The EYL programme is part of a larger project entitled “New foreign language education policies in schools: English for Young Learners” which is co-funded by the European Union and Greece, through the Regional Operational Programme “Education and Lifelong Learning”. The programme is implemented by the University of Athens and realized at the Research Centre for Language Teaching, Testing and Assessment of the Faculty of English Language and Literature (http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr).
The programme concerns the introduction of English as a compulsory subject in primary school from the first grade in 20% of the primary state schools of the country. In other words, the first foreign language has been introduced at age 6-7 and the programme has been piloted. In the rest of the state schools, foreign language learning starts in the third grade, i.e. at age 8-9. This innovation is one of the components of an enriched school curriculum introduced by the Greek Ministry of Education in 2010-11, on an experimental basis, in 800 of the largest state schools in the country. Thanks to this project therefore, which was expanded in 2011-12 to include 161 more schools operating as enriched-curriculum “all-day” schools, 40% of the first and second grade pupils in Greece are now starting foreign language learning from an early age.
The plan to implement the ‘all-day' school idea with its enriched curriculum in all primary schools of the country has not yet been realized, due to the economic crisis that has hit Greece quite severely since 2010-11. However, the English for Young Learners programme that concerns English language learning in the first and second grade of Greek state primary schools has become very popular and there is social demand for its expansion.
Its subprojects are the following:
01: Developing foreign language education policy in Greece
The aim of this subproject is to gather the necessary data for the preparation of a uniform and coherent foreign language education policy proposal, which meets the current requirements for foreign language education in Greece and complies with the European Commission’s guidelines and recommendations for the promotion of multilingualism in Europe. It is realized through the following actions:
The rest of the subprojects have to do with the organization of the programme through which pupils in the first years of primary school are offered a ‘junior’ course of English, through a curriculum which has a different purpose than foreign language learning from the third year of primary school onwards, when pupils are to develop their reading and writing, alongside their listening and speaking proficiency.
02: The EYL project: Design and Implementation
The first phase of this subproject involved:
The most important component of this subproject however was the implementation of the course in a way so as to continuously receive feedback, on the basis of which the teaching-learning materials were revised to suit the needs of the pupils but also the needs of the teachers using the materials in class. The actions at this phase of the subproject involved:
One more important component of this subproject involved the initial design and construction of a website, through which the curriculum, syllabuses and materials were made available to teachers and pupils, and allowed teachers to communicate with the project team and each other. At a later stage of this project this website developed in to a much richer portal that has become an indispensable tool for anyone who is involved in the particular project.
03: Training the trainers and teachers to implement the program
One of the most challenging aspects of this whole project was to provide in-service training to EFL teachers that had never before taught English to children of so young an age. Actually, some of these teachers –fortunately only about 15% of them– had never before taught primary school pupils. What was also challenging was that they had to be trained once the course had already started being offered in schools spread throughout the country. The first step was to train the trainers and develop the training materials for them and the materials they would use with teachers. The next step was to organize a programme for teacher-training in different parts of the country, with sessions which were by and large face-to-face. At later stages, teleconferencing techniques were used as well as face-to-face workshops. Finally, in order to respond to the growing needs for the training and professional development of a different each year group of EFL teachers working with young learners, an e-course is being developed for distance self-access training with the use of e-learning techniques.
04: Monitoring and evaluation of the PEAP programme
The object of this subproject has been to closely monitor the implementation of the programme and to assess its strengths and weaknesses. It is realized through the following actions:
Subprojects 05, 06 and 07 are all related to the production, design and publication of pedagogic materials, not only for the classes of the first two years of primary school but also the third grade –a class which makes the link between the junior English curriculum and the proper school literacy curriculum whose implementation begins in the third grade.