As a student of multilingual education at NUGSE, I read various texts on the current practices of the subject. Usually, readings followed by classroom activities where we discuss the appropriate experiences of ME for Kazakhstani context. Here, I would like to share my views on the ways of properly appropriating international experiences to our context.
Brief definitions of approaches
Three major approaches of implementing multilingual education (CLIL, CBI, Immersion programs) are widely used throughout the world, especially in the west. First, the common approach (or at least, that is being implemented) in Kazakhstan is CLIL (Content Integrated Language Learning). Initially, it was introduced in Europe, now implemented in 216 forms in different countries (Grin, as cited in Coyle, 2007). Generally, CLIL is “dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language (Coyle, as cited in Cenoz, Genesee & Gorter, 2013). In other words, CLIL aims to include the content (subjects such as science, history) and the language in the same curricula. The second, which is also widely discussed among educational professionals in Kazakhstan, is immersion education (often referred as Canadian immersion programs). The immersion education is an approach that provides bilingual education ‘exposing’ learners to second/foreign language as a medium of instruction classrooms to promote additive bilingualism (Swain and Johnson, as cited in de Mejia, 2012). First introduced in Canada in 1960s, now it is also one of the widely used approaches in different forms depending on students’ age and the amount of the second language content. One more important approach is Content-Based Instruction, defined as “an umbrella term referring to instructional approaches that make a dual, though not necessarily equal, commitment to language and content-learning objectives” (Stoller, 2008). Some define it as an integration of the subject and the language (Brinton, Snow, & Wesche, 1989). Interestingly, the history of CBI goes back to the Canadian immersion programs that is mentioned above.
Deeply analyzing all three approaches (immersion, CLIL, CBI) I concluded that the principles and the aims are almost the same. Actually, Cenoz (2015) studying CBI and CLIL concludes that these two approaches do not possess pedagogical differences except few ‘accidental proprieties’. However, she adds that the implementation of both (CLIL and CBI) approaches are quite different depending on the context, which does not necessarily differentiate them from each other. The reason is that even the same approach can be contextualized differently. Also, Cummins (2009) refers dual language education and two-way immersion as the same approach. In addition, Genesee and Lindholm-Leary (2013) believe that immersion programs, CLIL, CBI, or other dual language education models in North America are merely different which is pedagogically unimportant. They highlight that the common feature of CBI, CLIL as well as immersion education is that they “use non-language content as a vehicle for promoting L2 proficiency” (p.5). It can be assumed that using different terms for the similar if not the same approaches due to geographical contexts. For example, the ‘shelter’ instruction referred as the type of CBI in the US (Brinton & Swan, 2017), but it is considered one approach of the immersion program in Canada (de Mejia, 2012).
What I conclude, all three approaches above are seen as the examples of successful models among Kazakhstani stakeholders. However, as mentioned, every country has its own interpretation of the approaches depending its context. Additionally, the same method is implemented in different labels just because they were in separate countries, or conversely, in some cases, theoretically different approaches are referred with the same label in practice. Therefore, the countries that we are educationally “following” use given approaches (CLIL, CBI, immersion) as a framework, where you can borrow only main principles and develop further interpretations.
So, what should we do?
In my opinion, considering the diversity of Kazakhstani context from western countries, we should also be focusing on the only wider principles and aims rather than ready “successful” models. It is no longer argumentative that blindly (or even intentionally) copied models may not work because of the differences in contexts. Kazakhstan’s linguistic context is quite diverse, with three languages from different language families. Additionally, some of the approaches (or types of approaches) are mostly designed for bilingual purposes, which necessitates more studies to examine their validity in our trilingual context. Although there is no officially required or suggested approach, stakeholders are actively promoting (or copying) some “ready” approaches, sometimes without any empirical studies on its effects. Therefore, I think that basic principles must be the central concern of the educational stakeholders, the rest of guides should be based on study results that are done specifically in Kazakhstan.
Should we have our own models of implementing ME approaches (CLIL, CB, immersion etc.) based on international principles? Or is it sometimes acceptable just to copy certain approaches? What do you think?
Brinton, D., Snow, M., & Wesche, M. (1989). Content-based second language instruction. New York, NY: Newbury House.
Cenoz, J. Genesee, F. & Gorter, D. (2013) Critical Analysis of CLIL: taking stock and looking forward. Applied Linguistics (First Published Online July 2013)
Coyle, D. (2007). Content and Language Integrated Learning: Towards a Connected Research Agenda for CLIL Pedagogies. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 10(5), 543–562.
Cummins, J. (2009) Bilingual and Immersion Programs, in The Handbook of Language Teaching (eds M. H. Long and C. J. Doughty), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford
de Mejía, A. (2012). Immersion education: En route to multilingualism. In M. Martin-Jones, A. Blackledge, & A. Creese (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of multilingualism (pp. 199-213). London: Routledge
Genesee, F. & Lindholm-Leary, K. (2013). Two case studies of content-based language education. Journal of Immersion & Content-Based Language Education 1(1), 3-33.