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HundrED And The Swedish Cultural Foundation Seek To Celebrate Bilingual Education And The Power Of Languages

27.11.2019 | BY HEIDI GÄRKMAN
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Together with the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, we are proud to share the launch of our Spotlight on Bilingual Education. To kickstart the event, we invited key stakeholders in bilingual education to the HundrED  office to discuss how bilingual education is viewed in their context. 

Few educational challenges have become as globally important as bilingualism. The process of globalisation and technological advancements are blurring the lines between linguistic and cultural communities. In today’s multilingual and multicultural world, it is estimated that over half of the world’s population uses more than one language on a daily basis. Because of this, many seem to agree that bilingualism is the norm, and that monolingualism, then, is becoming the exception. With this in mind, perhaps there is an ounce of fairness to the claim that “monolingualism is the illiteracy of the twenty-first century”.

Languages make a big difference for your open-mindedness and willingness to connect with other people. The languages you speak and master at different levels also help you to develop as an individual and figure out who you are as a person and what your identity looks like – Minna Tammivuori-Piraux, Upper School Assistant Principal.

Indeed, the manifold benefits of being bilingual are increasingly recognised as essential practical and emotional skills needed in the 21st century. Bilingualism is empowering – it helps individuals to compete in the global economy and to connect and communicate with the world. The positive, lifelong cognitive results of bilingualism and biliteracy, such as increased creativity and empathy, are widely researched and accepted. Moreover, as bilingual education helps us to understand and experience other languages and cultures, it also plays a key role in advancing mutual tolerance and social cohesion.

Bilingualism is an important part of the future skills you are supposed to have today, young people go or move abroad more often than before. Many parents have understood that bilingual education makes it easier to learn other languages  – the immersion classes in our school are so popular that there is a queue to get in! – Marjo Kekki, Coordinator of Swedish Immersion

Given the arguments laid out above, promoting bilingualism in school should be a no-brainer. But the value of linguistic diversity is not always recognised enough, and bilingual education is not always made easy. This is where we and the Swedish Cultural Foundation step in!

With the Spotlight on Bilingual Education, we embark on a journey to find exciting and effective ways to learn and teach languages in bilingual contexts. By identifying the leading 10 pedagogical innovations that reconcile bilingualism and education, the aim of the Spotlight is to make bilingual education more visible and approachable to education stakeholders across the world. We define bilingual education as the learning of a second (or third) language concurrently with subject learning, with the goal of benefiting children from various language backgrounds.

To begin the search for leading innovations in bilingual education, HundrED brought together various stakeholders and experts on bilingual education: Satu Hakulinen, Principal, Lauttasaaren ala-asteen koulu, Helsinki, Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Professor of Education, Nord University, Norway, Tea Kangasvieri, Project Researcher, Department of Teacher Education, University of Jyväskylä, Marjo Kekki, Coordinator of Swedish immersion, Kasavuoren koulu, Kauniainen, Lars Nyberg, Swedish immersion teacher, Account Manager, Turku,  Anu Palojärvi, Project Researcher, Department of Teacher Education, University of Jyväskylä and Minna Tammivuori-Piraux, Upper School Assistant Principal, International School of Helsinki. 

 Some key themes from the focus group meeting were the need to better language teacher education in Finland and abroad, how to create a bilingual identity among students and intrinsically motivate students to learn a second language, how to engage parents in language learning &  what constitutes bilingualism. These topics will help steer the direction of the research at HundrED.

Parental perspective is extremely important, starting from early childhood education. Parents can support children’s language learning in collaboration with early childhood education and school in various ways. However, there is very little research conducted on this matter – Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Professor of Education

The campaign for the search of innovations for the Spotlight on Bilingual Education is now open. The selected innovations will be published in the spring of 2020.


To find out more about the Swedish Cultural Foundation, click here

To submit an innovation for the bilingual spotlight, click here