English Language Support
The need to provide English language support for ITER students arriving with little or no knowledge of either English or French was highlighted at the International Advisory Council meeting in November 2017. For the last 4 years, there have been increased admissions from non-native speaking English countries (looking for 80% English) for the European School classes and the level of L1 English in each class is therefore decreasing. This is worrying for the Baccalaureate, as the level expected is that of an equivalent to native speaker. It is not enough to simply speak English, the students need to have the nuances, vocabulary and culture as well. This could ultimately affect the overall Baccalaureate scores which then affect university applications, especially for prestigious universities.
The Intensive language classes are a special measure put in place since September 2018 since from a pedagogical perspective it is vital for a student to achieve an effective and functional level of the language used for teaching. This is essential as it allows the student to follow and participate in classes much more effectively hence increasing their learning and progress. It is also necessary for students to achieve the highest possible mastery of the two languages in order to maximise their chances of top grades in the final Baccalaureate exams.
We understand that different children learn and progress at different paces and thus the creation of special classes with a specialised teacher who is best able to assist each student and do ongoing assessment that will allow the child
to return to normal classes as soon as deemed possible.
The English support lessons take place during the school day, and there are 3 ability groups for a total of 12 periods:
The students are assessed at the moment of taking their entrance tests, and, additionally, the L1 English teachers identify students who would benefit from support lessons. Level is determined on native language ability and not on age as the European School English is taught at native level.
The number of periods can vary according to the year and the level of English of the students involved Whereas G1 concentrates and the acquisition of necessary vocabulary and grammar, G2 and G3 will mix this with the reinforcement of literature writing and analysis techniques, the aim of the ESL support being for the student to reintegrate fully his/her English literature class.
The ESL and the FLE teachers liaise on an informal basis and share information on relevant students.
The ESL teacher, as it stands, is perfectly bilingual and connects English with French when relevant.
- The feedback so far has been extremely positive. The English teachers and form teachers have observed:
- An increase in self-confidence in all pupils on all levels. Often these foreign students feel inadequate when they join the English section of the European School as most of their class mates are native speakers.
- With confidence comes an increased level of assertiveness when it comes to speaking in class.
- An increased willingness to write about their own experience and therefore an improvement in their writing skills, so that the students don’t feel they have to climb the mountain on their own.
- As guests in France, it is vital that these students are seeing their expat experience as positive so that they are in a happier mind set and therefore are more ready to learn.
- They have been encouraged to talk and write about their home country and how it is different or similar to France. It helps giving a space to their expatriation and enables them to move one and feel better integrated within their class and their adoptive country.
- The ability of the ESL teacher to know both languages has meant the students don’t feel completely lost when they sometimes mix both languages.
- It is obvious that, in order to improve, both the child and the parents have to fully engage. The ESL class is here to help the student to improve, not to teach them a language from scratch. In practical terms, this means that the student should be encouraged to increase his/her exposure to English by reading, watching films or news channels (see web sites suggested by the ESL teacher), travelling to an English speaking country when they can. This should be done daily additionally to their school day. This does not need to be academically linked (YouTube videos, books on their favourite subject, British Council teenager web site etc) but repetition is an aspect of any language learning and needs to happen even more in this case.
- Students should have no hesitation in asking their ESL teacher when they struggle in other English-spoken classes but it is still the case, either through ill-placed pride or culture. After the ESL teacher has gone through the same learning process they do and understand both their academic difficulties and their struggle in adapting to a new environment.
- The English teachers in the European School work together and are in regular contact as to the progress of their students.
- The aims to improve the provision of English learning support during the current academic year are:
- Try to set up a ‘buddy’ system. This is not designed to force existing native students to help an ESL student but to ask them to be a student contact and support. After all, most students have had the same uprooting experience and hopefully remember how hard it can be. It will also facilitate the integration of the new foreign student in the class.
- Regular and focused meetings with the regular English teachers.
- Coordination with the ESL teachers in elementary school to improve the overall ESL syllabus.
- An overall end-of-year assessment which will be the same level as the entrance test for the following year. This will give students and teachers a view as to how much progress the student has made.
- Offer a certification in English (most English-speaking university courses will require a C1 proficiency level).