•During the years 2010 and 2011 Ms.Sontje has worked at Antofagasta International School (AIS) in Chile. She was a 2nd grade homeroom teacher in an English immersion program.
•The mission of AIS is to deliver an education of an international standard. That entails all subject specific content to be delivered in English language. Starting in playgroup, all instruction is in English. Spanish constitutes the only exception with seven hours of “Lenguaje y Communicacion” mother tongue instruction a week. The subjects Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, Art, Technical Education, Computers and Physical Education are taught entirely in English. The course books and curriculum are adapted versions of the Californian Curriculum.
•Watching her second graders grow with their two languages was an extraordinary experience. Not only could they confidently express their ideas and thoughts in both languages but they were also literate in both languages. This bilingualism opened up two cultures for the children, an experience that had an immense effect on their cognitive and social abilities. They understood from a very early age that not only are there more than one word for concepts, but that there are different ways of living and interacting that are neither superior nor inferior. This knowledge enabled the students a cultural openness and understanding that surpassed that of most adults she have met. All of her students mastered challenging tasks such as presentations, book reports and creative writing activities that clearly demonstrated their rapid growth. In the process, they learned to help and assist each other in their language development.
•Whenever a new child started school the first weeks were a tough challenge for both teacher and student. The children typically didn´t understand a word of English and, in some cases, Spanish. These first weeks that constituted the beginning of the relationship and comfort level with the new language were crucial for further development. In this phase the different learning styles, channels and paces, the whole individuality of each child became apparent. Some children soaked up all new words but didn´t speak for weeks while others started to communicate with single words as soon as they got to their new class. As teachers we provided lots of empathy, patience and specialized materials for the newcomers until, at an astonishing speed, they all learned to communicate effectively in English.
•In retrospect Ms.Sontje found that all her students benefited greatly from their bilingual learning environment. Firstly, they became fluent and literate in 2 languages. Secondly, they gained cultural insight that allowed developing an open mindset and left them perceptive and appreciative of new ideas and concept. Thirdly, it advanced their cognitive skills and creative abilities.
•Regarding the aim of an education that holds up to international standards bilingual instruction is of fundamental importance. Besides learning to communicate in the world´s most widespread business language, students also acquire cultural sensitivity and social skills that form the basis of each international minded curriculum. Presented with the question of what an international curriculum should entail most educators agree on the notion of English proficiency, cultural sensitivity, cognitive and social skills. Bilingual instruction provides a powerful tool to target said qualities and holistic development.
Thanks for the report.