Monday, 7 June 2010

Language policies in municipalities

The workshop begun with a discussion around the following topics:
- How decision making takes places in municipalities
- Is it possible to influence the language education in municipalities

A workshop participant shared an experience of a CLIL teaching that took place in Espoo as an initiative that that was taken by the parents.

Interesting point was the one about the outsourced politics that situates also the language education into a new context. Who makes the decisions? Whose voice is heard?

Taina Saarinen pointed out that in media there are mainly two kinds of discussion around language resource questions. One is about language skills as opportunity for future, another states that teaching languages is expensive.

Short background presentation dealt also with such things as motivation, values and attitudes. Even if the young people consider language skills valuable how can it be seen in practice? Do they choose more languages in schools? Do we as educators and policy makers support that kind of development or do we just want our students into work life as soon as possible? Do we encourage students to take different paths? As the conference title suggests one might ask “who needs languages” and for what purposes?

Interesting discussion aroused around the topic. For example the following topics were discussed:

  • Pisa research vs. children’s wellbeing in schools – a paradox?
  • Question of equality: when there is no chance to provide some languages in smaller schools they are not provided in bigger schools either. Could ICT make any difference?
  • Languages as skills vs. languages as tools
  • Assessment practices: even though we have all kinds of ideals what language teaching could be we still evaluate students with traditional methods
  • Language as a social practice
  • Teachers as language policy agents – can they make a change?
  • Continuum of language teaching and learning; what if one moves to another city?
  • Question of schools’ image: could and should the schools specialize when it comes to language teaching?

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