Universidade do Minho / Instituto de Letras e Ciências Humanas (ILCH)

Author(s): Orlando Grossegesse (with Marie Manuelle Costa Silva)
Institution/Organisation: Universidade do Minho / Instituto de Letras e Ciências Humanas (ILCH) (PT)

1. DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS CASE

1.1 Scope of the initiative

The umbrella initiative initiated by the Faculty of Arts & Humanities (Instituto de Letras e Ciências Humanas – ILCH) at the Minho University (UM) involves progressively other units of this university and other institutions:
1) UM:


2) other institutions:


1.2 Range of languages learned

The umbrella initiative concerns in the first place all languages studied in the Primary and Secondary Schools: English, French, German and Spanish. Instead of the traditional concept that focusses on the promotion of one FL in competition with the others, this initiative intends to promote a global conscience of Multilingualism. In this spirit, languages not taught at Portuguese public schools within the curricula, but that can be offered as an extra-curricular activity (club concept) are also included.

According to the range of languages that can be learned at the UM, on a curricular (Graduate courses : European Languages and Literatures ; Applied Languages ; International Relations ; International Business) or extra-curricular level (open courses : annual, semestral or intensive), the traditional core English, French, German and Spanish is complemented by Italian, Russian and Arab (in Applied Languages; International Relations; International Business) and by Chinese and Japanese (in Asian Languages and Cultures): partnership of UM with the Confucius Institute, allocated at the Gualtar Campus). Open courses are also offered in European minority languages such as Galician and Catalan.

1.3 Learning outcomes

 


1.4 Practical realisation

Main instruments:

1)    at UM level


2)    at Arts & Humanities Faculty (= ILCH)


3)    Departments ILCH

All collaborate within MAVE: offer of annual activities and “Summer at the University” (GCII); collaboration in events dedicated to the theme of Multilingualism at schools and at university.

German Department:


Activities directed to students of all faculties and population of the Minho Region:

French Department:


Activities directed to students of all faculties and population of the Minho Region:


Department of English and North-American Studies:


Activities directed to students of all faculties and population of the Minho Region:


Others collaborate within MAVE:



4)    Departments IEP (Education & Psychology Faculty)

Working Group – Pedagogy for Autonomy (GT-PA)
The Working Group – Pedagogy for Autonomy (GT-PA) was founded in 1997 in the wake of a series of studies and projects carried out by the Department of Methodologies of Education, with the general aim of articulating a reflective practice with a learner-centred pedagogy.
The GT-PA members are foreign language teachers (English teachers mainly), teacher trainers and/or researchers at primary / secondary school and University levels. The group is conceived as a 'learning space' for teachers to explore, discuss and disseminate a pedagogy for autonomy in the FL teaching and learning process and contexts.
The activities carried out by GT-PA are financed by the Centre of Research in Education of the Institute of Education and Psychology of the Minho University and are coordinated by Prof. Flávia Vieira. It involves around 50 language teachers and researchers, in Portugal and in Europe.

Project Netescrit@
Netescrit@ is a project  that seeks to contribute to the development of the reading and writing skills of children and young people and functions in the Competence Centre of the University of Minho. Its main focus is the improvement of competences in Portuguese Language, Culture and Literature, making available biographies of Portuguese-language authors of books for children and young people, texts by the participants, synopses of the writers’ works. It provides opportunities for self-assessment exercises of text comprehension, collaborative writing with the authors, discussion forums, meetings with the authors.
It also maintains a blog where students from primary and lower secondary school children write in a foreign language. Analogue opportunities can be provided.

2. BACKGROUND TO THE INITIATIVE

2.1 Context

I) AN OVERVIEW

In spite of European campaigns to introduce multilingualism into national education systems, for various reasons a total reversal in traditional language ideologies has not occurred. For centuries, Portugal has been under the thrall of a traditional polyglot mentality of elites that privileged French from the 18th century onwards as a sign of social prestige and modernity. Openness to foreign languages is also common within new elites and a population not confined to the urban clusters of ‘Greater Lisbon’ and ‘Greater Porto’ due to the waves of first mainly transatlantic emigration (Brasil, Venezuela, United States) and then, during the whole 20th century,  emigration from rural areas to France, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland and Luxemburg. This phenomena has been harmonized by main stream policy with the ancestral discourse of the ‘Nation of Discoverers’ (see EXPO ’98). Its combination is seen as an almost innate condition for being more European (than, for instance, the «monoglot» Spain, still considered as such in spite of changes in record time), combining national identity with modernization, Europeanization and, last but not least, with the whole process of globalization.
This successful self-promotion insinuates that there is no need for pragmatic multilingual policies. But recent overviews and evaluations show that Portugal is even behind «monoglot» Spain, where basic skills in numerous foreign languages is concerned. The national education policies of the last years have been incoherent in this area (see below II.1 and 2).

Although it is assumed that Portugal, as a member of the international community, has to be competitive on the global scene, an overall project that would be able to respond to the strong need for competences in foreign languages and intercultural skills is missing. The national plan in this area is limited to the low-cost implementation of English as the language of the global market from primary school level onwards, without any organic framework of progressive competences throughout the educational system (Pré-escolar, Ensino Básico 1, 2, 3; Ensino Secundário) in the first as well as in a second or third foreign language. They are, in fact, offered and chosen without any strategic or pedagogic justification but only driven by the random ‘auto-regulation’ of staff structures of institutions and demands by the public (above all parents associations and school administrations).
Given this situation, it is difficult to create a new attitude in Portuguese society, and above all in the labour market, regarding the need for multilingualism and (inter-)cultural skills. In Portugal, it is a common opinion that Global English is enough. We are far from reaching the European standard that every citizen should master 1+2 languages, i.e. mother tongue and two foreign languages, up to the level B1 according to the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFRL).


II) FACING CHALLENGES

Four strands will be distinguished here: modern languages 1) at HEI / University level, 2) at Primary and Secondary School level, 3) in the transition between Secondary School and HEI, and 4) at other institutions in the broader context of LLLL (life long language learning). These strands define the basic conditions for creating a network that shall develop strategies to motivate (young) people for language learning in a trans-institutional way.

1) Modern languages at University level / Teacher training

At University level, the Rectors’ Conference of Portuguese Universities (CRUP) and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education (MCTES) have both failed in effectively promoting language learning enhancement. Half-hearted attempts at multilingualism are considered enough in order to be in tune with the Bologna (1999) and Prague (2001) agreements.
In practical terms, the lack of second and third language competence often limits or delays policies designed to promote pluridisciplinarity, joint curricula across European universities, student mobility and information technology-based abilities. It is up to each University or Higher Education Institute, in the absence of any national framework, to determine how far internal policy goes in the implementation of the following:


The creation of Foreign Language Centres at Universities is a recent development, but only partly driven by multilingualism policies. As recent cases have shown there is the risk of outsourcing (for example, as it happened at the Univ. Nova de Lisboa) in the current downsizing process of Arts & Humanities Faculties that traditionally have the foreign language teacher staff (mostly native speaker). In the wake of the Regional TNP3-D Dissemination Conference at Braga (18th June of 2007) the loose network among Language Centres at Universities (already existing or in the process of creation) and Polytechnic High Schools is tightening towards an Association, replacing the first attempt made in this area in 1996 (APOCLES) by a formal network ReCLES.pt (Rede dos Centros de Línguas do Ensino Superior em Portugal)

Of special interest here is that the new Bologna-inspired undergraduate/master degree framework requires a different study programme for qualifying language teachers (introduced by Law Decreto-Lei nº 43/2007, 22nd February of 2007). The academic year 2008-2009 will see the first edition of a Master of Teaching for Primary and Secondary School Education (120 ECTS two-year-study programme devoted to teacher training).
As far as modern languages are concerned, the framework means a combination of (1) a horizontal definition of Portuguese (mother tongue) and English (foreign language) in an exclusive major curriculum position (primary or secondary school teacher training; 100 ECTS required for undergraduate candidates) and (2) a vertical definition of the Language Teacher concerning French, Spanish and German (all school levels) in a minor curriculum position (60 ECTS required for candidates). This means that the combination Portuguese-English is excluded. The following years will show if this represents a solid model for initial training for language education professionals. The Reform reveals the governmental priority for English as first FL.

2) Modern languages at Primary and Secondary School level

The most recent Reform of the secondary school curriculum (implemented by the Law Decreto-Lei nº 74 / 2004) narrowed the area of Foreign Languages: second and (initiation of) third FL is now only for those who choose the Languages and Literatures course. 
A drastic reduction in the number of students choosing this optional course, descending from 1,440 (10th year students) in 2004/2005 to 581 (10th year students) in 2006/2007, made the ministerial Evaluation Board (GAAIRES – Grupo de Avaliação e Acompanhamento da Implementação da Reforma do Ensino Secundário) recommend, on 14th February of 2007, the extinction of this scarcely offered / chosen optional main course from 2007/2008 onwards by merging it into the wider optional main course of Humanities and Social Sciences that compromises 2 FL (2nd FL: continuity or initiating new FL) and even 3 FL in the sub-course Languages and Literatures.
Concerning variety, Spanish has experienced a boom in the last few years in spite of the dwindling traditional anti-Spanish attitude which serves to bolster Portuguese national identity (the so-called anti-castelhanismo). At Primary and Secondary School Level, there is clear indication that French and, above all, German, are becoming less taught foreign languages within a «pick and mix principle» of language learning: As an explanation for this one could say that learning Spanish offers not only less effort for the Portuguese speaker but also an economic and professional advantage as well as an attractive multiethnic youth culture that competes with the predominant Anglo-American one (along with an increasing tendency to mix the two).

Appendix: official government information concerning Contextualization of FL
2.º ciclo: 1st obligatory FL: most students begin with English
3.º ciclo: continuation of FL I and start of obligatory FL II ( most still choose French, but Spanish has increased significantly)

In secondary education, most pupils take only one FL, in the general learning component. Until 2006, pupils had to choose one of the FL already studied at primary school; studying FL III was only possible for those on courses which offered two FL. With the alterations made by D.L. n.º 24/2006, pupils may start FL III in the 10th year, in the area of general education; there has been a certain demand, maybe because pupils see an opportunity to abandon a FL taken from primary school and in which they were doing poorly.

3) in the transition between Secondary and HEI 

Main Problem: central National Exams that give access to HEI Graduate programs have lost their relevance / credibility in the area of FL (except English). Reasons: the decrease of HEI-candidates (demographic and economic factors) and the reform of the secondary school curriculum. In 2007, all public universities admitted candidates with zero-competence to programs with FL-core (!). This is a very undesirable situation for both, Secondary and HEI.

There is still scarce awareness of the Common European Framework (CEFRL) as means to promote continuity. Evaluation and assessment only partly grounded on CEFRL-parameters.

4) Modern Languages at other institutions in the broader context of LLLL (life long language learning)

Up to the present, communication between public institutions of the education system and other institutions interested in FL has been practically absent. The case of UM: In the wake of the Regional TNP3-D Dissemination Conference at Braga (18th June of 2007) preliminary conversations about a partnership with the Municipal Councils of Braga, Guimarães, Barcelos and Famalicão [= Polis XXI] took place; the German Department has already developed a partnership with the Estaleiro Cultural (Cultural Association, Braga).
In the overall national context, the cases of HEI-collaboration with other institutions within a common LLLL-framework are very rare.

2.2 Strategic goals of the initiative

As an umbrella initiative, APPEAL means interface-strategies and a trans-institutional action-plan in order to tackle the main issues of multilingual policies in a regional concept.
To this end it will:

 

3. SUCCESS INDICATORS


Main source: annual reports on activities that have taken place; questionnaires that have been sent to schools (model 1), institutions / associations (model 2) and units of the home institution (model 3).

a) quantitative indicators:


b) qualitative indicators:

 

4. SUCCESS FACTORS

 

5. LESSONS TO BE LEARNED

5.1 Lessons to be learned at institutional level

A) The figure of a non-hierarchical network has its problems. Without the component of institutional bilateral agreements (UM with institutions), the vital binding factor of cohesion and continuity remains weak. The following insights are important:
1) The network dynamics depend on the continuous and efficient action exercised by logistic leaders (organizational and communicative skills) and opinion leaders (dissemination of multilingual conscience and policies). Recommendation: periodical meetings in order to assure cohesion, foster in-group prestige and convince institutional leaders.
2) Continuous and efficient action of leaders means individual sacrifice because this kind of initiative is hardly compatible with the actual working conditions in HEI and schools: rotation and instability of administrative directory boards; general instability; scarce relevance and prestige given to FL-motivation activities within academic or professional career; scarce recognition for leadership; additional work without reward in a context of an increasing workload (national context). Recommendation: recognition of fidelity to the APPEAL-network and of good practices (annual award of an APPEAL-prize); appeal to the HEI and schools to reward FL-motivation-activities (compensatory reduction of workload, if possible).

B) As an umbrella initiative APPEAL has to focus its action on the improvement of communication structures and on the efficiency (dissemination) of concrete activities that are normally confined to a bilateral or local scope.
1) Communication structures within institutions are a bigger problem than communication between institutions because they interfere with often rigid power structures.
2) Communication between institutions lacks often a realistic perception about what can be done, because it lacks the insight about internal power structures. The partners have to achieve a communication that is bare of an institutional publicity discourse.
3) Power structures within institutions are decisive in the promotion of multilingual policies. They are often thwarted by the corporative spirit of HEI and school teachers that define themselves only in the realm of 1 FL (or Portuguese Language / Literature). Only in a few cases, teachers defend more than 1 FL. Therefore policies depend on who and which corporative group leads the school administration or advisory board (+ parents’ association).
Recommendation: meeting between different FL-corporative groups and Portuguese Language / Literature in order to overcome the limited perspective of a better positioning of 1 FL in competition with others (or mother tongue against FLs) and to reach out to an understanding of the good and bad ranking between different FL. Multilingual workshops between HEI and school teachers about learning / teaching practices.

C) There has to be a realistic understanding of what is possible in terms of actions and initiatives. Only long-term planning is able to promote the full integration of activities into the institutional life (FL curricula) and to benefit from institutional support. The partners have to be aware of the efforts to overcome the absence of national framework, because there do not exist an internal common policy neither a scheduling of HEI-activities with the schools.
Recommendation: open and broad communication and discussion of long-term activity plans on preparatory meetings.

5.2 Broader implications

As we pointed out in chapter 2 (Background), the APPEAL is considered necessary because of the absence of a national framework that promotes multilingualism. APPEAL is a regional umbrella initiative that has no binding force on national level concerning learning outcomes (1.3.) and strategic goals (2.2.). This can lead to a bias if the actual policies on national level are being maintained. In this case there could be introduced a definition of HEI-access different from other HEI in Portugal (see learning outcomes).
Hopefully, the good practices of APPEAL motivate a desirable change of the national context. If this occurs, APPEAL has to be totally thought over and redefined.