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Public sector primary schools

Is EYL taught as an official part of the curriculum in public sector primary schools? Yes
When was it introduced? September 1990
At what age do students begin EYL? 8/9 (Year 3)
Have any significant changes in teaching EYL taken place since 1980?  None other than those stated here
Is there any widespread teaching of English before the official starting age for compulsory EYL? Yes ¹
How many hours a week/school year are officially allocated for EYL? Ages 8-12: 3 x 1hour sessions a week (90 hours per school year)
How many EYL teachers and students are there in the public education system? No statistics available
Who does the EYL teaching? • A specialist teacher who works in only one school
• A specialist teacher who works in several schools (rare except in some country areas)
Who is eligible to teach EYL in the public education system? • A graduate of a primary school teacher training college ²
• A secondary teacher who is willing to work in a primary school³
Note: There are at present 94 British trained infant and primary teachers working in public infant schools on a bilingual education project.

Nationwide are schools able to recruit enough EYL teachers? For the present yes, but supply would not be enough to keep up with demand if English were to be introduced at age 6 and made more widely available at age 3. (There is a programme of language improvement offered to teachers, but it is voluntary.)
What official guidelines exist for EYL teaching? There is a general description of aims for EYL but no specific advice about content. There is also a general guideline laid down for all primary schools and this contains a chapter on foreign language teaching (e.g., that the methodology should focus on teaching communicative skills, that the topics should be linked to those normally studied in primary schools, that the classroom should be activity-based).
Do EYL teaching materials have to be approved? There is an officially approved list of both locally and internationally produced material. The head of department chooses the books to be used, within budget limitations. Generally a series of coursebooks will then be in use for 4-5 years.
What materials are typically used? International and local published coursebooks (though the latter are less common now than they were in the mid 1990s). Teachers seldom have the level of English and knowledege of method required to produce their own materials and to adapt lesson materials adapted from published sources
What other foreign languages are taught at primary level? In theory schools can choose between English and French, but in practice most parents insist that English be taught.
Are any changes in the provision of EYL planned or anticipated? There are plans to reduce the official starting age to 6, and to extend the InglÚs precoz (Early English) programme. The main problem this will present will be finding teachers with a sufficient knowledge of English to teach this age. There is a generally held belief that the younger the child, the lower the level of English the teacher needs.

Note¹ Several years ago Spain introduced an Education Reform Act redefining the ages of primary school education. Children were to make the transfer to secondary schools at the age of 11+ instead of 14. This left schools with the problem of what to do with primary teachers and 'specialists' who were not qualified to teach in secondary schools. One of the measures adopted was the InglÚs precoz programme whereby many of these teachers were retrained to teach English in infant classes. There are now many schools where infants are having between 1 and 3 hours of English a week.

In addition, the British Council signed an agreement with the Spanish Government 3 years ago whereby 47 (now 98) British teachers were contracted to teach in Spanish infant state schools, the idea being that they would follow the British Council school bilingual curriculum. The project is proving very successful.

Note ² Teachers are trained at primary school teacher training colleges, and those who choose the speciality of English are in theory trained to teach English in primary. There is no language exam as such. However, in order to become what is known as a functionario (civil servant) and have a job for life, teachers need to sit an official state exam (Oposiciones). This takes place every year or second year. It is a theoretical written exam. Those teachers who pass go to the practical exam where they are given the choice of 2 themes chosen at random from 25. They have to demonstrate the practical applications of the themes to the classroom. The third part of the exam is the accumulation of points that teachers get from attending recognised MEC methodology courses. The number of teachers who pass the Oposiciones each time is dependent on the number of places that officially are considered to be available in each area. Teachers who get the highest points are able to choose the school they work in.

Note ³ A teacher qualified to teach English at secondary school, but who is willing to work in a primary school, must do the Oposiciones to get a place in a primary school.


Private sector primary schools

Is there a significant number of these schools? Yes, private or semi-private (i.e., grant-aided) schools run by religious orders
What percentage of primary age children attends them? Not stated
What differences in EYL provision exist from public sector primary schools?  English is offered on and outside the curriculum. English used to be offered at an earlier age in private schools. Now that the starting age for EYL in public schools has been set at 8, the private sector is seeking to maintain its lead by introducing English even earlier.
What materials do they use for EYL?  Not stated


Private language schools

Is there a significant number of these schools? Yes
How many Young Learners take private language school classes? Not stated
How many hours of English is typically offered? 3 per week
Is there any perceived conflict between public school and private language school provision in EYL? For children attending (for example) the British Council evening school the methodology is different with a greater focus on learning the language for communication purposes, less translation, no direct focus on teaching grammar, and very little importance placed on exams for 8-11 year olds
What materials do they use for EYL? In the better schools much of the material is produced in-house. In private academies, where many of the teachers may be non-qualified native speakers or Spanish-trained teachers with poor English or Spanish speakers with good English but little classroom competence, standard commercially available materials are used. The ease of use of the teacher's book often determines which coursebook is selected.


Private tuition for Young Learners

Is there private tuition for primary age children? Yes
How many Young Learners are involved?  Not stated
What is the typical starting age for private tuition? Very often 6, and nearly always with a native English speaker chosen by the parents
Why do parents use private tutors? Partly because they want their children to learn English; partly because they want them to get ahead; and partly because it is the 'Úlite' thing to do.

Date information collected: 1999


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