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Cambridge Language Sciences

Interdisciplinary Research Centre

Presented by Mark Levy, John Simpson, Ann Veitch (British Council) as part of the Second Language Education Group (SLEG) seminar series.

The British Council works globally in supporting governments and institutions to address some of the challenges faced in providing quality education in bi/multilingual education systems, or where English is an additional language but is the medium of instruction for all or part of the education system (EME). Where EME is viewed as means of gaining fluency in the language, two distinct activities may be conflated in the debate on language of learning and teaching: learning a language (English) and learning in a language (English medium), a much more challenging task whose success is dependent on cognitive and academic language proficiency. This session will present our approach and some of our work in this area in Basic Education (BE) and Higher Education (HE) and across different contexts, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa and Spain. In low and middle income countries, EME in BE can be characterised as complex, challenging and controversial. We will look at the evidence-based approach, promoting relevant research findings on the relationship between medium of education and learning outcomes, that the British Council adopts when advising Ministries of Education on English in BE. In Spain, multilingual, bilingual education and CLIL is mainstreamed, and the latest official figures (18-19) show that 36.8% of primary and 35.3% of secondary schools offer subjects taught in English. The only national Bilingual Education Programme, a collaboration between the Spanish Ministry of Education, the British Council and 10 regional governments, is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Pulling on the learning from our own direct involvement, we will reflect on factors that appear to make the difference between success and failure and on the challenges that still remain. Moreover, over the past decades, there has been rapid growth in EME in HE. We will reflect on the negative and positive impacts of this growth, the implications for organisations like the British Council in promoting quality and successful learning outcomes through EME, and discuss some of the difficulties in having a global approach –as we do with EME in BE in low and middle income countries –to this phenomena.

This seminar is free and will take place online via Zoom - all are welcome! Please sign up using the following link and the joining details will be emailed to you in advance of the event:

For additional queries about this seminar please contact Dee Rutgers:

Monday, 16 November, 2020 - 16:00 to 17:30
Event location: 

What we do

Cambridge Language Sciences is an Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. Our virtual network connects researchers from five schools across the university as well as other world-leading research institutions. Our aim is to strengthen research collaborations and knowledge transfer across disciplines in order to address large-scale multi-disciplinary research challenges relating to language research.