A recent report on bilingual education in Andalusia concludes that bilingual programmes improve students’ English skills and Spanish writing skills, without any detrimental impact on their performance in the non-language subjects taught in English. In addition, these programmes tend to reduce differences between pupils from different socioeconomic backgrounds. That backs up the findings of a report on bilingual education in Madrid, and it’s particularly interesting because one of the most frequent criticisms of bilingual programmes is precisely that they benefit pupils of higher socioeconomic status at the expense of pupils of lower socioeconomic status.
The report was produced by Francisco Lorenzo, a lecturer at the University Pablo de Olavide, with the support of the Andalusian regional government’s education department. It was based on a representative sample of more than 4,000 individuals, so the results should be quite reliable. The comparison of the performance of pupils at bilingual and non-bilingual schools was based on their scores in standardised tests at the end of primary school and in the fourth year of secondary school.
The study claims that “pupils at bilingual schools do better in their writing tests in their first language, Spanish. This confirms that, in a bilingual context, the languages consolidate one another by activating common acquisition processes on account of the principle of linguistic interdependence”.
In terms of the students’ English skills, in the fourth year of ESO (obligatory secondary education) 70% of pupils at bilingual schools had a B1 or B2 level, whereas the equivalent percentage at non-bilingual schools was just 50%.
For the non-language subjects taught in English, the overall results were similar at both types of schools. Nevertheless, the differences between pupils of different socioeconomic status were much smaller at bilingual schools than at non-bilingual ones. There are various ways to interpret this finding, and it may be the result of a combination of factors. If you have any thoughts on the matter, please share them in the comments field.
The full study, which contains a lot more information, is available here (Spanish only).