Implementation of the policy of trilingual education in english through clil

The policy of trilingual education plays a key role in development of harmonious multicultural Kazakhstan and country’s integration in the global community. To enter the path of this policy, secondary school needs to create trilingual environment which increases students’ potential, develops their flexibility, critical and creative thinking, and ability to cross-cultural cooperation, fosters respect towards themselves and others, and increases their willingness and skills to learn the languages.

According to the recently developed curricular for Nazarbayev Intellectual schools Kazakh, Russian and English languages are taught not only as language subjects but also as a medium of instruction for content subjects to give an incentive to academic language as well as content learning. The significance of shifting the focus from a language as a subject to a language as a tool is that through learning subject content in these three languages students will get access to additional information, new perspectives, and deeper understanding of other cultures.

The aim of this study is to discuss CLIL input to English teaching and learning, based on international practice analysis on the background of trilingual education policy implementation.

The review of international researches on the issue of bilingual and trilingual education shows that CLIL contributes to the development of all the skills in the three languages (L1, L2, L3) through teaching them as a separate subject and especially through teaching other subject, such as "Mathematics" and other science subjects in these languages. In different regions these programs are called differently. In North America and some parts of Europe (Spain and Estonia) they are often called language immersion programs, while in other parts of Europe they are usually called CLIL programs (content language integrated learning).

Together, these programs can be characterized as language training based on subject content. These programs are designed for different students under different circumstances and there are many examples from international praxis:

  1. students belonging to the ethnolinguistic group who speak the majority language (e.g.English-speaking students in North America involved in the program of immersion in English-French, English-Spanish or English-French-Hebrew languages);
  2. students belonging to the ethnolinguistic group who speak a minority language and do not or not enough speak and understand the language of the majority (for example, Spanish-speaking students in Spanish-English bilingual education programs in the U.S. or Russian-speaking children in the Estonian-Russian bilingual programs in Estonia (Mehisto and Asser, 2007);
  3. students belonging to the indigenous language group having minority status in the community as a whole, which are able or not able to speak the local language (English-

speaking children, the descendants of the Mohawk involved into the immersion program "Mohawk-English" (Jacobs and Cross, 2001) in Canada or children who speak Creole, descendants of Hawaiian taught by the immersion program "Hawaiian-English" in the U.S. (Slaughter, H.1997).

Specific objectives of bilingual or trilingual programs may vary depending on the purpose for which they are designed. The main objective is accepting students’ needs including the state language policy and the environment where they live. For example, programs, designed for students of the indigenous population, often pose the problem of endangered language revitalization. At the same time they aim to give students a state language or a language of the majority. Conversely, programs for students who speak the majority language, the aim is to give students additional languages to provide intercultural understanding (for example, in Canada (Genesee, 2004) or in Estonia (Mehisto & Asser, 2007)), or enriching educational environment for economic growth (for example, many program based on CLIL in Europe (Darquennes, 2013). Despite minor differences, the following objectives are common to many programs:

  • Competence levels in speaking, listening, reading and writing in the first language (L1), respectively students' age;
  • A high level of functional literacy in reading, writing, speaking and listening in the second language (L2), as well as in the third language (L3);
  • Levels of academic achievement in the subjects according to the students' age and stage or year of learning for example, "Mathematics""Science", or "History".

It is noticeable that more researches were conducted on bilingual programs rather than on trilingual, partly because of the fact that there are more bilingual programs. Trilingual programs that have been the subjects of publications often do not include the systematic evaluation or research (Cenoz & Genesee, 1998).

Some researchers claim that there are many similarities in the acquisition of a third and second languages, both of them are complex and require almost the same cognitive operations. The same principles and a communicative approach are used in teaching of English as the third language. In this case it would be beneficial for teaching these two languages to follow similar content, to think about designing a curricular with the same thematic units in the first, the second and the third languages. This would make the content of the third language lessons more comprehensible because they would be built upon content and concepts which have already been or are currently dealt with during lessons, where the first or second language is used as the medium of instruction (Björklund & Suni, 2000).

The uniqueness of a Kazakhstani program of trilingual education at Nazarbayev Intellectual schools in contrast to immersion programs in Canada and many other bilingual education programs is in focusing on the use of non-native language (English L3) in high school. Many of the bilingual programs are focused on the use of the second language (L2) or the third language (L3) for the teaching subjects in elementary school or primary school, while the first language (L1) is used to teach many subjects in high school. This distinctive feature revealed from the comparison between international experience and the policy of trilingual education realization in NISs restates the relevance of this article.

For carrying out this article, it is necessary to consider CLIL because it has lots of verges and interpretations. The European Commission gives the next definition "Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), in which pupils learn a subject through the medium of a foreign language…" this explanation proves CLIL is perceived as a part of a Curricular, which is true but is not precise about the level of students and to what extent should be the language immersion. The other definition is more detailed "CLIL refers to situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content, and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language". (Marsh, D. 2002. Content and Language Integrated Learning: The European Dimension Actions, Trends and Foresight Potential). This citation emphasises the 'dual-focused' objective of CLIL and justifies its importance within the implementation of bilingual or trilingual policies. Moreover, observations showed that CLIL based curricular

is able to lead to several of benefits. David Graddol wrote that CLIL is "…an approach to bilingual education in which both curriculum content (such as science or geography) and English are taught together. It differs from simple English-medium education in that the learner is not necessarily expected to have the English proficiency required to cope with the subject before beginning study" (Graddol D. English Next, British Council Publications, 2006). These observations once again demonstrate us that CLIL is much more powerful in terms of improving of language skills, and the most essential consideration is that learners of different levels in a foreign language can be involved to do their 'CLIL-ing'. This sounds fabulously, but there several reasons to state that relying on the practice of introduction of CLIL at NISs

  • Teachers consider carefully their teaching methodology from both content and language in order to learners understanding the content properly and are able to apply English.
  • CLIL input requires careful lesson planning starting from introducing key terms, usually science subjects’ vocabulary, encouraging students to work in groups, eliciting appropriate tasks which would result in an increase of the skill-based focus of the learning.
  • As CLIL involves curricular it goes without saying that the educational materials need to be elaborated.
  • Language learning is likely to be more clearly focused and seen from different sides, for example science terminology is studied equally as common widely used vocabulary.

All bullet-points are desirable, in educational terms. Ensuring that students understand the content, reducing teacher-talk, increasing the focus on skills, making students to learn language items that are always contextualized are always functionally necessary in the classroom. Undoubtedly, there are many pros which school administration, students and teachers have faced in implementation of this policy.

First of all, students are motivated in not only learning English as a foreign language with a set of grammar and vocabulary but in acquiring it through the relevant and realistic meaning. Therefore, introduction of CLIL in Kazakhstani secondary education in the scope of implementation of the trilingual education comes in handy forcing the policy to teaching and learning methods. However, regarding secondary and high schools there is little experience and outcomes’ analysis of content language integrated learning or one can find examples of their overlapping in teaching and learning English as a temporary phenomenon. Therefore, CLIL in English class still needs developing and determining ways of implementation.

According to I.A. Zimnyaya the feature of a foreign language as an academic discipline is that it is "content free". It is learnt as a means of communication but the topics for the speech comes from outside. Foreign language is opened to use the content from different areas. Integration is the process and the result is creating an inseparable and integral the whole. In instruction it may be accomplished by the merger of two or more subjects in one synthesized course. It might be the combination of the principles of academic subjects and a language which needs to be promoted and this integration might bring to the disclosure of complex educational issues and problems.

New developed English course plans for the 7, 8, 11 and 12, grades of NISs require from an English teacher to teach content through language regarding some topics and facilitate student’s progress on science subjects. Up-to-date requirements to the implementation of this policy gave rise to many questions in teaching and learning language. From one hand, students with different language levels (L3) have to understand the appropriate grammar and vocabulary structures and on the other hand, they must memorize and retain more specific information, specific vocabulary of Science subject. Observation and discussion between academic and linguistic subjects’ teachers determined students’ poor performance in English takes place in the learning of Science subjects. That’s why CLIL is becoming a call of the time in the Science lessons as well as in English.

As it was mentioned before CLIL input is a process which aims to develop English language competency to contribute to students’ progress on science subjects. Therefore, first of all it is important to determine current language level of students. In broad terms, when learners enter to NI schools in year one, they are required to achieve level A2 and to reach level C1 for English by the end of school. The CEFR levels of language competence of students according to the Programme are as follows:

Table 1 The CEFR levels of language competence of students according to the Programme


Prior level

Expected level


low middle A2

middle high A2


middle high A2

low middle B1


low middle B2

middle high B2


middle high B2

low – middle C1

In November 2013 in NIS UstKamenogorsk it was detected each student’s level on all three languages. In terms of English, Cambridge examinations’ results, taken by NIS schools’ students, show inefficient level of language competencies of about 55% of all the students of 11th grade. This grade is intentionally chosen to consider, as they have just started to be taught according to the new integrated program and because of the wide range of Academic subjects conducted in this grade. The other reason is the school requirement to take IELTS exam by every student of the 11th grade. It is clear that students turn to English teacher seeking support in language acquisition and not always language teacher is able to explain content properly. Consequently, in order to input CLIL in the classroom, both content and language teachers should bring changes to their class teaching through pedagogical development about CLIL and being a CLIL teacher. In addition they should vary teaching recourses with appropriate to CLIL didactic materials.

To conclude, despite many weighty reasons behind inputting CLIL, especially its capability to immerse to English language and real promotion of English as the third language in Kazakhstan, instruction of English with content needs from a teacher more just being aware of CLIL. First obstacle English teacher faces in making the lesson more CLIL is the students’ level of language competency. While the implication of the policy of trilingual education and inputting CLIL teachers should depart from the existing level and go toward scaffolding and taking into account the zone of proximal development to a target level. Moreover, to input CLIL in English the teacher should follow efficient ways with sets of teaching resources.

Anyway, analysis of international praxis’ results state that this approach is able to bring our country to trilingualism.



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Year: 2014
City: Almaty
Category: Philology