Early Years bilingual education - emerging educational fields in English-speaking countries

Year: 2016

Author: Smala, Simone, Dooley, Karen, Kettle, Margaret, Roy, Sylvie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The focus of this paper is a comparison of Early Years bilingual education (CLIL and Immersion) in Australian and Canadian contexts, and the emerging educational field of bilingual education in predominantly English-speaking countries. The diversity of people learning languages and maintaining bilingual and multilingual skills in an era of unprecedented global movement of people, cultures and economies needs to be examined more closely in order to understand how this field will influence school choice, schooling experiences and educational outcomes. Drawing from a current research project in two Queensland early years bilingual schools, the paper presents findings from interviews with parents, teachers and school principals to unearth the purposes for which they want children to learn and maintain languages, and the successes and challenges they encounter. Our theoretical framework embraces the notion that languages are a means to gain power (Bourdieu, 1991). It is by knowing where and how to use their linguistic repertoires that people position themselves in society, and participating in intensive language learning models like bilingual education programs might be a way to access some of the ‘capital’ necessary to access resources (Smala et al, 2013). The goal of this project is to advance knowledge regarding the emerging educational field of bilingual programs in Australia, and draw comparisons to the Canadian context where bilingualism is a societal phenomenon. We ask why people in English-speaking countries learn and maintain languages despite the rise of English as the global language. We are interested in establishing a barometer of who these people are, what their purposes for accessing bilingual programs are, and which issues and challenges they might encounter. Examining the social complexities of language learning and maintaining in bilingual programs, we will present preliminary findings about the ideological assumptions that underpin language learning and teaching in Australia and Canada, the social issues that emerge in this new educational field, and how stakeholders succeed to resolve, challenge or change them.