Using CLIL in vocational education and training in Flanders

Author(s): European Schoolnet
Institution/Organisation: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe-instituut Poperinge (BE)

1. Profile of language initiative

1.1 Background


The school is located in Poperinge, a town of some 20.000 people near the border between West Flanders in Belgium and France. Some 12 km from Leper (Ypres), it is very close to the battle fields of World War I and there are many war graves in the area. Famous for its lace making in the past, it is now a centre for the Belgian beer industry with the famous beer making monastery of St. Sixtus in the area. Hops are grown in the area and the town is host to the national beer museum.


Some 15 kilometres separates Poperinge from the nearest French town Steenvoorde and the close proximity of the geographical and linguistic borders presents the school with a very good case for introducing French to its Flemish speaking pupils for social and cultural reasons as well as, and perhaps most importantly, for employment purposes[1].

As an experiment two years ago the school began teaching economics and IT through the use of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning).

1.2 Description and practical realisation of the initiative

With the success of the experiment with two groups of students (economics and IT), the school has developed it further and it is now one of 9 test schools carrying out CLIL under a government sponsored programme promoting the use of CLIL launched by the Flemish minister of education Vandenbroucke. The students study these two subjects for three hours per week over a period of six years.[3]

The subjects are taught in small groups with the subject content and language closely integrated. Students have ample opportunity to interact and activities in class are planned with this object in mind. Fluency and confidence in the latter and the acquisition of subject related vocabulary are central to the methodology used. The students are also encouraged to be autonomous and control their own learning.

There is a strong cultural objective behind the initiative. It is intended that using this methodology students will acquire a broader outlook on other cultures, particularly with regard to the Walloon culture within their own country.


Another objective is cognitive, the CILL methodology providing the students with the opportunity to sharpen their analytical and conceptual competences and[2] to gain confidence when working with abstract notions.

2. Assessment of success

2.1 Success indicators

* Some of the comments made by students who are involved in the CLIL programme at the school:

Moi je suis en CLIL pour bien parler le français dans une grande ville.

C’est peut-être un peu difficile, mais le professeur est bien gentil.

Donc, venez en CLIL!

Ce n’est pas très difficile et c’est chouette!
Tu apprends deux choses dans une leçon.’
C’est bien pour mon français.

2.2 Success factors

2.3 Lessons learned


During the past 4 years, the school has acquired considerable expertise and experience and it encourages other schools to learn from their example, particularly schools in small towns in the Border regions.

The CLIL method is very adaptable and can be used in different types of schools. In the case of OLVI it has allowed secondary technical school pupils to acquire an active knowledge of French.

A large group of pupils has learned a foreign language in an intensive way, without expensive exchange programmes and summer schools. CLIL provides equal opportunity learning.

Mastering foreign languages is an important asset in West Flanders and is an important job selection criterion in the business world.