CLIL in Pre-Primary Education: A Qualitative Analysis of Teachers' Views in a Spanish Context

CLIL in Pre-Primary Education: A Qualitative Analysis of Teachers' Views in a Spanish Context

Ana Otto
Copyright: © 2024 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/979-8-3693-3073-9.ch009
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


Content and language-integrated learning (CLIL) has experienced an exponential growth with its implementation into international pre-primary education contexts. But pre-primary CLIL has to be suited to the main principles of early childhood education and care (ECEC) and thus respect very young learners' idiosyncratic features in terms of their development and acquisition. In 2004, the Madrid regional government implemented the Spanish-English bilingual programme granting students the opportunity to study English as an additional language and receive instruction for other subjects through English. In the academic year 2017-2018, the programme extended to the very early years, and it is currently run in all bilingual schools. The main aim of this contribution is to discuss the potential applicability of CLIL for pre-primary education and to analyze the teachers' views in Madrid by means of two focus groups.
Chapter Preview

Introduction: Clil In Pre-Primary Education

The term CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) refers to any type of teaching in which an additional language (foreign language, second language or regional and/or minority language) is used as a tool for learning a non-language subject or area and is integrated with the curricular content with the aim of learning both (Marsh, 2002, p. 58). Since its inception, CLIL has enjoyed great success mainly because it is an approach that offers great flexibility in terms of the various areas offered in the additional language, the increased exposure time to it, and the consequent improvement in terms of acquisition (Marsh, 2004; Wolf, 2006; Coyle, 2007; Mehisto et al., 2008; Moreno de Diezmas, 2016). Likewise, it seems that CLIL increases learner confidence and autonomy, reduces anxiety in the language learning process, and encourages classroom participation, among other advantages (Hidalgo & Ortega-Sánchez, 2023).

Perhaps one of the most frequent controversies we face in the area of early language acquisition is the appropriateness of additional language exposure when students have not fully developed their mother tongue. In this regard, we find voices that point to a decrease in content learning (Fernández-Sanjurjo et al., 2019), and others that point out, in addition, that this approach may not be suitable for students at early ages (Baker, 2011; Phillipson, 2018), although they are far less in number compared to the large number of opinions in favor of an early start. The latter are based on factors such as the mental flexibility inherent to this stage (Enever, 2011) the ability of children to act on their own and regulate their learning process (Schawrtz, 2018), and the European recommendations about the need to adopt oral approaches in early childhood (European Commission, 2011), to name the most significant contributions.

In any case, and based on the premise that an early start does not always have to be an advantage, but rather that it provides the appropriate characteristics (Custodio-Espinar,. 2022), it seems clear that the CLIL approach in Early Childhood Education requires special features and treatment to adapt it to the context in question. First of all, it is necessary to take into account the psycho-evolutionary characteristics of children, who at this age are in a pre-operational stage (Jonhston, 2009). In this sense, the pedagogical foundations must be laid to ensure this respect for the psycho-evolutionary development of children (Fleta, 2019). In addition, it is necessary, above all, a change of paradigm to distinguish it from good practices in EFL, and focus on the knowledge, skills and values that derive from the different areas of expertise (Andúgar & García-Abellán, 2023, p. 52). Finally, it is advisable to provide teachers at the early childhood stage through the CLIL approach with the necessary tools and competencies to know how to adapt its basic principles to the students’ developmental stage (Cortina-Pérez & Andúgar, 2021; Cortina-Pérez & Pino-Rodriguez, 2022).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Pre-Primary Education: Programs at the first stage of organized education, considered as the more formal component of Early Childhood Education and Care. They are primarily designed to introduce very young learners to a school environment, and provide a safe bridge between the home and school. Other related terms that are usually associated with are infant education, pre-school, nursery school and kindergarten.

Bilingual Education: An approach to education in which students are taught in two (or more) languages. It differentiates from learning a second/foreign or additional language as a subject because both languages are used for instruction in different subjects or content areas like Maths, Science, and History, to name just a few. The time spent in each language and curricula organization depends on the model itself and the specific context.

MAXQDA: A software program used for computer-assisted qualitative and mixed-method research. It includes text, audio, image, video and bibliographic files along with survey data, Tweets and focus group transcripts. The data is analyzed using codes and memos.

Teachers’ Competencies: A set of competencies embracing knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that enable educators to develop teaching effective practices in specific contexts and programs. They are usually organized around a framework, and have broadened with respect to reform in educational systems and redefined for sustainability.

Focus Groups: A research method commonly used in qualitative studies. It involves a small sample of group people sharing demographic information, profiles or experiences who gather to discuss a topic under the guidance of a moderator. In education the participants are usually senior teachers exploring how they feel about current practice, and providing feedback on the main challenges they find in daily practice.

Content and Language Integrated Learning: A competence-based teaching approach which was coined back in the 1990s in Europe, and has recently expanded to other international educational systems and contexts. The philosophy behind CLIL is to teach both the subject and the language, so the two of them are effectively integrated and used naturally.

Early Childhood Education and Care: Any arrangement that provides education and care from birth to 8 years-old or as a preparation for primary education entry. It is usually a non-compulsory first stage in educational systems, and it is regarded as remarkable due to the tremendous development the child goes through during this period.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: