Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Segregation in classrooms.

Well this is a tricky one. Fine Gael's education spokesman Brian Hayes TD has suggested students with poor language skills should be segregated from their class mates until they reach a level of proficiency, claiming parents were frustrated at the effect the lack of segregation was having on the education of their English-speaking children.
The teacher unions are up in arms saying this is deeply unhelpful. However if what I read in the Times is true, then there is a decent level of fence sitting going on
'The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said it supported the idea of separate classes initially for some immigrant children that would focus on English language skills. It said best practice in this field was to provide "immersion classes" when it came to the integration of students.
However, it said it did not support "segregating" pupils and that second-level teachers had been welcoming students from diverse backgrounds into schools for many years."

Hayes own party, Fine Gael have stated it is not their views but his own he is expressing.
And more from today's Times.

"Lucy Gaffney, chairwoman of the National Action Plan Against Racism, accused the Government of "sitting on its hands for the last decade" on the issue of guidelines for teaching immigrant children in schools.

She said the classroom was the ideal place for children of different cultures to mix and criticised the Department of Education for failing to show leadership on the issue. "We should be doing all in our power to promote integration rather than separation," Ms Gaffney continued.

"I find it incredible that after 10 years of net immigration into Ireland, of families and children from all over the world, the Government is still waiting on the publication of reports and research before it decides on the best approach for teaching immigrant children in our schools.

"What has the Department of Education been doing for the past decade if it finds itself unable to provide clear guidelines on this important matter?"

So what do you think? Personally having lived abroad I don't think anything in the world helps
learn a language quicker other than total immersion. But then again I wasn't trying to learn a subject on top of a language. On the other hand I don't have children in a classroom who might be held up because one of their class mates is struggling.
Then there are teachers, some are frustrated due to lack of support and find it difficult to deal with children who don't speak a word of English, what options do they have? Ignore the child and carry on teaching whatever subject they teach, or hold up the class painstakingly explaining every word and comma?

A lot surely depends on the age of the child too. Younger children are like sponges and can pick up a language quickly and without to much difficulty, but after 12? !5? Is it air to throw these children in at the deep end and expect them to swim?
Integration is new to Ireland, there are bound to be hiccups and mistakes made along the way. But in the real world ideas that may not be palatable to our emotions might not always be the wrong ones. If a child can develop faster in a shorter language intensive class is it wrong to consider it before allowing that child to blend into the mainstream classes of a school? Or is it better to allow that child to immerse his or herself in the day to day class, but perhaps suffer and fall behind in terms of the curriculum.
Like I said, it's a tricky one, but it needs to be discussed-I feel- without everyone yelling racism at the outset.

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22 Comments:

Blogger jothemama said...

Absolutely. At the end of the day. the more early provision for helping kids along the better. I would agree with time out for extra classes on top of ordinary classes, with a dedicated language classroom. And classroom assistants to help the kids, like they have in England.

It's all resources, though, isn't it?

9:03 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

It is. But it has to be discussed calmly without everyone getting their knickers in a twist. If it benefits the children and the teachers to have maybe a six or four week intensive language class available to non english speaking children then surely that help everyone in the long run-assuming such a thing was even possible.

9:10 a.m.  
Blogger Twenty Major said...

If the National Front had made that suggestion there'd be uproar.

The best way for any child to learn a language is to be surrounded by it in a natural envirnoment. Explain to be how kids can be given an immersion course in a language when they're not immersed in it? When all the other kids are non-English speakers.

Throw them in at the deep end. They'll pick it up much more quickly that way. The academic side of things will be a struggle for them but that is just a consequence of being educated in a foreign country.

To segregate them is wrong and counter-productive.

9:24 a.m.  
Blogger morgor said...

segregration isn't going to help I think.

Maybe since they won't be doing Irish they should use that class as an "English basics" class or something.

Especially since the normal English curriculum is more centred on poetry and shite like that.

9:31 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This kind of thing happens in most schools on a daily basis and is no big deal. Usually like any other type of remedial lesson, the little nipper is taken out of his class for an hour or two and taught in a small group with fellow nippers at the same stage as himself. It is really beneficial ye know. The quicker they grasp English the easier it will be for them to integrate and make friends. A language barrier can be very difficult for a little child, even basic things can be daunting so I am definitely for it.


I think with language in particular how it is taught and the individuals level of interest will determine how quickly they grasp it. My brothers went to the same school and whilst one can speak fluent Irish the other doesn’t have a notion.

Also, I love hearing little children learn English, it is most amusing. Like this one little Indian chap. The teacher was like, “This is a chair” and he would hop up sit on the chair and yell “I sit down”. The teacher would interrupt and say, “No, no THIS IS A CHAIR” to which he replies “I…. SIT…. DOWN”. It went on for oh maybe an hour, it was quite funny, in a I am laughing with you not at you kinda way off course.

Nonny

9:35 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This kind of thing happens in most schools on a daily basis and is no big deal. Usually like any other type of remedial lesson, the little nipper is taken out of his class for an hour or two and taught in a small group with fellow nippers at the same stage as himself. It is really beneficial ye know. The quicker they grasp English the easier it will be for them to integrate and make friends. A language barrier can be very difficult for a little child, even basic things can be daunting so I am definitely for it.


I think with language in particular how it is taught and the individuals level of interest will determine how quickly they grasp it. My brothers went to the same school and whilst one can speak fluent Irish the other doesn’t have a notion.

Also, I love hearing little children learn English, it is most amusing. Like this one little Indian chap. The teacher was like, “This is a chair” and he would hop up sit on the chair and yell “I sit down”. The teacher would interrupt and say, “No, no THIS IS A CHAIR” to which he replies “I…. SIT…. DOWN”. It went on for oh maybe an hour, it was quite funny, in a I am laughing with you not at you kinda way off course.

Nonny

9:35 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Twenty is does depend on age though. A 9 year old might have a lot less trouble learnign a language than say a 15 year old, and then there is the subject. A 15 year old in a biology class might seriously have difficulties trying to understan what is going on.
I'm not saying one thing or the other, but just trying to think how difficult it might be to grasps the logistics of teaching a child with NO grasp of the language at all. perhaps the word segregation is part of the problem, it has such ugly connotations.

9:41 a.m.  
Anonymous Shebah said...

Very young children pick up a new language very quickly when placed in a local class - and some older children can also cope relatively quickly. There are problems when there are too many children without English in one class - the teacher has to try to get them up to speed to the detriment of the rest. I am a NIMBY in this respect, I agree generally with immersion, but wouldn't want it in my child's class. Dreadful, I know, but in this fiercly competitive world where exam success is the "be all", I want my child to have no potential obstacles to her learning process.

10:09 a.m.  
Blogger Twenty Major said...

Age is a factor, of course, but I think what's expected academically of a child coming to a foreign country to learn in a foreign language is what needs to be looked at. You cannot expect them to thrive and I still believe sitting in a class/environment where everyone speaks English all the time is the best way to learn, no matter what age you are.

10:21 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How are they suppose to make friends? How are they suppose to sit there without knowing what is going on? I don't think age is a factor, isolation is still horrible regardless of what age you are. I think the current method of removing them from the class for an hour or two is the most effective. Throwing them into a class without any grasp on the english language and expecting them to comprehend maths or geography is silly and not in their interest. It is like trying to teach a person to swim by throwing them in the deep end and yelling swim. Not very effective.

Nonny

10:29 a.m.  
Blogger jothemama said...

I don't think that's true necessarily Twenty. Not in my experience, anyway.

A couple weeks of dedicated English classes during some other subject, perhaps, not the whole school day would be really beneficial in getting the basics across.

Immersion in a culture works - in a class room, with all the subject specific language, it can just mean the non-English speakers get left behind, floundering. Class room assistants are vital for that.

Though one little horrible fuck of a child where I was teaching in England stood up and complained about the little Indian kids getting unfair special treatment. I would have loved to send him to India and stick him in a classroom to manage. Oo, he was odious.

10:36 a.m.  
Blogger morgor said...

My girlfriend is working with lots of spanish , her favourite phrase of theirs at the moment is -

"do you have any gossips"

make sure to pronounce the S ;)

11:08 a.m.  
Blogger Medbh said...

Total immersion followed by supplemental tutoring seems the best route.

12:05 p.m.  
Anonymous eva said...

Total immersion, no question about it.
I'm from an area where Swedish and Finnish are spoken. My sisters kids, who didn't speak a word of Finnish (and the languages are completely different) went straight into a Finnish school and in no time at all they were fluent in Finnish, no problems whatsoever.

Language isn't an issue for kids until you make it an issue!

Age isn't an issue either. I've learnt other languages as an adult. As for the culture part, well that speaks for itself, segregating them can only cause problems, make them more 'different' than they already are.

1:21 p.m.  
Blogger daisy mae said...

i echo the sentiment that immersion is the best option - but the teacher should carry on at a normal pace. have the students go to remedial english classes an hour or so a day... and there should also be the expectation that perhaps the students repeat their first year in the new school. make it so that the first year is about learning the language and customs, and if they can pick up the subject matter - fine. if not, there should be no adverse repercussions if they need to repeat the year just to get the subject matter.

and for pulling them out - students are pulled out of regular classrooms for all sorts of reasons: small group tutoring in almost any subject, speech classes, etc. pulling them out to help them with english shouldn't be that difficult.

2:21 p.m.  
Anonymous eva said...

"small group tutoring"
I read small group torturing, LOL!
Obviously lost to dyslexia, hahaha!

2:24 p.m.  
Blogger Dr. James McInerney said...

If a child comes into a class at the age of 15, then they will have had previous education and although education differs between countries they will more-or-less be at the same level as other 15 year olds. It might be a good idea to put them back a year in some cases, so that they can pick up the language, how to write in English, how to answer an exam question in English, etc. without the pressure of having to do two things at the same time.

So, for instance, in biology, if the respiratory system is being taught in English in the class and the child has no idea about the respiratory system, then they will have to both learn English and new lessons at the same time. If they are already familiar with what is going on, then the device of teaching respiration could be very useful as a way of learning English.

Does this make sense?

I find that I can sort-of understand the News on TV in Irish, but I cannot really get it on the radio. The reason being that I have no visual clues with the radio.

4:02 p.m.  
Anonymous Irene said...

So much for integration and 'Ireland of the welcomes'! (Says this Dane living in Ireland for the last 14 years).

Shame on Fine Gael, they really are showing their true blue colours!

What is needed is extra help for the child and immersion, just like the dyslexic children etc etc.

4:55 p.m.  
Blogger Dr. James McInerney said...

Irene, I'm not sure that Brian whatshisname was trying to say that foreigners are unwelcome, it has always struck me that he is a publicity-seeker kind of blusterer and that he just spouted a cack-handed answer to the question. Maybe not, maybe you are right.

I think there is a valid point that if the classroom was full of English-speaking pupils it would move at a certain pace, but if there were four or five students there that were not able to speak English then the class as a whole might conceivably be slowed down by this - unless we just ignore the foreign students. Additionally, the students themselves are unlikely to progress well if they cannot understand what is going on. I see it myself - foreign students with poor English do less well on average than those with good English. On the other hand, the top student in one of our degree courses is a Nigerian with very good English.

5:20 p.m.  
Anonymous Irene said...

@ Dr. James McInerney:
Racism comes in many shades and often in a very subtle disguise, in my experience. Don't get me wrong, I love living in Ireland, I am well integrated and all that jazz, but racism is definitely an undercurrent in this society as it is, I believe, in all societies!

With regards to 'yer man' Hayes, I have also always seen him as an attention seeker, and he always manages to get attention during the silly season...

With regards to the issue of integration in the classroom, I really cannot see how it is any different to any native child that needs more attention due to dyslexia or attention deficits etc. It is merely a matter of resource management, in my view.
However, none of the politicians (and thereby the Irish people as they are the ones that elect their governments) seem to be willing to part with the money required. The common good is a factor in this as I see it, and the common good does cost everybody money with very little room for 'mé-féin-ism'. The question is, are we willing to pay the price?

(PS. By way of explanation for not taking my share of responsibility of the political situation; I am a tax payer in Ireland, but have no vote as Denmark does not allow dual citizenship and I am yet not ready to cut that bit out of my heart. Therefore, I have very little say in any political matters in Ireland, which can be terribly frustrating.)

5:43 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Irene it can be just as frustrating when you do have political say in this country as people keep voting the scoundrals back into power.
You're right you know, we do so hate to spend money on useful things like health and education, but we like to complain a great deal about it. It's astounding, but there are still schools in the country with half their classes out in prefabs that are falling down about their ears. We don't seem to be handling the problem of pupils that might need help, be it through language or special needs, very well either. Jo's right, we need more class room assistants, but I doubt the situation is going to improve this year either.

6:43 p.m.  
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