Secondary School Bilingual Programs
in Andalucía (Spain)
José Antonio Alcalde, Bilingual Coordinator
Elizabeth Therese Gaughan, Language Assistant
La Arboleda Secondary School, Lepe (Huelva) SPAIN
The bilingual program was created by Andalucía’s Department of
Education in the 2004-05 school year after some years of piloting.
The program is one of several consequences of the guidelines set
by the European Union’s linguistic policies regarding the teaching
and learning of more foreign languages.
Along with new technologies, bilingual programs are right now top priority for different Spanish
regional authorities. The program exists in both primary and secondary schools.
Nowadays the numbers of bilingual programs offered in Andalucía’s schools by language are: 625 in
English (the vast majority), 52 in French and 12 in German.
Starting a bilingual program requires an official request from the school board with the approval of
faculty once the families want their kids to join. Before officially applying, it is important to have all
this necessary support.
There is normally one bilingual group per school. Sometimes, if the school is big enough, it is possible
to apply for a second group.
There are currently 694 bilingual schools in Andalucía (both primary and secondary) and the number
is going up every year. There is a target number of 1,200 in the near future.
Bilingual programs focus on CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). So it is content
teachers who use the foreign language to teach their subjects, not language teachers who teach
The maxim of the bilingual program is not to talk like natives but rather being able to interact with
Nonlinguistic areas are the main focus area of the bilingual program. In
every school year there are usually two of these areas like Science,
Geography, Maths, History, etc. These classes may change or stay the
same from year to year (depending on schedules, faculty availability,
The teachers (mainly in social studies and science) teach their subject partially in L2. The percentage
of content taught in L2 ranges between 30% and 50%.
Teachers collaborate with language assistants to select and create materials from the general
content of the subject. Hence the importance or teamwork and planning ahead.
Classes focus on work through tasks and projects (students learn by doing). It is advisable to engage
students in the learning process as much as possible in order to motivate them.
Integrated Languages Curriculum
Integrated languages curriculum combines the native and first and
second foreign languages. They work closely together as language
competence is the basis for all other subjects.
The curriculum emphasizes communication skills, the oral component,
and work through tasks and projects.
There must be coordination of the three languages present in the curriculum through projects,
terminology, and linguistic skills. Then it is basic to set a time and place for these meetings.
Reinforcement may also come from new reading class.
The bilingual program can be especially demanding for teachers in
nonlinguistic areas because the program is relatively new and their
language level may not be very high yet.
Methodology training is available through teacher courses, university
courses, group work, research projects, travel abroad, etc.
Faculty receives training in L2 through language classes for teachers, online resources, immersion
courses, shadowing program, language assistants’ interaction, etc.
Faculty supports each other through coordination and teamwork. It’s important to have regular
meetings throughout the year for planning ahead in the program.
Teaching in the bilingual program involves a lot of creation of materials and use of new technologies
because publishing companies do not offer yet enough materials for bilingual classes, especially in
nonlinguistic areas. New technologies are can come really handy in this task.
The bilingual program coordinator is usually a teacher from the second
language department and should have good management and
The coordinator’s tasks include organizing teachers and language assistants,
keeping families informed, planning the future of the program, and evaluating the progress of the
program. Because of these time-consuming duties, the coordinator receives a reduction in his or her
course load in relation to the bilingual groups the school has.
Besides he or she serves as a support and resource for teachers in the program
The coordinator also works to build international connections through special projects. This is
essential to bilingual programs, as the idea is to foster international and multicultural connections
through language study.
Students and Families
The program is open to everybody but is advisable for those who
have done well in primary education and don’t need educational
reinforcements. The profile of a student in the bilingual program is
someone who is participative, active, open, etc.
As it grows, the bilingual program will provide a smooth transition
from primary to secondary school. Hence students will be longer in the program with better results.
Bilingual students combine with mainstream groups in non-bilingual subjects to avoid complete
Language assistants are mostly young university students and recent
graduates who come through a variety of programs like CIEE (Council
on International Educational Exchanges), Comenius Projects, Ministry
of Education, and Regional Departments of Education.
There are currently more than 1,000 language assistants in Andalucía
and they are of diverse origin, but especially the USA, United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Germany.
Language assistants serve as linguistic models and cultural references and help with the creation of
There is usually one language assistant per school, but exceptionally two (depending on the number
of bilingual groups).
They apply online and can indicate location preference, but do not get to choose their destination.
The assistantship is from October to May and may be renewed. There is a provincial welcome
meeting at the beginning of October.
It’s important for language assistants to network with each other and avoid isolation, especially in
the early stages of their assistantship.
The bilingual program coordinator develops the language assistant’s work schedule of 12 hours a
week. Language assistants can work both in language and content area classes. Some of their duties
can be lessons in class with students, planning classes and preparing materials, and working with
teachers to improve the L2. Language assistants may also cooperate throughout the school and
participate in after-school L2 classes for teachers (CAL, Curso de Actualización Lingüística).
They receive a monthly stipend of €700.
The bilingual program is something new, so things are still being
Results are mainly seen over the long term.
It is hard to find faculty in non-linguistic areas with a really good competence in foreign languages.
There are various organizational conflicts at school level in regard to space and schedules.
There is a lack of appropriate materials from publishing companies so the alternative is creating your
own materials and that is quite time-consuming.
The number of students that can participate is limited and sometimes there must be a draw to
The program serves as a catalyst for methodological reform in the schools
and provides more opportunities for students and teachers.
The program causes better coordination among faculty members.
The schools are opened to the community through special projects.
Student motivation is increased through the program.
The program provides the opportunity for collaboration with language assistants.
There are incentives for participating teachers, like schedule reduction and merits.
Bilingual schools receive priority in certain programs and projects.