Photo © Copyright Mat Wright

Client, stakeholders, partners

  • Spanish Ministry of Education
  • Regional Governments in Spain


To introduce bilingual education in Spanish schools, and so transform the teaching and learning of English.

The project

A major innovation is taking place in Spanish state schools. Bilingual education is taking the country by storm, and improving the English language ability of many students.

80,000 young people in 700 state schools across Spain are now part of an education system based on the British Council / Spanish Ministry of Education project which subscribes to the bilingual approach. The aim is for students to achieve much greater fluency in English.

The whole school curriculum is delivered in English and Spanish to children from the age of three to sixteen, with for example, science taught in English one day and then in Spanish the next. This is a very different concept from the traditional idea of English as a Foreign Language (EFL): in the bilingual project both languages are programmed in from the beginning. This is rather like loading an iPod with indie and hip-hop at the same time and pressing "Shuffle"!

British Council studies of the project demonstrate that it produces highly-motivated students because children are using language to accomplish real tasks and learn real content. Children of the iPod generation are focused on the immediacy of learning i.e. learn as you use, use as you learn - not learn now and use later. Bilingual education is an approach which has emerged to cater to this new age.

In September 2008, the first cohort of students age sixteen in Spanish schools received their Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) results: 49% of them had passed with grades between A* and C: a truly remarkable result comparing more than favourably with results achieved by students in the same exams in the UK. Of course additionally they successfully followed the mainstream Spanish school curriculum.

This radical project, which is set to continue, has been outstandingly successful.

What the stakeholders say

To have the possibility to work together with classmates from other countries allows both teachers and students to have authentic contact with and a better understanding of that other country.. At the same time it helps to prepare young people to cope with the future reality of a multilingual and multicultural Europe. The quality of the work shows what can be achieved with an integrated curriculum such as in the Bilingual project.
Mercedes Cabrera, Spanish Minister of Education

Being bilingual helps me to relate to people from other cultures. My school is unique.
Primary school pupil from bilingual school in Cartagena

The bilingual education our son is receiving forms part of his everyday life without any elitism. He studies in an ordinary state school where there are no luxuries, in the area in which he lives, and with his friends. The experience is very rewarding for him and for us, his parents.
Mother of an eleven year old in a bilingual school in Madrid

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