Bilingualism has a unique place within the educational context, since modern technology has minimalised the distances between countries and people. Furthermore, the growing phenomenon of multilingual and multicultural countries and groupings (United Nations, United States, European Union) gives new significance to the issue. Research on bilingualism has been progressing quite rapidly and different disciplines have added their own contributions to the field. Nevertheless, new questions surface every day and they are usually multiple answers to these questions. This paper also attempts to answer the question whether linguistic diversity is also an inclusive issue. The following study derived from the need to answer similar questions raised by the increasing number of multilingual and multicultural children in primary schools nowadays.
What is evident from the review of studies on bilingualism, are that the multiple factors influencing the bilingual child’s learning (e.g., the level of linguistic competence in the two languages shared by the bilingual child; the “use” of two languages at home, at school, the age of the bilingual child; the language/s used by the parents; the formal education system; etc.) play an important role on bilingual children’s linguistic development. Therefore, bilingualism is a complex issue where research is still ongoing and the limited number of studies on bilingualism provides a variety of findings, which could support different hypotheses.
In this paper, I try to show the different interconnected factors influencing the bilingual English-Greek children’s reading and also the educational implications for the two countries involved, in the light of inclusive policies followed recently across UK and Cyprus. Multiple case-study design was used to explore the factors influencing English-Greek children’s reading within four different school cases, three in UK and one in Cyprus. The data were analyzed against the quantitative and qualitative framework provided in the following section.
In the last 20 years considerable changes have been taking place in education, that are mostly based upon conceptualization of what “special education” means and whether it should be considered as a separate area of concern (Ainscow, 1999). As a consequence, inclusion in education is a process concerning with the never-ending search to find better ways of responding to diversity. (Ainscow, 2005).
“In the last few years Cyprus is increasingly becoming a less homogeneous society”. The accession to the European Union and the educational imperatives that pluralism entails have an impact on educational system in Cyprus. (Hadjigeorgiou and Papapavlou, 2005). Within the last decade, the educational context of Cyprus has been changing rapidly. A growing number of linguistically and nationally different children have been attending Greek class. Within the existing arrangements, however, many pupils whose their mother tongue is not Greek may be marginalized or even excluded from teaching. Educational inclusion as a process promoting the participation of all students could be the answer to the needs of the children who belong to linguistic diverse groups. According to Ainscow (ibid) inclusion consequently concerns with the identification and removal of barriers. Adding to the latter, language diversity and cultural diversity could be considered such as barriers that could be removed with educational inclusion
The Cyprus Ministry of Education has been attempting to apply inclusive strategies to respond to linguistic diversity by appointing teachers to help bilingual children. Some of the teachers are trained to work with bilinguals, some are not. There is still lack of systematic application of literacy strategies at the Cyprus educational system.
At this section it is also important to refer to some issues relating to the organisational context of primary education in Cyprus, as well as to the teaching of literacy (to bilingual and monolingual children) in primary schools:
1) All primary schools in Cyprus are essentially similar, independent of local context factors (e.g., differential school ethos, administrative styles, faculty cultures).
2) The administration of primary education is highly centralised.
3) Teachers are responsible only for the successful implementation of the goals, objectives and programmes approved by the central office.
4) Bilingual children are taught within the mainstream schools and in certain cases (in areas with a large bilingual population) in special units within the mainstream schools.
UK has been also a rapidly changing educational context with the increasing number of linguistically and culturally diverted children attending primary education nationally.
The model of literacy applied in UK incorporates both top down and bottom up approaches. The literacy strategy is based on searchlights (see following section) and includes both analytic and synthetic phonic approaches to reading. In the following section the English context for beginners in reading is presented.
The programme of study for the reading of English in the National Curriculum in England and Wales states that:
Pupils should be taught to read with fluency, accuracy, understanding and enjoyment, building on what they already know…Pupils should be taught the alphabet, and be made aware of the sounds of spoken language in order to develop phonological awareness (Department for Education and Welsh Office, 1995, p 6).
The following types of knowledge, understanding and skills are mentioned, based on the four basic searchlights (NLS framework, 1998), each of which sheds light on the text. These searchlights are:
Phonic knowledge (sound and spelling)
Contextual understanding (knowledge of context)
(Department for Education and Welsh Office, 1995, p.7).
The Framework for Teaching (The National Literacy Strategy, 1998)
…covers the statutory requirements for reading and writing in the National Curriculum for English and contributes to the Development of Speaking and Listening (p 3).
In autumn 1998, the National Literacy Strategy was introduced in all schools in England. The goal of the strategy is to raise the standards of achievement in literacy using a detailed set of teaching objectives in each year of primary education. The objectives are defined in the National Literacy Strategy Framework for Teaching (GB. DfEE, 1999). The basis for teaching is a structured daily session (the “literacy hour”). The daily literacy hour is at the heart of the framework. It involves planned whole class teaching, structured group work and clear routines for independent working.
Data were explored and a number of issues emerged in relation to the following research questions:
1) How does reading develop in monolingual and bilingual learners across four school case studies in two countries (UK and Cyprus)?
2) What factors influence the development of the bilingual English-Greek and monolingual English/Greek children’s reading in English and Greek?
3) What are the implications for teaching in these two countries?
My personal interest on the first two questions was yielded from my long teaching experience with bilingual English-Greek and Greek-English children in England and in Cyprus primary education. During my enrollment with bilingual children, a number of questions arose relating the children’s reading development. In addition, the difference in reading strategies and educational policies across the two contexts initiated the third question of the possible implications for teaching reading to bilingual and monolingual children in these two countries.
This study explores the educational context of the Greek-English children in UK and Cyprus. Therefore, the study involved four different school case studies and four groups of children. The sample derived from one urban state elementary school in the “City of Saint Epiphanios”, Limassol (two groups, 50 Monolingual Greek and 50 Bilingual Greek-English) Cyprus; the others were three elementary schools. Two Greek Schools in “Hudders City” England, (one group of 24 English-Greek children) and “Nelson City”, England (one group of 26 English-Greek children). Finally, one English school in “Hudders City”, England (one group of 50 Monolingual English children).
It is important to remember that the study was essentially exploratory in nature. Rather unusually, too, it combined a number of dimensions that are not usually used together. So, for example, it involved the detailed analysis of individual case studies within the context of a range of statistical information presented. At the same time, it involved a comparative dimension (comparing school case studies and groups of children within the school case studies in two countries) with reference to the educational and linguistic contexts of England and Cyprus. Specifically, the study was designed to address the way reading develops in England and in Cyprus at two different levels (a macro level and a micro level).
In deciding how to best design a cross-cultural study (studying the different contexts in particular), the researcher should consider complex theoretical considerations about how best to measure and interpret phenomena occurring in the two cultures. Different methods (for example, instrument design, sampling frame, mode of data collection, data analysis and documentation) may also be applied in order to achieve the quality of cross-cultural measurement. To conclude, the multidimensionality of a number of different factors influencing the research process in cross-comparison studies urges the choice of multiple case study and exploratory research as the appropriate methodology for the thorough investigation of the explored factors.
Having considered the overall approach that was taken in relation to the design of the study, in this section I explain in more specific terms the actual procedures followed. I will start by explaining how a variety of methods were used in carrying out what I believe to be exploratory research that involved multiple-case studies.
In the present exploratory study there were four different school cases. The observation included two different levels: one at the local educational school context (school) and one at the national educational level (national educational level). Quantitative and qualitative data was collected through observation, structured, informal interviews and testing (cognitive and reading tests).
Data were collected and analysed using the four different perspectives developed in Chapter Three (i.e. script dependent, universal, linguistic threshold and linguistic interdependence); ways of data analysis are presented in detail in the Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9.
This approach is illustrated in the following diagram. The diagram illustrates how the aid of theories provided by monolingual studies was used to investigate reading development in bilingual settings.
Diagram illustrating the use of varied theoretical perspectives in analysing data
Preliminary Understanding Of the hypotheses tested in English and Greek Monolingual
Preliminary Understanding of the Hypotheses tested in English and Greek Monolingual Populations
Of the hypotheses tested in English and Greek Monolingual Populations
Deeper Understanding of
Development in Bilingual Populations
Script Dependent Theory
Linguistic Dependence Theory
The study involved the bringing together of data collected by both qualitative and quantitative methods. This use of multiple methods permitted triangulation of the data in order to develop deeper understandings from which inferences could be derived.
A multiple-case approach was adopted since, according to Yin (1980), this offers the “ability to deal with a variety of evidence documents, artefacts, interviews, and observations” (p. 20). Yin defines this case study as a phenomenon taking place within real life context. This is actually the case for bilingual learners who come from bilingual parents. In short, it seems reasonable to assume that a multiple-case study approach to investigate bilingual reading holds potential for learning about a relatively not thoroughly investigated phenomenon (Jimenez, et al., 1995).
By using multiple case studies and methods, the researcher also tries to achieve the triangulation and reliability of observation in a combined way in order to deepen understanding.
The context in which English monolingual, Greek monolingual, English-Greek bilingual and Greek-English bilingual children learn to read is different in Cyprus and in the UK. The differences are evident in the following domains of impact on reading development as these prevailed from the review of studies with bilingual English-Greek children. These domains of impact were distinguished into the following interconnected factors:
· Linguistic factors (first and second languages used by the children).
· Developmental factors, (cognitive characteristics).
· Sociolinguistic environment (e.g., research using parents, siblings, friends, etc., sociolinguistic interaction with bilingual children provides information about children’s use of Greek and English languages).
· The nature of the educational systems systems the UK and Cyprus.
I used a framework of analysis (presented via a diagram) in order to …