Number one for English language teachers

Why this debate and why now?

With input from CLIL colleagues around the world, David Marsh, Chair of the 2009 CLIL Debate: CLIL: Complementing or Compromising English Language Teaching answers our questions: Why are we having this debate now? What has happened since the last debate in 2005? What can we expect from the 2009 debate?

David Marsh

These answers have been compiled by David Marsh. He is very grateful to others who provided input online which helped him construct responses to the questions, notably Hugo Baetens Beardsmore (Belgium), Peeter Mehisto (UK), María Jesus Frigols (Spain), and Dieter Wolff (Germany). However, responsibility for the opinions expressed here is solely with the respondent, and are compiled specifically with respect to CLIL and English language.

Why do we need a CLIL debate in 2009?
Basically, in the words of Harry Nilsson in 1969, everyone's talkin'. There is now a lot of talk about CLIL. We have seen a number of winds blowing over the ELT landscape in recent years. The new technologies, human mobility, emergence of the Knowledge Society, and a global surge of demand for English, have all challenged the ELT 'status quo' - the way things are. Now we are facing the Perfect Storm; the worst socio-economic upheaval in living memory for many of us, and considerable pressure on the English language profession. 
2009 will bring threats and opportunities for many professionals as they examine ways by which to strengthen and improve their positions. ELT is no exception.  As CLIL expands through 2009, what does it mean for ELT and content teachers teaching in English, if anything? 
If everybody is talking, is anybody listening?   Macmillan and the Guardian Weekly are providing the platform for an extended debate enabling people to talk, listen, and examine if CLIL has a role to play during these turbulent times. When Nilsson's song hit the radio waves in 1969, CLIL-type models were being developed in various countries. Now in 2009, it is in all our interests time to take stock of the situation.

What has been happening with CLIL since the 2005 Debate?
The 2005 Debate followed the landmark future-scanning work of David Graddol on the future of English.  At that time economies across the world were looking at how to upgrade competence in English language in order to benefit from globalisation.  No longer was it possible to only have small English language speaking elites in countries. Globalisation has mainstreamed the demand for a minimum of partial competence in English. 
Competence-based education has become established as the type which best suits the demands and expectations of the Knowledge Society - you don't fill the student heads with endless reams of knowledge and facts, you teach the students the competences to navigate and utilize knowledge and facts.  Focus on competences relates to Physics as much as ELT. As a classic competence-based methodology, CLIL has expanded across continents - change since 2005 has been in terms of the numbers of teachers and students involved, understanding of what CLIL is, and the development of different CLIL Models. In 2005 CLIL was sparking, now we can see these sparks igniting in very different parts of the world.

Why this panel?
The panelists in Cardiff (IATEFL) are one part of the CLIL 2009 debate jigsaw. The other major parts consist of those who join in with the debate through the core Cardiff event, and through the internet. These are the teachers, and others, who want to better grasp understanding of what CLIL is, and figure out whether it provides opportunities for themselves, their students, and the organisations in which they work.  Innovation takes time. True innovation often means that people have to 'shake the box' - sometimes to look at things from different angles. The panelists in Cardiff represent very different backgrounds and they have graciously agreed to come together so that this part of the CLIL 2009 Debate will involve diverse experience and opinion focused on the issue: CLIL: Complementing or Compromising English Language Teaching?

What can we expect from this new debate?
As in 2005, the power of this forum to enable frank and open dialogue is considerable. We expect more dialogue, greater focus on practical applications, reflection on experience, and input from what science is revealing about CLIL. We also expect greater opportunities for participants to see how they can become involved with the newly emerging professional communities that are centered on CLIL. So, in 2009, we can see fact, controversy, challenge, clarification, and social-professional networking all rolled into one.

How can people to get involved before, during and after the debate (whether or not they are at the Cardiff (UK) IATEFL conference? provides a discussion forum feeding into the event. This will be used during the Cardiff IATEFL debate, and play a significant role afterwards through the rest of the year. An online CLIL questionnaire will also be made available next month and again your feedback will be used during the debate in Cardiff. The Guardian Weekly has invited education professionals from around the world to share their experiences of combining content and language in their series of CLIL voices and kicks-off the debate with an article, ELT must be part of the content.

Welcome into the debate!

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