IB Schools and Colleges Association

English as a second language? Schools need to stop treating it as an obstacle to success

When columnist Andrew Pierce tweeted earlier this year that 1.3 million children “do not speak English as a first language, underlining strain immigration puts on schools”  he understandably caused something of a social media stir.

Alongside some tweets of support, others were quick to point out that not having English as a mother tongue need not correlate to a student’s ability to learn in their second, or third language. Even the author JK Rowling, a former teacher herself, joined the argument to point out that “second and third languages can be fluent”.  

With over 300 languages spoken in classrooms across the UK, and many schools in big towns and cities such as London and Birmingham, it is understandable that many will wonder how schools will be able to cater to all pupils and students equally.    

However, as an educator who has taught in international schools across Europe, I strongly believe that such language issues needn’t be a problem. In fact, if embraced they can stand to benefit all students, and by extension aid in supporting better understanding in areas with culturally diverse populations………

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