The educational reform in Italy by minister Gelmini in 2011 has introduced CLIL (Content Language Integrated Learning) onto the Italian school system and made it compulsory in the last year of the high schools for a non-linguistic subject. It’s a choice in line with the most of the Europan countries, where teaching in a language other than mother tongue involves a even higher percentage of students and hours of class.
CLIL Methodology takes its inspiration from the concept of Linguistic Immersion and was proposed for the first time in a resolution of the Council of the European Community in 1995. The aim is to enhance the learning of a foreign language as a vehicular language to study non-linguistic subjects (e.g. history, science, psychology, etc.).
However, as pointed out in several quarters, we can’t reduce this methodology to simply teaching a subject in english (or another L2 language).
Using CLIL also implies implementing an educational approach in discontinuity with traditional frontal taught lesson, such as learning skills, participatory lessons with a constant interplay among students and teacher, students reflecting on the goals they have achieved from time to time (portfolio) and so on… Therefore, it means putting into practice the educational recommendations aimed to modernize our school system.
Furthermore, studies conducted would suggest that CLIL, in addition to providing good command of vehicular language for students, also improve the contents learning, by making them reflect in greater depth the subject’s key-words.
According to INDIRE (National Institute for Documentation, Innovation and Educational Research, undertaken by the Italian Ministry of Education), in order to become a CLIL teacher in Italy, it is necessary to attend a 60-university credits (equivalent to one year of university in Italy) advanced university course, in addition to obtaining a C1-grade language certification (a very high grade). So, that’s a quite challenging educational path!
During my career as an italian literature teacher, I haven’t experienced CLIL methodology, yet (by the way, I didn’t attend the advanced course, so I couldn’t, at the moment), but I got sort of curious of what my students think of their CLIL experience, as they’re in their senior year of high school, learning history in english, so I asked them their opinion.
The feedback they provided was very negative, although they couldn’t explain clearly the reasons of their opinion. They simply stated that “they can’t make heads or tails of that”. Yet, their history teacher is really book-smart, young, open-minded, scrupulous: I guess she trusts in the new approach (otherwise she wouldn’t have undertaken a so demanding advanced course) and I’m sure she ran the class in the best possible way.
So, what’s going on? I am unable to answer. Probably, it’s too early to carry out an analysis: minister’s recommendation was fully implemented only from the school year 2014/2015, varying from school to school, so we’re still in the experimental stage.
Furthermore, the assessment provided by my students is in no way shared by the whole student population: if we take a look at the web, the most of the views are rather positive.
Moreover, it is absolutely essential that pupils have a constructive approach, it is crucial that they put aside all preconceptions and don’t underrate their foreign language skills. They may not take full advantage of a great chance for (non just) language learning that previous generations hadn’t.