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The purpose of modern foreign languages in the primary school: an investigation into tutors' and trainees' perceptions

Woodgate-Jones, A. (2005) The purpose of modern foreign languages in the primary school: an investigation into tutors' and trainees' perceptions At European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2005. 07 - 10 Sep 2005.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


This study investigates the opinions of tutors and trainee teachers specialising in primary Modern Foreign Languages on primary PGCE courses in England. Data from questionnaires, interviews and focus groups indicate that both groups consider linguistic awareness and transferable language learning skills to be more important educational aims than cultural awareness. In February 2002 the DfES published a new policy statement for language teaching and learning in England over the next decade. One of its main aims is that by the year 2010 all primary pupils (from the ages of 7-11yrs) will have an entitlement to learn a Modern Foreign Language (MFL)in school. This is not the first attempt to expand MFL teaching and learning in primary schools. An extensive pilot scheme was carried out in the 1960s and 70s, introducing French into primary schools. This was discontinued after the NFER evaluation of its success was published in 1974. It was claimed that one of the principal reasons for the failure of the scheme was the inadequate training of teachers (Burstall et al 1974). In order to avoid the mistakes of the previous attempt to expand MFL provision into primary schools being repeated this issue must be addressed (QCA 2001). As a result, the Primary Language Teacher Training Project was established in 2001. During the first 2 years 13 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England were involved, partnered with 13 in France. By the third year of the project the number of languages being taught had expanded and the number of providers had increased significantly. However, although there is a commitment to introducing MFLs into primary schools, currently there is no consensus about what exactly should be taught. Some argue that linguistic competence should be the primary objective (Language Acquisition Programmes and to a lesser extent Sensitisation programmes) but others maintain that cultural enrichment and general language awareness programmes are more appropriate (Driscoll & Frost, 1999). This study therefore investigates which aspects of PMFL the tutors delivering the specialisms consider to be the most important. It explores how the courses are currently structured and how trainees are developing their subject knowledge. It also considers the opinions of the trainees following the specialisms as it is they after all who will be teaching MFLs in primary schools. The data presented is drawn from an investigation conducted with trainees from 16 HEIs currently involved with the Project. The investigation uses a multi -modal methodology; questionnaires, semi - structured interviews and focus groups. An important feature for all trainees participating in this Primary Language Teacher Training Project is the school based placement overseas. During this time trainees are required to plan, teach and assess the primary curriculum through the target language whilst based in a partner institution within Europe. A positive outcome of this placement widely reported by trainees is the impact this experience has on their own linguistic competence and the enhancement of their cultural awareness. However a less positive outcome has been as a result of the trainees comparing education systems. Some trainees return to the UK believing they have seen "how not to teach" while abroad and that the education system in England is much better than that of the host country.

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Published date: 2005
Venue - Dates: European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2005, 2005-09-07 - 2005-09-10
Keywords: linguistic competence, intercultural understanding, modern foreign languages, primary


Local EPrints ID: 54565
PURE UUID: ddd6bdf3-510e-4088-a31f-86b869d18831

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Date deposited: 05 Aug 2008
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 14:35

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