Language learning support becoming mainstream for schools

Issue: Volume 97, Number 17

Posted: 24 September 2018
Reference #: 1H9kye

With New Zealand’s population increasing in cultural and linguistic diversity well beyond the big cities, schools and early learning services in rural and provincial areas are experiencing major change.

A school in Queenstown is receiving funding for Portuguese-speaking children; a Warkworth school has an Arabic-speaking student receiving assistance; and in Oamaru and Timaru, in south Canterbury, there are a growing number of migrant families moving from  Auckland because housing is much more affordable.

As families move from the larger urban areas, bilingual and multilingual students are representing an increasing proportion of school rolls nationwide. Providing language learning support is becoming mainstream for schools which until recently have not had many culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) learners.

The learners include New Zealand-born students of migrant parents, migrant students and students from refugee backgrounds. The demographic change is right across the board. The largest group of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) funded students have Mandarin or Cantonese as their mother tongue followed closely by Samoan, but there are currently students from 161 ethnic groups receiving ESOL support, including children from Eritrea, whose first language is Afar.

Full suite of support

A recent ERO report, Responding to Language Diversity in Auckland, examined how well early learning and school sectors in Auckland are responding to culturally and linguistically diverse learners.

It said most services and schools knew who these learners were and had, to some extent, taken steps to respond to their language and culture. However, “only 37 per cent of services and 58 per cent of schools intentionally promoted learning by using a home language or cultural lens to support the learners’ acquisition of English, and to promote engagement with the learner, their parents and communities.”

Although Auckland was the focus, the report said that the findings hold relevance for education providers throughout New Zealand.

In addition to twice yearly ESOL funding, the Ministry provides support for schools with culturally and linguistically diverse learners through resources and professional development tools available on the website link). The full suite of online resources are for mainstream teachers and ESOL specialists.

Oral language focus helps learning

The Ministry currently provides ESOL funding for more than 45,000 ESOL students in 1,450 schools. That’s an increase of 15,000 learners over the past 10 years and the numbers are expected to keep climbing.

Research shows that CLD learners can take between five and 10 years to learn the English language before they are considered competent (Haynes, 2007; Cummins, 2000).

ESOL funding is available for up to five years to support students during their initial years in a New Zealand school.

The Ministry’s Senior Adviser, ESOL, Kirsty MacDiarmid, says, “It’s important for students to receive language support when they enter the New Zealand schooling system.

“The major focus is expanding oral language and curriculum content vocabulary. For example, it is essential that students understand the vocabulary being used in classes such as science and maths in order to engage with their learning.”

Kirsty says, “The pace of social change is so fast it can catch a community by surprise – we were recently contacted by a school in a rural area where a Samoan family with six children had recently enrolled, asking for assistance with ESOL support. We were happy to help.”

Skill building recommended

The ERO report recommended schools have teaching strategies to support cultural diversity and English language learning. It also recommended that every teacher build a diverse knowledge base with competencies in second language acquisition theory and development. The report highlighted the value of TESSOL (Teaching English in Schools to Speakers of Other Languages) trained staff in schools and encouraged opportunities for all teachers to obtain a TESSOL qualification.

The Ministry offers tuition fees scholarships for study towards a TESSOL qualification. Applications for 2019 TESSOL scholarships(external link) are available and are due by Friday 2 November.

Key numbers

ESOL funding levels vary from $650 to $1,900 per student annually.

The numbers of students being funded rose over the past year by 4,185.

45,233 students are ESOL funded in 1,450 schools.

161 different ethnic groups are represented.

The students are from 159 different countries and speak 133 different languages.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:10 am, 24 September 2018

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