By studying in Spain and taking a Spanish Cultures course, living with a host family with an 8-year-old son, and taking part in this practicum, I have come to learn about "Proyecto Bilingue" or the Bilingual Project taking place in all of Spain. The government is making an effort to transition the entire nation, through the education program, to a bilingual society. Watching the news and interacting with various types of people, there is no doubt that Spain is going through a major economic crisis right now. The unemployment rate is at 22% and rising and jobs are limited. It is essential that Spaniards know how to speak an additional language in order to seek work abroad. However, they significantly lack in foreign language skills because of the Franco regime when he made Spain a strictly monolingual nation. In the classroom and my conversations with the teachers, students, and parents of the program, I have come to realize that the recent Bilingual Project has great goals for Spain and a good foundation set but it requires time and a lot of improvements. Spaniards have high, idealistic expectations for the program but are frustrated with its current form and are anxious to see results.
Teachers working in schools with bilingual programs are now required a certificate of proficiency in English, which can be obtained through a teacher training course called the CAP (Certificate of pedagogical expertise). This is simply a course with 40 hours of theory training and 30 hours of tutored practice. This is clearly not enough to learn a new language, let alone teach with the language. Many of the schools do not have proper English trainers or bring in native English speakers (like me) who only come in once or twice a week.
The content taught at both the Primary and Secondary levels, as well as in English, is another aspect of the Bilingual Project that is causing some issues with the program. With the new English aspect added to education, a lot of "content", and teaching practices are lost. Content (science, environment, arts, etc.) is being taught in English and thus there is a fear that students might learn some English, but not enough to understand the content, and therefore they are actually not learning even what they would normally learn in a Spanish-language environment. Marcos, my 8-year-old host-brother, is currently learning science still in Spanish in his school but Sol (my host mom) complains that he does not know enough English and gets frustrated with the teacher. She wants Marcos to be learning everything he has to in science but she believes that he should be learning it in English. She often wants to switch schools. However, I know from my own observations and attempts at helping him with his homework that If he was to be learning what he was learning in Science in English, then none of the content would get through.
On top of all this, the confusion with the UK and American English is added. The resources of this project seem to be coming from both countries and can be very confusing to the children. These kinds of lack of organization and need for improvements in this much needed system make me think about where Spain as a nation is headed.
It is now officially the educational system's job to teach Spain's children how to speak another language so that they can be brought out of the economic crisis and be a more international and global "player". But, with all these problems and need for improvements with the current system in place, it is hard to just sit back and see a struggling system continue to struggle. My teaching abroad experience has made me realize just how important a bilingual education can be to a nation and the need for soon-to-be teachers like us to take the responsibility to make it function properly.