February 20, 2024


Madrid teachers have a low opinion of the bilingualism program, in English and Spanish, which began to be implemented two decades ago in the region and now reaches more than half of the public education students, 212,857 children and adolescents who are enrolled in education. primary and compulsory secondary. According to the largest study carried out to date in this regard, for which 1,724 primary and secondary teachers have been interviewed, 8 out of 10 teachers consider that it “negatively affects the level of student comprehension” and “reduces the depth of content boarded”. A vast majority assures that it has fostered a new form of school segregation within the public school. And more than half believe that it generates negative effects on the command of Spanish. An impression, the latter, that coincides with the alarm signals about the impoverishment of the reading performance of the students of the Community of Madrid that reflect the international tests.

The study, titled The opinion of the teaching staff on the Bilingual Program of the Community of Madridpending publication, but whose conclusions EL PAÍS has had access to, has been prepared by researchers Jesús Rogero-García, professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid, and Miguel Martínez, Eva Bajo, and Cristina Orío, members of the Acción Educational MRP.

The report reflects that 70% of teachers consider that the linguistic qualification that the regional Executive requires to teach a subject in English “does not ensure a sufficient level of language proficiency to teach it.” And almost all the teachers consider that part of the attitude problems they observe in class are related to the use of English as the vehicular language. 77.8% of those surveyed attribute a “lack of participation in classes” to this factor; 74.8%, “disconnection or lack of attention”, and 44.2%, “poor test results”.

Most of the teachers detect difficulties in their students, which they attribute to English, when it comes to writing (76.6%), debating in class (65.3%), or making oral presentations (55.7%). And both primary school teachers (two out of three) and secondary school teachers (three out of four) claim to have made changes to the objective tests, the exams, because they have to take them in English. Seven out of 10 of those who have modified the tests state that they have opted for exercises “with a predominance of those focused on joining arrows or filling in the gaps”. And 62.5% affirm that the tests have been impoverished “by decreasing the answers that involve writing.”

Consequences for self-esteem

The vision of Carmen Gebrié, a primary school teacher in a Madrid school, where she coordinated bilingualism at the beginning of the program, coincides with the study’s conclusions. “The problem is that the program has never had enough resources. And without resources, things are done badly. To children with special educational needs, who were already carrying their own problems, language problems are added. And the children who were weaker, having subjects such as natural sciences and social sciences in English, have more difficulties, with what this entails for their self-esteem. As the courses go by, they have less and less confidence in themselves ”, she affirms.

“We are in favor of language learning,” continues Mari Carmen Morillas, president of the Fapa-Giner de los Ríos family federation, “but you have to do it well, and that of the Community of Madrid seems highly questionable. Since its implementation in 2004, it has not undergone a rigorous evaluation, and a pilot test has not even been carried out, but simply began to be implemented in the centers. There are families who call us in anguish because they see that their children are left behind”.

A report published by the Department of Education of the Community of Madrid in 2018 reflected that bilingual and non-bilingual centers obtained practically identical results in Spanish, mathematics and science, after discounting the socioeconomic and cultural index (Isec), and a level clearly better English. Defenders of the program, such as the professor of Economics at the Rey Juan Carlos University and former general director of innovation of the ministry, Ismael Sanz, give as an example of the fruits that the program has given, the increasing ease with which the students comes to colleges.

The sociologist Jesús Rogero warns, however, that the segregation of students between bilingual and non-bilingual centers does not occur alone, but also, through the socioeconomic level of families, which is the prevention introduced in the report published in 2018 by the regional government, but there is also a segregation based more directly on the school performance of the students, whatever their social class. There are children from bilingual schools with a low level of English or academics in general who are invited by the center to go to a non-bilingual one. The school, says Rogero, does it for the good educational progress of the child. But the consequence is that it reinforces the segregation that tends to assign to non-bilingual centers not only kids from families with a lower socioeconomic level (who, for example, do not have the capacity to reinforce their English with extracurricular classes), but also, more broadly, to those who do not do well in school due to a multitude of factors.

Madrid’s bilingual model also introduces a second great segregation within the bilingual centers themselves, by dividing the student body, based on their academic record and level of English, between the so-called “section” option, in which Students will have at least 30% of the hours in English, and the “program” option, which only means that the kids teach one hour of English a day and another subject in that language, often Physical Education or Art. 80.2% of those surveyed in the report co-authored by Rogero say that in the “section” there are “more students with better academic results” and 71.5%, that there are “less students with special educational needs or difficulties Learning”. While the “program” option concentrates, on the other hand, a greater number of repeaters, according to 72.3% of teachers.

The bilingual program is usually not enough, according to the impression of the teachers, to guarantee the level of English and other subjects. 89.7% ensure that it is “usual for the students of the bilingual program to require reinforcement outside the center, beyond the support of the families”, to reinforce subjects in general or the command of English. “I have seen myself in the situation”, affirms the teacher Carmen Gebrié, of having to tell the families: “Going against my own organization, I ask you to please give it support outside. Because otherwise you can’t. The effort that bilingualism entails for children, families and teachers is not worth it”.

“The families of the Community of Madrid”, adds Mari Carmen Morillas, “are the ones that invest the most in school activities related to the language, because the students need that external support. And that also creates a lot of inequality, because not everyone can afford to pay for English classes in the afternoon.”

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