The Times They Are A-Changin’ (maybe)

Bilingual programme in Madrid - proposed changes - Steps into Spain

Written bystepsint


The Times They Are A-Changin’ in Madrid’s Bilingual Education Programme!

Madrid parents, gather round for news about some potential changes in Madrid’s bilingual education programme, estimated for the next school year 2024/25, although still pending official approval. The bilingual programme is a  journey that started back in 2004, under the leadership of the colourful (to say the least) Esperanza Aguirre, and it seems like a new chapter might be about to unfold.

The Bilingual Journey: A Brief, Colourful History

Madrid’s venture into bilingual education aimed to give students a unique blend of Spanish and English education. Initially championed by Esperanza Aguirre, it has grown so much that finding a non-bilingual school can feel like hunting for a needle in a haystack (more than half the public and concertado schools in Madrid are bilingual). The idea was simple: integrate English into various subjects, making education not only informative but also bilingual. Some people criticise the programme as a cheap way to make all things bilingual while not investing sufficient amounts and others defend the programme as it gives students some exposure to English, especially in the case of families who cannot afford summer camps / school years abroad.

Previous Structure: Where Sciences Spoke English

One of the controversial features of the bilingual programme is that subjects such as Ciencias Sociales (social sciences) and Geografía e Historia (geography and history) are taught in English. Picture Spanish students exploring the mysteries of history and geography in a language other than their mother tongue. It was certainly an unusual  move to enhance language skills through real-world connections.

Teaching programme: Spanish teachers deliver subjects in English

The day to day delivery of the bilingual programme is the teachers responsibility, the majority of who are Spanish. In Madrid,   teacher must have a C1 level in English and if teaching in a public primary school, they must also have passed a very difficult civil service exam (the dreaded opisición).  Many teachers complain of inadequate training to correctly deliver these subjects. Serious investment is needed to make the bilingual programme work and without it, otherwise it will flop. 

Content and Language Integrated Learning programme: what is it

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is a cornerstone of Madrid’s bilingual programme, aiming to seamlessly merge subject content and language acquisition. In this approach, certain subjects, like Social Sciences and Natural Sciences, are taught in English, offering students a dual benefit of mastering both academic material and language skills. Implemented with a project-centric focus, students engage in collaborative group work and elective subjects to deepen their understanding. Successful CLIL implementation requires educators to undergo specialised training, ensuring proficiency in both subject matter and the language of instruction. This dynamic approach not only enhances bilingual proficiency but also fosters a global perspective, allowing students in Madrid to navigate a diverse and interconnected world.

Shift in Focus: Winds of Potential Change

Fast forward to the present, where the winds of potential change are blowing through the halls of Madrid’s educational system. The current government, led by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, is considering giving the bilingual model a makeover. Apparently, there have been suggestions that students aren’t exactly acing both the core subjects and the language, prompting a rethink. The mind boggles at what the might decide, scrap it or supercharge it. Word is that it will be the former rather than the latter.

Key Changes: Subject Tango and Language Mambo – If Approved

As suggested by Madrid’s Regional Minister of Education, Emilio Viciana, the plan is to potentially switch Geografía e Historia in la ESO (compulsory secondary education) to Spanish from the next academic year. Lengua Castellana (Spanish Language) and Matemáticas (mathematics) will stay true to their Spanish roots. In primary school, sociales might also be joining the Spanish language club.

Educator Insights: English Proficiency and Bilingual Worries – If Changes Get the Nod

Insights from a recent report by the Federación de Movimientos de Renovación Pedagógica de Madrid (FMRP) and the Movimiento de Renovación Pedagógica Acción Educativa reveal teachers’ concerns. Over 80% worry about the potential depth of content in bilingual education, and seven out of ten feel they’re not English wizards when it comes to non-linguistic subjects (an issue that considerable investment could resolve).

Conclusion: Choices Ahead – scrap it or super charge it

While these potential changes haven’t received the official stamp of approval, schools and parents are eagerly awaiting the verdict. Let’s hope for confirmation soon. In conclusion, what is really best for Madrid’s evolving bilingual education programme –  scrap it or super charge it?  Over to you for your thoughts. 


Unlock Your Child’s Educational Journey in Madrid with Expert Guidance

Are you a parent navigating the complexities of the Spanish education system in Madrid? Look no further! Sinéad Galvin, an experienced education consultant and founder of Steps into Spain, is here to help you discover the best school for your child.

With a passion for guiding families through the challenges of choosing a school in a new country, Sinéad offers a range of personalised school search services tailored to your unique needs. From personalised consultations to comprehensive school searches and application support, Steps into Spain is dedicated to helping your child thrive in their educational journey.  If you’re ready to begin your school search or would like more information, feel free to reach out to Sinéad.


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