CLIL: the way forward or just a fad?

There has been an awful lot of talk about c ontent and language integrated learning (CLIL) over the last few years and a number of well publicised initiatives around the world.  More recently there has been a reversal in policy in Malaysia on CLIL.  Is this the beginning of the end or just teething problems?

Share via email

17 thoughts on “CLIL: the way forward or just a fad?

  1. Kirsteen

    In Malaysia it was never clear how they were going to assess the success of maths and science in English and the initiatives were released and started almost immediately without planning and training beforehand.

    Rather than throwing teachers into a new situation with little support,
    schools need to invest in CLIL inservice training for teachers who will be teaching content in English and teacher training colleges need to train content teachers to use ELT tools from their pre-service training.

  2. Stephen

    I quite agree Kirsteen – you’ve hit one of the major disadvantages of CLIL – not the principle, but the way it is rolled out in practice. Why don’t ministries understand – you can’t affect change in the classroom without teacher training!!!

  3. Susan Hillyard

    This is how I began my comment in answer to ” At what age…..”

    ______I’m a firm supporter of the CLIL approach if it is implemented by teachers who know what they are doing but I am concerned about the effects of subtractive bilingualism on mother tongue attrition and cultural alienation. I cannot make a firm statement as there needs to be much more research done.____________

    And I have seen great successes with the CLIL approach……..but I agree that Ministries need to consider careful planning, competent decision making, prior training of teachers and constant evaluative feedback. Unfortunately, all that implies time, expertise and ample budgets. How do we implement change adequately/ sensitively/effectively?

    I’m hoping this event will shed light on this question.
    Susan H

  4. Stephen

    Hi Susan,

    I’m puzzled by the phrase ‘subtractive bilingualism on mother tongue attrition and cultural alienation’, but I’m not an expert on CLIL (!). What does this mean exactly?

  5. Susan Hillyard

    OK. A quick answer: You can have additive or subtractive bilingual programmes. In the first you keep, for about 50% of the TT, “important” mother tongue subjects like (and of course there’s no agreement on what this means) language, literature, maths, science, cultural history, own country geography etc in the mother tongue to re-inforce basic education and culture. You do the other 50% in the target lang.

    In the second you replace a number of subjects ( again disagreement on which) with teaching those subjects through the target language……in our case here it would be English. Some scholars believe that the second model results in mother tongue loss, conceptual weaknesses and cultural anomie or confusion. The counter argument is that it is highly motivating as it is cognitively stimulating and leads to more effective second language learning, better results in content subjects and greater communication overall.

    We need more research. That’s why I’m asking for docs from the Malaysian experience if such research exists.

    Hope this quick summary answers your Q.
    What do you all think?
    Susan H

  6. Susan Hillyard

    I’ve made it too simplistic as there are as many models as there are systems……but I tried to put it in a nutshell.
    Susan H

  7. G.H.Asoka

    Dear Seamus

    You have identified bilingual education and CLIL as two topics in your conference for dabating. This is a certain confusion when we talk about either BE or CLIL, isn’t it? Please, tell me why these topics have been introduced as two instead of talking about both indicating their relationship.

    It was found even in the countries belonged to the European Society use CLIL insted of BE or ME. Yet when we talk about BE/ CLIL we can find a clear link between these two within the topic, education. My second question is why don’t you show this link instead of using these as two separate topics?

    CLIL has been identified as more fruitful approach of promoting learners’ second or third language competency rather than teaching languages under various linguistically important political titles. ie: English as a foreign language. CLIL prevents people from being deceived by various sorts of language programmes under various money-making agendas unlike teaching English as a language. How do you tell your experience regarding this as a representative of the British Council who suports introducing mostly English as a subject to be studied under various titles?

    Asoka, National Institute of Education, Sri Lanka

    What is your experience

  8. Seamus

    Hello Asoka

    I was interested by your comment, ‘CLIL prevents people from being deceived by various sorts of language programmes under various money-making agendas unlike teaching English as a language.’ Could you give an example of what you mean by this?

    Many thanks

  9. G.H.Asoka

    Dear Shemas

    What I wanted to say is that CLIL is more versatile than teaching English as subject under TESL or TEFL. Therfore it is economically and cognitively more benificial than teaching English as a second language in the classroom. Therefore it blocks the way for money earners to be public under variuos sorts of English like business English, general English, spoken Eglish and so on.

    CLIL alwys integrate language with content and language is selected depending on the messages we want to communicate in L2 attaching language and content with cognition and culture. Thus it is always integrated in its approach to the learner. Learner does not feel that s/he learns an L2 with difficulty as the L2 has become the medium of instruction and therefore learning language is not much intentional. It automatically takes place through acquisition mostly. hence in philosophy naturalistic techniques and strategies can be applied even in an acquisition-poor-environment outside the classroom.

    CLIL supports first to acquire general English with at least 25,000 general words and 500 academic words and learners become samrt in use of them in meaningful contexts within first three years in Sri Lankan contexts. This is what has been tried for sometimes more than ten years when teaching English as a second language within an acquisition-poor-environment for English in Sri Lankan social context. This is the average language competence that a learner takes to the school when s/he enters Grade 1 in a school. This is the BICS on which teachers need to develop CALPS of learners. Then within another 5-7 years learners are able to proceed with their acedemic English with technical jargon and as the need for learning the subject is priotized by the learner (despite the fact that the teacher of CLIL aims both-langugage and content development ) languge learning becomes intutive. S/He does not want to study various sorts of English to be competent in L2. General English and acedemic English become familiar for the learner, learner can be a competent user of L2 parallel to his or her first langugae under additive bilingualism.

    Business English is another facet to which second language learners are mythically attracted. Research has found out that English which is used in economics and related areas of it like business and commerce. is the easiest areas for learners when CLIL is used because the majority of the jargon used even at technical level are everyday used words. Hence the use of English become easy for learning and other purposes when a subject like business, commerce or economics is included in the curriculum for the learners to study in L2 in BE using CLIL..

    In Sri Lanka, according to research, vocabulary and memorization of them for use are the biggest challenges for the learner when learning English or learning in English. Less acquisition rich environment is other greatest challenge. All these chaalleges can be overcome through CLIL. because English as an L2 becomes soething similar to another langugae like their mother tongue in mentality for the learner through CLIL.. Thus they do not need to go behind various sorts of misleading boards for beinf competent in English.

    I wonder whether you can be satisfied by my answer!

    I would like to suggest, Seamus, to cooperate with the NIE for sharpening the use of English as our country needs to develop use of English through CLIL under the philosophy of BE ensuring additive aspects of it.

    Seleting right people for the right place ito do right work is another challenge for the British Council in this regard.

    Asoka, Sri Lanka

    1. Seamus Post author

      Thank you for the detailed and very helpful answer. In response to your question about separating Bilingualism and CLIL, i would like to ask another question if I may. What do you mean bilingual? Does this imply that a speaker is equally proficient in two languages?

  10. G.H.Asoka

    Dear Krsteen and Stephen

    ‘I quite agree Kirsteen – you’ve hit one of the major disadvantages of CLIL – not the principle, but the way it is rolled out in practice. Why don’t ministries understand – you can’t affect change in the classroom without teacher training!!!’

    This is a surprising response! When we talk about an advantage of something, it is mostly a result of that something: may be at the end, after some time or while implementing that something.

    Lack of capable teachers is not a disadvantage of CLIL. It is basically a weakness in planning and/ or implemetation of CLIL with proper teacher empowerment. I have seen how BE was being implemented in Malaysia:not a lot, but very little.

    They had planned for two years. In their implementation, they have used high technology: yet the teachers were following teacher centred method: only difference was use of technology. Teaching was not constructive.Instead of the teacher, technology was playing the same role.

    In their approach to use CLIL was harming to their country’s identity and culture: the major fault of their curriculum was letting learners’ study science and mathematics toatally in L2 from preschool itself. Because of the surface level fluncy students gain in their BICS in first few years, teachers and adults had been decieved upto a certain extent. Mathematics is not a subject to be taught in an L2 totally even after education in L1 for some time under CLIL.. Thus the fault was in their model of bilingual education where CLIL was used as the pedagogical approach. That’s why whenever we talk CLIL, it should not be deviated from the educational philosophy of BE/ME which prescribes the policy and the model necessary for us.

    Policy and model should clear the linguistically harmful political barriers for the country’s progress.Curriculum should explicitly reflect the model prescribed within the policy without harming learners’ progress in line with protecting national identity and national integreity.

    Teacher empowerment should not be seen as a disadvantage of CLIL. It is a chalenge to overcome. Smooth planning with a proper curriculum on teacher education and implementation of teacher empowerment programme in a smooth manner are essential for winning over this problem. Developing such a smmoth programme should be done integrating several areas: subject cometencies, language competencies on both L1 and L2, amalgamation of pedagogy of subject teaching and pedagogy of second language teaching should be combined very comprehensively.

    government support is indeed essential with understanding.

    I need your comments on this.

    Asoka, Sri Lanka

  11. Anupma Diddi

    Could somebody tell me why:
    Students (Graduates & Post Graduates) who studied their subjects in English, went on to become teachers, have been teaching for more than a decade are still not proficient in English?

    Another thing, teachers with inadequate English skills seem to exhibit different patterns of improvement. Those in government schools hardly show much improvement but those in private schools at least move up to some higher levels of fluency & accuracy. Why?

    Lastly despite being ‘immersed’ in English for so many years why are teachers of different subjects unable to paraphrase & summarise?

  12. G.H.Asoka

    Dear Anupama

    I wonder whether I can share my experience in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, students at university level, if they start learning English from that level onwards after neglecting their formal studies of learning English as an L2 for nearly 10 years (subject) in the curriculum lat school level imiting the number of hours to less than three hours a week, they will meet problems especially in their primary skills. Yet their secondary skills are much better than primary skills.

    Proficiency of English in oral skills depends on the exposure to the target langugae outside the period of learning English as second langugae in the classroom. Even for teachers, it is a matter of using the langugae and for which purposes the langugae is used. In private schools, learners and teachers have more exposure to the target langugae in Sri lankan context. Yet the English they produce in their oral fluency gained within first three years is surface level English which is not adequate for learning in English for higher studies. Accuracy we expect from those clientele is not rich when they talk about academically important aspects and produce langugae in writing, too.

    Yet BE which is being promoted with additive aspects of it supports learners and teachers acquire and learn and consequently use the langugae upto an accepted standard as a second language.Under BE, learners generally talk about themselevs and their daily ilfe. In addition to that out of the clss, too they try to dicsuss and exchnage ideas in L2 on high topics. They read more than the others and therefore their vocabulary capacities are higher than the others.

    I wonder belief in immersion totally would bring any sort of very different result from the other models. That does not mean that immersion is useless. It is not the panecia for gaining desirable outcomes on BE or teaching second languages.

    Asoka, Sri Lanka

  13. yuyu

    I would like somebody to comment on this, please. Some curriculum content is culturally iconic and should only be learned in the L1

  14. Seamus Harkin

    Hello Yuyu

    Perhaps you could give us some examples of content that is culturally iconic? It would also be useful to to unapack that term – what exactly do you mean by ‘culturally iconic’?

  15. Madhavi

    Can we say that in most of the private schools in India CLIL method is followed by using English medium education in which mother tongue is a second language?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>