Welsh system is better developed concerning teaching materials, but there is still lack of teachers.

Click here for more information about MBE in the United Kingdom

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