Bilingual Education

Bilingual education provides advantages in thinking and learning skills (cognition), language skills, and social skills. At Bayswater South Primary School, we are proud to offer the benefits of English/German bilingual education to all children.

Why a bilingual education? Why not!?

Cognitive advantages (thinking and learning skills)
Brain function
Bilingual brains develop denser grey matter compared to monolingual brains, which improves brain functions such as memory and focus.
Categorisation skills
Bilingual education leads to enhanced categorisation skills, as learners are required to sort, categorise and connect new words, language structures, information and conceptual understandings as they learn.
Flexible thinking skills
Bilingual learners develop mental flexibility and thinking skills such as:
• divergent (outside the box) thinking
• creative thinking
• convergent (logical, analytical) thinking
• critical thinking and problem-solving skills
Concept formation
Bilingual education benefits learners’ concept formation. This allows learners to develop deeper understandings and make connections across ‘subjects’ and disciplines. At BSPS, this is further enhanced through our concept-based, transdisciplinary learning approach as part of the IB Primary Years Program.
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Language advantages
Communication skills
Bilingual education benefits learners’ communication skills and literacy skills in all the languages they know (school and home languages); and their ability to learn additional languages.
Language awareness
Bilingual education broadens students’ awareness of our multilingual world and allows them to authentically experience other languages alongside their cultures, geographies, and histories.
Metalinguistic awareness
Bilingual learners develop more awareness of how languages are constructed; and they develop a vocabulary to describe, explain and discuss this (linguistic metalanguage). This increases communicative sensitivity—more refined control over how they select and use language to achieve their communication goals in different contexts and for various audiences.
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Social advantages
Social skills
Bilingual education promotes awareness and respect for difference and diversity—not just for different languages, but also for cultural, geographical, political, physical differences, etc. This has long-term benefits to social skills such as tolerance, respect, and cooperation.
Cultural awareness
Culture and language are often interdependent. Learning bilingually offers students an opportunity to develop deeper intercultural understanding, awareness, and sensitivity towards others. This supports the mission of the International Baccalaureate to nurture international mindedness.
Social benefits (local and global)
Bilingual education maximised the potential for local and global interactions.
Socio-economic and employability benefits
The skills and knowledge of bilinguals are often transferrable and are highly valued in the economy and workplace.
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References:

  • Baker, C. (2014), A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism (Fourth Edition), Multilingual Matters, Bristol, UK, pp50-51.
  • Bialystok, E. (2018). Bilingual Education for Young Children: Review of the Effects and Consequences. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 21(6), 666–679. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2016.1203859
  • García, O. (2011). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. John Wiley & Sons.

Research consistently shows that learning an additional language enhances a student’s first language development (Baker, 2014). This is because the student’s brain is constantly comparing the similarities and differences between the two languages in relation to vocabulary, grammar, spelling rules and sentence structures. This creates a better understanding of both languages, no matter how different the languages are from one another. The greater the understanding of the second language (German at BSPS), the greater the benefits and enhancement towards English and any other languages students use at home or in the community.

Zum Glück, not at all! Learning another language increases and enhances students’ deductive and problem-solving skills. Having frequent practice in working out meaning, making links, and drawing conclusions in the language class enhances these skills in a broader sense in other areas of the curriculum and in life in general. Research involving scientific analysis of brain activity in bilinguals compared to monolinguals strongly supports the assertion of language enhancing cognition. Students exposed to a bilingual education do as well, if not better, in other subjects (Maths, Science etc) compared to students only taught in a single language.

“Bilingual education has the potential of being a transformative school practice, able to education all children in ways that stimulate and expand their intellect and imagination, as they gain ways of expression and access different ways of being in the world.”

(Garcia, 2011, p.11)

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