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Bilingual Schools in Madrid-Any advice?

(9 Posts)
jane1234 Fri 21-Sep-12 11:08:55

Would really love any advice on good schools to send our children (primary age) to in Madrid. The most important thing is that they are exposed to lots of Spanish so that they pick up the language but at the same time it would be good to have some teaching in English and some other international kids. Can anyone recommend schools to take a look at?

gordonpym Sat 22-Sep-12 07:13:54

This site may be a good start

natation Sat 22-Sep-12 07:43:36

I can't help you with specific recommendations but there are 3 points I can think of that you should consider when looking at any bilingual schools.

1) The linguistic make-up of the school. How many hours in each language? If it's 70% in English and 30% in Spanish, it's going to be hard to pick up Spanish. How are the percentages made up? For example if it's 50/50, is the whole curriculum taught in each language, 50/50 Maths and 50/50 art/music/history etc or is the Spanish part PE/art/music/history and English part Maths/English/Science which would not be good for picking up Spanish either. Are Spanish and English mixed in the same environment, eg 2 teachers each speaking their own language, or are the languages taught on different days or weeks, leading to a clear division of language environment, a far better option IMO? Are most of the children Spanish or English speaking first language? Or are most of the children neither Spanish or English speaking, not an ideal situation IMO but it is often the case in bilingual schools and not a good linguistic base IMO?

2) Your child and their need to speak Spanish. In a bilingual environment, a minority of children, when they have access to both their native English and another language, especially if the classroom has 2 teachers speaking both English and other language, will "reject" the other language and always gravitate towards the English teacher. I've seen this in bilingual schools both in English mother tongue and French mother tongue speakers where we live (French speaking country). Eventually the parents have resorted to either giving up and choosing a monolingual school in mother tongue or in the other language - so that their becomes and absolute need to speak the other language, eventually advancing in the other language whereas in the bilingual environment they were only speaking and doing the school work when it was in their mother tongue. On the anectodal evidence of the last few years, it's 1 or 2 children in a class of 20 that does this, but just be aware that the uniquely monolingual school environment is the only was a few children pick up another language, mix their mother language in there and they just stick with it!

3) If the main motivation of choosing a bilingual school is so that your child learns the other language, then consider instead a monolingual school. It's logical that a bilingual environment at 50/50 is only half the exposure to the other language than a monolingual school 100% in the other language. A child is likely to take much longer to pick up the other language in a bilingual school than in a monolingual one, unless you add on further exposure in the other language outside of school time. You could instead go for a monolingual school and do after-school English tuition, to keep up with reading and writing in English.

jane1234 Sat 22-Sep-12 10:53:37

Thanks for the replies and the site gordonpym.
natation- your thoughts are really helpful. We have been thinking about the option of going for a monolingual but are worried that it could be too much for our kids to handle- maybe they would sink instead of swim?
On the other hand, we would be really disappointed if they only had a smattering of Spanish after a year or so since they didn't have a real need to speak it. Food for thought for us. Thank you!

nm123 Mon 24-Sep-12 08:24:32

Jane, I recently posted about us potentially moving to Madrid.... If you have any tidbits to share I'd be everso grateful to hear...(sorry for hijacking)...

gordonpym Tue 25-Sep-12 08:03:04

You shouldn't worry too much about them not picking the language. We live in Barcelona and our DCs go to an international school with only 3 hours of spanish and 3 of catalan per week, which is far less than 20%, but after only 1 year, DS1 was totally bilingual in spanish and fluent in catalan.
You won't be living in a closed and gated compound with other expatriates. You'll soon discover that spanish is the language spoken during play time, lunch and after school activities, even in international schools.
You'll go shopping for groceries, to libraries, museums (which have special guided activities for children ).
Of course, they'll pick the language faster in a spanish school, but this won't come without a certain frustration. Knowing the answer but being unable to formulate it is not easy once you're older. Anyway this was not an option here in Barcelona for us, as there aren't any spanish school, only catalans one, which teach spanish as foreign language (!!).
I just want to warn you about the terrible score of the spanish public/state With the new austerity politics, the student limit per class has been raised to 42 for one teacher and be aware that if you go private or semi private (concertadas), most of them are catholics with daily prayer. It depends as well how long you plan to stay (years or decades).

Take a lovely local babysitter, and TV is such a wonderful teacher.

Most of all, you'll make the difference: by organizing activities and play dates. Enroll in a cooking class/theatre or byzantine art and get to know people, spanish people, and don't take the easy route meeting only with expat mums. It's not only the language you'll want to learn, but the culture as well.

fussychica Wed 26-Sep-12 17:58:01

We've just come back from living in Spain after 8 years and our son is now at a Uni in UK. He went to Spanish state school from the age of 10 to 18. He was speaking well within 6 months and by the time he went to secondary school he was up with all his classmates. He became the first Brit in his school to complete the Bachillerato so had the choice of Uni in Spain or UK. The international school option wasn't available in our area so we never had to think about whether it was a good move or not - he had to sink or swim and at that age he swam! Obviously, the current economic situation will be affecting schools so that is an additional thing to throw into the equation. Good luck whatever you choose.

jane1234 Wed 26-Sep-12 20:05:08

Hi gordonpym,
interesting to hear about your set-up in Barcelona. I completely agree about making the effort to meet local people rather than ex-pats. Am sure that makes a difference to your experience of Spain on almost all levels.
Thanks for the article too- the economic troubles will no doubt take their toll on the education on offer in the state system.

fussychica- great to hear your story- sounds like your son has done really well. I wonder if he feels Spanish or English after 8 years.

nm123-happy to pass on anything I find out! Will do so on this thread.

fussychica Thu 27-Sep-12 18:21:10

jane1234 Thanks we are very proud of what he has achieved. Surprisingly he feels very English, except when we go back to Spain when he slots right back in with his old mates!
He is studying European Languages (Spanish, French & German) - told him he couldn't do just Spanish - too easy but perhaps that was poor advice as if he'd just read Spanish he would probably be guaranteed a first!

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