Number one for English language teachers

Is there a risk that CLIL will erode the quality of English language education?

A selection of quotes from the CLIL debate survey.

"Yes, I believe so. I can't see how some CLIL training of subject teachers can ever make language teachers out of them. If English is only taught through CLIL in the future, there is a serious risk that the level of knowledge of English will begin to slide."

"On the contrary if it is 'good Clil' it will improve it because the students will have extra hours of English in their curriculum. This further opportunity will help them improve their level of language proficiency, especially if they live in areas with low possibility of exposure to English outside the classroom."

"Not if English is also kept as a separate subject. Students do learn incorrect usage from non-native speaker subject teachers; the best we can do if these teachers do not use English accurately is to make students aware of the problem areas in separate English lessons."

Yes! I teach at a school which was only CLIL before I started. Some pupils use very bad structures - which was ok until now, because they got their meaning across. But once I showed them how to use a plural, they used it correctly!

"Obviously if you concentrate on content a little more than, as it has been in the past, grammar problems which have little further effect, you do stress language items much less. So a certain simpler English language is produced. However, I would never go as far as saying that it erodes the quality of English language education, as the language is only a tool with a goal at the end of it. In the past, it has often been taught very much without an end product envisaged. What CLIL does is that it shows up the very realistic use of the English language in everyday life."

"Could erode an awareness that grammar is still important to some extent. Grammar structures also carry meaning and in business and politics this can be vital - to get one's meaning across using accepted grammarical structures."

"CLIL can never take away the need of course for structured English lessons but it gives students the chance of extra hours of English is a good thing."

"Why should it? The language taught is exactly the same. I think many people are unaware of how many institutions teach in a CLIL way."

"It might. Schools should target Quality CLIL - were the language competence of teachers is adequate."

"If teachers who have to work with this methodology do it because they want and want to be well prepared there would be no problem."

"If the CLIL teachers are not trained language teachers, probably."

"I believe it can enhance the quality of English language teaching because of the focus on learner autonomy and providing students with strategies to learn and the motivating factor of authentic tasks that come (or should come) with CLIL."

"I don't see why it should. The English language teacher has his/her role to play and the CLIL teacher has another role to play. They should work together and see each other as partners, not competitors."

"Absolutely. What we teachers of English need is more periods of English classes. Then, when the students have the right language tools they could cope with diferent curricular contents in English."

On the contrary, I think it speeds it up and improves it. If it is followed across the curriculum then students are exposed to different genres and registers and learn, which is appropriate for the context. This increases the authenticity of use and their need to use English correctly. I also feel that it pushes students to think more critically about issues rather than just focus on language. I teach English to both mainstream and ESL classes and have been amazed how my EAL students have responded to issues that they may not have been exposed to if they were in withdrawal classes that only focus on grammar and have highly differentiated activities.

I do not think this is an issue at primary level. At these levels, CLIL provides children with many wonderful opportunities to use English rather than to study it (which their non-analytical brains are not particularly interested in anyway) and as a TEFL teacher it has been wonderful for me to see how children really do respond, with delight, to content learning. I think CLIL provides the student who is traditionally a "bad" language learner the opportunity to make tremendous improvements in comprehension and fluency, precisely because he/she is not focused on the language itself. At secondary level, however, I think there must be some conscious language study included in the curriculum, as without some conscious, analytical study students do not reach advanced levels (we do not expect them to merely "pick up" L1 advanced skills either), therefore I would say that it would be necessary to incorporate a more traditional EFL class into the CLIL syllabus. I conclude then, that CLIL has an enriching role in the quality of English language education, but as with any method, it needs to be monitored, results analysed, and probably fused with complementary methods.

What do you think? Do you share any of these views? Do you disagree with them? Have your say in the discussion forum.

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