Developing bilingual learning with educators in East London classrooms

Kenner, Charmian. 2010. Developing bilingual learning with educators in East London classrooms. In: S. Ehrhart; C. Helot and A. Le Nevez, eds. Plurilinguisme et Formation des Enseignants: Une Approche Critique / Plurilingualism and Teacher Education : A Critical Approach. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp. 25-42. ISBN 978-3-631-60375-8 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

Although government policy now encourages bilingual learning, this is still not an integral part of the National Curriculum and is rarely put into practice in classrooms in England. Moreover, teacher education at present focuses entirely on English development and literacy, rather than recognising bilingualism. Many teachers are therefore uncertain about using bilingual strategies in the classroom, particularly when they themselves are monolingual and their pupils speak a variety of languages. In particular, teachers are not sure what role bilingualism plays in the lives of second and third generation children, for whom English is their stronger language. At this point it is often thought that children are learning sufficiently through English only and other languages are irrelevant in the classroom.
In the East London borough of Tower Hamlets, where there is a vibrant Bangladeshi community settled in the UK since the 1950s, academic work at primary school is conducted almost entirely in English, and children's only opportunity to develop Bengali is through community-run classes after school. However, our ESRC-funded research with 7-11 year olds on Developing bilingual learning strategies in mainstream and community contexts revealed children’s desire to learn through Bengali as well as English, their feeling that their bilingual identities go unrecognised at school, and their concern that they are losing a language they still see as their “mother tongue”. Our study also showed how bilingual learning is already benefiting children in after-school community classes. We conducted action research linking educators from community and mainstream contexts, to develop bilingual tasks linked with the mainstream curriculum. Through this work, primary school teachers came to understand the potential of bilingual learning to enrich children's understanding and raise educational achievement in primary school. These research findings emphasise the need to integrate the study of bilingualism and bilingual learning into teacher education.

Item Type:

Book Section


bilingual learning, bilingual strategies, bilingual identities, Bengali, mother tongue

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies > Centre for Language, Culture and Learning




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Date Deposited:

23 Nov 2010 14:38

Last Modified:

19 Apr 2016 16:29


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