Nuria differences between the two teaching models,

Nuria Fernández Martínez
4th Early Childhood Education

Case Study English Curriculum

This paper seeks to establish a comparison between two educational systems, more
specifically education in a foreign language (L2) in compulsory educ ation, in Spain and Sweden.

Before explaining the differences between the two teaching models, I consider it essential to
explain exactly what bilingualism means and what group of people could be labeled as
bilingual. During the decade of the twenties a common idea was developed that an individual
was bilingual if h e could express himself fluently in 2 languages in various contexts, the so –
called ” bilingual balance ” (Grosjean 2010). Although it is possible to find such people, this
group does not represent the whole or the phenomenon of bilingualism and not all bi lingual
people can be labeled as “balanced”. With regard to this matter, Baker claims that,

A person may be able to speak two languages, but tend to speak only one language in
practice. On the other hand, the individual may habitually speak two languages , but
competence in one language may be limited. Another person will use one language for
conversation and another for writing and reading. Therefore, the crucial distinction is
between ability and use that sometimes can be referred as the difference betwe en
degree and function (1993:5).

For this reason it is important to understand that the degree of basic language skills (listening,
speaking, reading and writing) can vary among different bilingual individuals. This concept can
avoid a simple classificat ion of who is, or who is not, bilingual. Therefore, some people can
speak a language, and not read or write in that language. Some may listen and understand the
spoken language, but they cannot speak it. That said, classifying people as bilingual or
monoli ngual is too simplistic. As Baker argues,

The four basic language abilities do not exist in black and white terms. Between black
and white are not only many shades of gray; there also exist a wide variety of colours.
Each language ability can be more or less developed. Reading ability can be simple and
basic to fluent and accomplished. Someone may listen with understanding in one
context (e.g. shops) but not in another context (e.g. an academic lecture). This suggests
that the four basic abilities can be further refined into sub -scales dimensions. There are
skills within skills. (1993:6)

Therefore, seeing the differences of these “groups” of individuals, bilingual education is a
simple label for a complex phenomenon (Baker 1993). In some cases, people ten d to include
under the name of “bilingual education” the education of children who already speak two
languages and occasionally students who are already studying a second language. Therefore,
below I include information about the different benefits and p roblems of bilingualism in these

Nuria Fernández Martínez
4th Early Childhood Education

two systems, and a final conclusion to know if we are facing bilingual students or “good”
students in English.

English teaching in schools

“A distinction is usually made between English as a second language and English as a
foreign language. A German or a Norwegian learning English learns it as a foreign
language: it will not be used for communicating with other Germans or Norwegians,
but only with foreigners”. Barber (1993, p. 238)

In Spanish schools, children’s education from zero to six years is not compulsory, therefore
neither is teaching English at that time. Nowadays, although it is not obligatory, a great
majority of the Spanish population takes their children to nursery schools, and it is common
for children to start learning Engli sh at that early age. The same happens in Sweden, and f rom
the age of one, children can be admitted to pre -school

Education in Spain is compulsory between the ages o f six and 16 . The same happens in
Sweden , where education is mandatory for all children between age six and age 16.

The school year in Spain is set annually but usually runs from the first week of September until
the last week of June. The timetable at public schools is usually seven hours a day, Monday –
Friday, but varies slightly depending on the school, the region and the age of the children .
The school year in Sweden runs from mid/late August to early/mid June.

In Spain the curriculum stipulates that En glish as a foreign language should be taught from
grade 1 to 4 th of ESO, last compulsory year of school. The minimum guaranteed time for
English is set at 511 hours throughout years 1 to 6.

In Sweden, a new National Curriculum was introduced in 1995. The curriculum stipulates that
“English as a first foreign language is taught from grade 1, 2 or 3 and in some schools from
grade 4.” Each school decides when to start and how to allocate the time to English with the
grades 1 -9 students. The minimum guaranteed time for English is set at 480 hours throughout
years 1 -9.

The teaching qualifications required of teachers

The Swedish education policy made a decision that marked a turning point on December 1,
2013. From that date, a professional certification was required to be a school teacher with
permanent contracts. This movement seeks to raise the status of the teaching profession and
support professional development. In this way it is intended to in crease the quality of
education. So finding a teacher job in Sweden is not easy. With almost 85% of the population
fluent in English, only highly qualified teachers are considered.

To become a teacher in Sweden, the requirements are to have a teacher´s degree, a TEFL
certificate and a high level of Swedish, whereas in Spain the teaching staff that exercises its

Nuria Fernández Martínez
4th Early Childhood Education

functions in Early Childhood Education and Primary Education must have a teacher´s degree in
Infant or Primary Education with the corresponding specialt y or mention. Regarding teache rs
in the ESO or Bachillerato, if its education is previous to 2011 must be licensed and also have
obtained the Certificate of Pedagogical Aptit ude (CAP), and if it is later, have completed the
corresponding degree and the university Master’s degree that accredits the necessary
pedagogical training . In the case of foreign language teaching, in Primary Education and in the
stages of Secondary education must also be accredited with level B2 of the Common European
Frame work of Reference for Languages (CEFR), although the Education Administrations may
add other requirements.

In my point of view, teachers, regardless of the country in which they practice, should meet
several requirements: the first and most important (w ithout entering subjects such as
vocation, passion or enthusiasm) is to have a deep knowledge of the subject that will be
taught. A certificate should not define who is prepared to teach a subject And second, have a
great training in knowing how to teach, know how to transmit knowledge and get your
message to the students. But for me the important thing would be to awaken in the students
the desire to learn and give them tools to learn to learn, and transmit that passion.

The type of system

In addition to the municipal schools of compulsory education there is a number in Sweden of
independent schools, which can be approved for teaching compulsory if they meet certain
requirements demanded by Parliament and the government. However, less than 3% of
compulsor y education students go to independent schools. Sweden has a relatively small
number of independent schools. Many of these centers have been created because some
groups of parents and mothers as well as teaching staff, have grouped around a common
conception of school and the structuring of teaching. Among them are numerous schools that
apply a particular pedagogical method, for example that of María Montessori and the Waldorf
schools. There are also other independent schools whose teaching is based on a religious

In Spain there are three kinds of schools, depending on how the school is financed . We can
find public schools – they are free and they provide compulsory education (Early Childhood
Education, Primary Education and Compulsory Second ary Education (ESO), subsidized schools –
these centers are private, but they have a series of agreements with the Administration, under
which a large part of their costs a re subsidized with public money, and finally private schools
Although they must follow the guidelines of the LOGSE, private schools are free to establish
optional subjects, extracurricular activities, operating standards, educational project, and their
own ideas (respecting the Constitution and the rights of students, teachers and parents). The
expenses are fully funded by the parents of the students, and have different rates, both for
tuition and monthly fees, as for the dining room and the various optiona l activities, but its
price can multiply by 10 that of a concerted center, and by 25 that of a public center.

In Spain, taking your child to a private school does not have to make a big difference in
educational quality, but it can mean an improvement in the subject that concerns us if the

Nuria Fernández Martínez
4th Early Childhood Education

school is bilingual. The reason is not another that a pri vate school in Spain actually h as 50% of
the school day in English. Although we must remember that this is not a norm, and that there
are exceptionally good publi c schools.

The results and levels achieved by the country

There have been numerous discussions regarding English in Swedish and Spanish education.
Some people see English as something harmful to the mother tongue because we started to
introduce English at a very early age, and due to its progressive involvement in education.
Introducing English into education could cause the opposite effect to the de sired one, and
deteriorate the educational standard due to the poor development of the mother tongue.
However, the truth of these claims has not yet been determined. What is clear is that, with an
increasingly globalized world, a good level of English is n ecessary to compete on an
international level .

The Organic Law of Improvement of Educational Quality (LOMCE) in Spain implemented by the
Ministry of Education in the 2014/2015 course in the odd courses of Primary, ESO and Bachiller
and which was fully incorporated in the year 2017/2018, grants the recognition of a specific
level of English proficiency at the end of each academic cycle. – Spanish law . These levels are a
A2 /B1 level in 6 th of Primary and B1 /B2 in 4 th of ESO nowadays.

As English is a compulsory subject in Sweden , it is include d in the national tests carried out in
ninth grade, and is a subject required when entering upper secondary education. Recent
statistics, carried out by the Swedish schools department (2011), reveal that students’ English
national test results surpass thei r Swedish counterpart.

My opinion is that in Spain there do not seem to be effective communication channels
betwee n the different “Comunidades Autónomas “, a role that could be assumed by the
Ministry of Education or another institution of a national level, in such a way that the
experiences of a community could affect the improvement from other communities. Thus, the
evolution of the regulations does not seem to be based on validated experiences that allow us
to guarantee a sta ble advance of the whole system .

According to a report called “Europeans and languages”, it is state d that almost 4 ou t of 10
citizens of the region are able to cope with the English language, 38%, a number that has
fallen with respect to the last report, where the number reached 50% . This situation seems to
be due to the entry of new Eastern European countries, in which English is scarce.

In the case of Spain, this reality does not affect, and nevertheless, the results position us
almost at half of the community average. If you do not consider the countries where the
official language is English (United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta), 22 states have obtained better
results than ours. The differences are really abysmal with countries like Sweden with 86%, one
of the countries better positioned in the community list .
How do the differences affect the results?

Nuria Fernández Martínez
4th Early Childhood Education

What can Spain learn from Sweden?

Looking at the results of Sweden in the studies and seeing the teaching of languages in this
country, I think one of the main differences is the importance that is given to the teacher and
his training.

In my point of view, children do not need to lea rn English since they are one year old or from
the first year of compulsory education. I believe, and there are studies that go up although I do
not have space to quote them, that children who start learning English later, get the same
results as children who have started at an earlier age.

Another thing that could be improved in Spain is the little immersion we have in the language.
Basically the students make effective use of English in the classroom. When they leave, the
television is translated into Sp anish, they have to speak in Spanish, they read in Spanish … In
Sweden, English is seen as the informal language among young people, their television is not
translated and they have more reasons to practice.

It is also true that historically, Sweden has had a much more direct contact with English culture
and that many of its words are acquired from English, but the biggest differences lie in the

In Sweden they do not have a specific year stipulat ed to begin teaching English to children.
This seems good to me, because they can wait for the best year of the child to start
considering their maturity or the development of their mother tongue. This also seems to me a
great advantage over the Spanish sy stem .

In summary, I do not consider any of the systems to be ideal for teaching a second language to
childre n, but I definitely stay with the Swedish system. And I mainly stay with the Swedish one
because of the importance they give to the figure of the teacher and their previous education
to practice as teachers .

I must also recognize that finding the perfect method to introduce a second language into a
child’s life is a utopia. I do not think there is any infallible method, and if it exists I do not know
it. Therefore, doing this work I have realized how c ritical I am with this Spanish system without
having an adequate solution for all the problems or deficiencies that it has, for which I will try
to be less critical and more constructive looking for solutions and small improvements .

Nuria Fernández Martínez
4th Early Childhood Education


? -in-sweden/

? “Language policies and early bilingual education in Sweden” An ethnographic study of
two bilingual preschools in Stockholm – Nicolò Galantini

? ENGLISH IN SWEDEN English as a Second Language in Sweden in a Theoretical

? Influencia de la política educativa de centro en la enseñanza bilingüe en España