ITALIAN TEACHERS have warned that the country’s primary schools will not be ready for the introduction of Clil methodology this September, with one union pointing out there are no funds to train teachers to the level of specialisation required.
However, Italian education minister Stefania Giannini defended her controversial reform, saying, ‘English is like skiing – either you learn it when you are young or you’ll limp your whole life.’ The General Confederation of Italian Industry (Confindustria) also backs the plan, telling Il Corriere della Sera it will make Italian children ‘more competitive’.
Education researchers are torn between those who consider Clil at primary level the best way to learn a language and a motivation booster, and those who warn against the danger of stunting intellectual development in favour of linguistic proficiency.
Valentina Aprea, a regional education councillor for Lombardy, told Il Corriere della Sera that Clil was ‘unfeasible’ and that ‘efforts should be focused on effective English programmes’ instead. And the autonomous province of Trentino is trying to postpone the implementation to gain more time for training teachers.
The main concerns focus on one aspect: lack of teacher training. The problem is blamed on a 2008 reform by former education minister Maria Stella Gelmini which eliminated specialist primary English teachers. Class teachers received training to teach English, but some reported it was ‘rushed and superficial’, creating a generation of teachers who are not confident in their English.
The provision of Clil methodology training has not been promising either. Current affairs magazine L’Espresso reported that only 1,230 teachers could be properly trained for Clil with the funds allocated by the ministry last year.
This view is confirmed by Gianna Fracassi, secretary of the Italian General Confederation of Labour, who told Il Corriere della Sera there were no funds to train teachers to the level of specialisation required.
Teachers at the primary school in Uscio, near Genoa, told the Gazette that while the introduction of Clil could be positive, Italian schools were not yet ready as they lack adequate organisational and economic support.
‘There doesn’t seem to be a serious commitment from the minister to carry out the necessary changes,’ one teacher insisted.
The situation is different in schools that have a long multilingual tradition. Ms Emanuela Mazgon, a primary teacher at Istituto Comprensivo 2 in Gorizia, in the multilingual autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, told the Gazette, ‘The context allows the learning.’ She reported that her school had been running successful Clil programmes in English, Slovenian and Friulian for the past six years, and that the methodology did not have any negative impact on the learning of the content.
But she added that the main problem was ‘finding teachers that are actually proficient in the language and the methodology’, since many teachers only possessed a superficial level of English, ‘as it was studied at school thirty years ago’.
In an era where the diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is as high as 7% in school-aged children, the search for causes and preventions has never been more important. Current research indicates a positive relationship between bilingualism, particularly native bilingualism, and executive function in normally developing individuals. This study served to examine the potential relationship between bilingual education in a public school setting and the presence of ADHD symptoms in that school's students. This was a comparative analysis of students in a South Florida School District's two-way immersion program with the national average in terms of frequency of ADHD symptoms using the NICHQ Vanderbilt Assessment Scale and the Swanson, Nolan, and Pelham (SNAP). The results did not show any significant differences between groups in terms of language history, gender, race, or family structure.
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