Language Policy

Learner Profile – Communicator

Objective of the Language Policy Document

The language policy document aims to consolidate ideas and beliefs at Fountainhead School regarding language and language teaching and outlines systems and strategies in place to support the development of English as a lingua franca as well as development and maintenance of mother tongue in the school community.

This document also seeks to ensure that, as an authorized IB World School, compliance with IBO Standards and Practices are met.

This document should be referred to when planning for language teaching, curriculum planning and professional development.

The audience for this document also includes the parent community at Fountainhead School as well as new and interested parents seeking admission in Fountainhead School.

Fountainhead School : Background and context

Fountainhead School is a K-12 school located in Surat, Gujarat. The school offers the following pathways of education:

* We are considering the IB MYP for the future.

The pathways of education boards that Fountainhead School has offered for its students is a tried and tested model which a number of other schools in India are also applying to provide both the best quality of education while fully addressing the necessities of Board Examinations and local university recognition issues in India.

The school has 1236 students as of 31st August 2013. The division across students is as follows:

Programme No. of Students
EY 342
PY 722
MY 172

Majority of the student population resides in Surat. Students mostly come from middle class or affluent families. The parent community is a mix of entrepreneurs, family managed businesses, teaching professionals, serviced professionals in banking and finance, oil and gas or telecom industry and other industries.

Student Mission Statement

To nurture leaders through primary greatness

Primary greatness is the greatness that each individual can attain by achieving both competence and character. Greatness as defined normally, is based on name, fame, money, acts etc. This greatness is secondary greatness and not everyone may achieve it, and primary greatness may not be necessary to achieve this. Primary greatness, on the other hand, is something that each child and adult can achieve through their actions.

To become leaders, students are expected to take responsibility of their own lives, learn to work more effectively with others and to do the right thing even when no one’s watching. This is how we define leaders. Not everyone may want to or can become business or political leaders or leaders in sports or arts, but becoming a leader as defined above is the kind of leader that everyone can become.

The school’s mission is therefore “To nurture leaders through primary greatness” or in other words, to nurture leaders who have both character and competence.

Organizational Mission Statement

Fountainhead believes that learning is a lifelong process and we therefore seek to inculcate in students, parents, teachers & the society at large, the sheer sense of joy of the learning. We will provide a happy, purposeful, safe and nurturing environment to help our learners develop skills, attitudes & character to achieve sustainable success in life. We aim to scale newer heights in terms of curriculum innovation and teaching methodologies and build an institute of excellence.

Language Profile of students at Fountainhead school

The following points summarize the language profile of students currently studying at Fountainhead School:

1. Majority of the students (92%) have Gujarati or Hindi as their mother tongue/ native language.

2. A small percentage of students (4.5%) have other Indian languages as their mother tongue.

3. Almost all students (97%) are second language learners of English.

4. Around 30% of students studying at Fountainhead School are first generation learners of English.

5. English is the medium of instruction and is commonly acceptable to all.

6. All parents want their children to learn English as the main language in school.

(Detailed data analysis of the school language profile is available in Appendix B)

Fountainhead’s beliefs about language and language learning

Fountainhead School believes that language fulfils three fundamental, compelling human urges- to connect with others, to understand our world and ourselves in it. Language is fundamental to learning, thinking and communicating.

Language is socially constructed and depends on the kind, nature and the frequency of one’s social interaction in the community. Fountainhead School believes that language is acquired and not learnt. We believe that learners acquire language by first listening to it and understanding it, then speaking it, then reading and finally writing it.When an understanding of the world, language and print act together as a team, reading happens. All three go hand in hand, like inseparable friends. One assists the others. On their own they function badly. Children develop language through interaction, not action. They learn to talk by talking to someone who responds. They learn to write by writing to someone who responds. (Fox Mem 1993, 2001).

The learning process simultaneously involves learning language as learners listen to and use language with others in their everyday lives; learning about language as learners grow in their understanding of how language works; and learning through language as learners use language as a tool to listen, think, discuss and reflect on information, ideas and issues (Halliday 1980). These three aspects are best thought of as linked processes.

Language plays a vital role in the construction of meaning. It provides a framework to support conceptual development and critical thinking. Fragmenting teaching language into isolated skill sets can create difficulties for learners. Their needs are best served when they have opportunities to engage in learning within meaningful and authentic contexts.

Language involves learning, in both the affective and effective domains. Through language, students understand feelings and thoughts of people from contexts very different from theirs and learn to express their own emotions in various creative forms. They learn to communicate their ideas effectually. Language provides a vehicle for inquiry. Teachers and students enjoy using language, appreciating it both functionally and aesthetically.

Learners listen, talk, read and write their way to negotiating new meanings and understanding new concepts. There are opportunities for students to negotiate their roles as learners, teachers, reflectors, thinkers and Inquirers.

The school recognizes that a majority of our learners are additional language learners of English and we see the school playing a pivotal role in providing an enriching environment and support for language development so that all learners are empowered to participate fully in the school’s academic programme, social life as well as to develop as individuals. The school believes that building a caring language community with participation from parents, students, teachers and the wider society will go a long way in developing confident language learners.

The school believes that acquisition of more than one language will enrich personal development of a child and also facilitate international mindedness.

Language at Fountainhead School

English is the medium of instruction at Fountainhead School and is taught as the primary language. It has priority in the school’s language programme.It is also the preferred language of communication in the school and is acceptable to all.

Languages used in daily functioning

English is the preferred language of communication at Fountainhead School. It serves as the school’s official language for purpose of operations, communication and management.

However, it is acknowledged that the school community is multilingual and members function in their everyday lives in more than one language.

All school-wide written communication with parents is done in English although individual parent and teachers may communicate (written and oral) in a common language of their choice. (this is typically done as per parent’s preference).

The administration department and the support staff (transport, food, housekeeping) typically use Gujarati (the local language of Surat) in their daily interactions with other members of the school community.

Language in the Primary years Programme

Language is the most significant connecting element across the school’s curriculum, both within and outside its transdisciplinary programme of inquiry. Language at Fountainhead in the PYP is seen as permeating the whole curriculum. Language learning is spread across subject areas and through the programme of inquiry and all PYP teachers at Fountainhead are viewed and view themselves as language teachers. English is the primary language taught at the Primary years and also the language through which the students access the PYP curriculum.

The school offers Hindi (one of the official languages of India) as an additional language from the age of 5 and Gujarati (the regional language of the state Gujarat) as a 3rd language from the age of 6.

Teachers plan learning experiences in language within meaningful and enjoyable contexts and learners are able to make connections, apply their learning, and transfer their conceptual understanding to new situations. This progressive conceptual development, together with an enjoyment of the process, provides the foundation for lifelong learning.

The school also acknowledges that learning to comprehend language through listening, reading and viewing and to express through speaking; writing and presenting go hand in hand and hence, promotes integrated language development. The three strands of communication: oral, written and visual are interwoven and interrelated and not taught in isolation.

Fountainhead believes that literature plays a very important role in language development. Literature helps to reconnect feeling and thinking. It expands our life spaces and takes us outside the boundaries of our life experiences to other places, time periods and ways of living. It also stretches our imagination and invites us to consider what if. Above all, it is a very powerful tool to transform children’s lives as children carry these literary experiences back into their own worlds and view their lives differently. Students at Fountainhead are involved in a book study of minimum 1 book every year in the PYP as per their age and readiness level.

The school also sees culturally diverse literature as a powerful means to develop international mindedness and attributes of the learner profile in all learners. The library collection reflects this belief in its collection of picture books, folk tales, bilingual books etc.

The learner profile, together with the five essential elements of the programme knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action informs planning, teaching and assessing language at Fountainhead School.

Approaches to teaching and learning in the PYP:

Fountainhead School endeavours to make students proficient and fluent in usage of all forms of English language by the end of the PYP years, by:

  • promoting integrated language development
  • using language as a transdisciplinary element throughout the curriculum
  • using a literature-based approach to learning language
  • encouraging appropriate cooperative discussion in the classroom
  • encouraging reading for meaning
  • using differentiated reading engagements selected according to interest level, readiness, proficiency.
  • using a variety of scaffolded learning experiences with the teacher providing strategies for the student to build on his or her own learning
  • viewing writing as a process
  • teaching students to read and research using multimedia resources
  • using language for creative problem solving and information processing
  • using a range of appropriate assessment methods such as portfolios, conferencing, writing sample analysis, response journals.

The school has developed a language scope and sequence document for the primary years. This document is a work in progress and we intend to align it with the the PYP Language scope and sequence document.

Language in the Middle years

In the middle years, it is acknowledged that with more specialized and complex areas of knowledge, literacy skills also need to be built further. Therefore, students continue to build on the language skills acquired in the PYP.

Also, English being the preferred language to access the Diploma Programme, there is a conscious attempt to develop English as the best language of the student, develop greater proficiency in it through sustained language learning and achieve their full linguistic potential in the same.

The school continues to offer Hindi as an additional subject in the Middle years. The school also offers French in the middle years as an alternative to Hindi. In addition to the approaches to teaching and learning in the Primary years, approaches to teaching and learning in the middle years include but are not limited to:

  • Exposure to quality literature across a variety of periods, cultures and genres.
  • Inquire into, analyse and reflect upon a variety of literary and non literary works.
  • Using ICT to explore, respond to and critique language
  • Use and interpret language in a variety of contexts including real life situations.

Language in the Diploma Programme

Students entering in the Diploma Programme from Fountainhead School are expected to have English as their best language as a result of sustained instruction in English over the primary years and the middle years. Thus, English is established as their preferred language, Language A, through which they access the curriculum.

Group 1:

Fountainhead School has mandated English language and literature (HL and SL) as Group 1 choice. The choice between HL and SL for each student will be made on the basis of candidate’s preference and school recommendation.

Group 2:

Hindi being the host country language is strongly recommended to students as a group 2 course selection in Grades 11 and 12. The school recommends that all students who have had 4-5 years of experience in learning Hindi study HL / SL as per the student profile.

French ab initio is the other subject the school offers as a Group 2 subject choice.

The school may consider offering Spanish ab initio and Mandarin ab initio through Pamoja Education for students who may be interested in studying these languages.

Provision for students who do not have English as their best language for the Diploma programme:

If there is a candidate who is not proficient in English seeking admission to the Diploma programme, the school will recommend hiring a shadow teacher/ interpreter who is comfortable with the best language of such a student. The student can choose a group 1 language as per his best language and the school will offer it as a school supported, self taught subject choice.

Mother tongue programme at Fountainhead School

Fountainhead School recognizes that mother tongue is an integral part of an individual’s identity and it is important to affirm, value and promote students mother tongues. It also recognizes the need for developing and maintaining students mother tongues. This belief encourages the attributes identified in the IB learner profile, as well as promotes responsible action and international-mindedness.

The school has students of over 12 different mother tongues studying in the school. Hindi and Gujarati account for the mother tongue of more than 90% of our student population and the school teaches both these languages. The school is considering offering Hindi and Gujarati at two levels (beginner and standard level) to further enhance the strength of the mother tongue programme.

The school recognizes that multilingualism is an essential aspect of the typical classroom at Fountainhead. Teachers are encouraged to use this in the best way possible without undermining the importance of development of English as a lingua franca*.

The school views all teachers in the school throughout all programmes as language teachers. It is acknowledged that some teachers are more proficient in their mother tongue than in the language of instruction in the school. The school takes responsibility for ensuring that such teachers are appropriately trained to teach in the language of instruction.

Further, they are encouraged to use their mother tongue in interaction with students where there is a wealth of relevant background knowledge encoded in their (the teacher’s) mother tongue.

The mother tongue programme plays an important role in developing and affirming the student’s personality and identity.

Adhering to the belief that when a language one uses in daily communication is denigrated, a part of him or her is also being denigrated, there are no discipline procedures that impact on student or teacher use of their mother tongues in classes. However, there is a danger of using the mother tongue as a crutch while expressing and in the process, suppressing the development of English language fluency. Therefore, the guideline for use of mother tongue in the classroom is that it should be used as a support language - interlingual translation should be used wherever the teacher feels the need and sees value in its use. An example of this could be: activating prior knowledge of students, recording anecdotes of students in Early years verbatim, exploring cultural beliefs and values etc.

Whole school strategies for developing mother tongue:

  • The school library has bilingual books as well a variety of books and periodicals in Hindi, Gujarati and other regional languages of India. Students are encouraged to issue books from library on a regular basis.
  • Fountainhead School conducts a Hindi Mela and a Gujarati Mela which are week- long celebrations of the richness of these languages. A variety of games, quizzes, skits etc are organised in the school in this week.
  • The school also has presentations in the school assembly on various regional languages of India. These presentations showcase the richness and culture of the language through music, dance etc.The linguistic diversity of the school community is a rich resource for the mother tongue programme and the school makes active use of it in such opportunities.
  • The parent community is also actively advised to develop and maintain the mother tongue of their child and encouraged to view English as an additive and not a subtractive language.

Role of the library at Fountainhead School

The library is central to the language programme at Fountainhead School. The library provides a learning space and an environment to promote love for reading, books as well as a place for research.

The library is resourced with fiction, non-fiction, picture books, chapter books, board books, pop-up-books, big books, multicultural books, world classics, autobiographies, multilingual books, reference books, encyclopaedias and media that are accessible to all students and staff. The school sees the library as a valuable resource to promote the international mindedness aspect of the IB programmes.

The library is also seen as a place which makes a strong statement that all languages are celebrated and supported. The library has a collection of bilingual books, books in regional languages of India and the school continues to add to to this collection.

The library also provides resources for collaborative planning, researching and teacher professional development. Our school board is aware of our need to expand these resources and there are plans to continually add the same.

The school is in the process of developing an information literacy and media literacy curriculum that will support the language curriculum of the school and help develop research skills in students.

At the PYP level, there is a library period every week. Teachers can also conduct classes in the library with prior information. The librarian teacher as well as homeroom teachers conduct book discussions, read aloud, help conduct research and help students browse and pick up books. In addition to using the school library, every class also has a class library.

At the middle years and the Diploma programme level, teachers and students use the library for conducting classes, working individually or in groups, researching etc.

The library team also conducts various events through the year like author week, poetry month, celebrating an author’s birthday etc to promote reading as a school culture.

Additional English Language Support (AELS) at Fountainhead School

As stated earlier, almost all students at Fountainhead School are second language learners of English. The school recognizes that learning a second language is a developmental process that occurs over time. Hence, the school does not have an ESL or an EAL programme for students. Instead, from Early years onwards, a lot of focus is laid on understanding English through listening and speaking exercises. In this context, the school is in the process of developing a listening and speaking curriculum for primary years.

However, there are some students who meet 1 or more than 1 of the following conditions:

  1. Are first generation learners of English
  2. Have zero support for English language learning at home
  3. Come from schools where the language of instruction is not English.
  4. Are admitted in Fountainhead School at a higher grade and have poor foundation skills in English.

These students require additional support to enable them to access the school curriculum in a manner that allows them to reach their full potential.

The school has designed an AELS program for such students. The programme is a combination of classroom support and pull out programme of intensive English for a stipulated time period. The process of shortlisting a student for AELS involves a series of steps like informal screening, observations, feedback given by the previous grade’s teacher, assessment reports of previous year/ previous school, feedback about student’s home environment etc.

As of now, the AELS programme is only at the PYP level. The school may explore options of extending it to the Middle years and the Diploma programme if a need for the same is felt.

Process of development of the whole school Language Policy

The current policy has been written in October 2013. The pre-work for this policy started in April 2013. A language policy steering committee was formed which included the academic leadership team (Head of School, Primary School Principal, PYP Coordinator, Assistant PYP Coordinator, Middle years Coordinator, DP Coordinator designate and Teacher librarian) and the grade level coordinators (also known as Team leaders in Fountainhead School).

The following key steps have been undertaken in the development of this policy:

1. Brainstorming with the school community about their beliefs regarding language learning including collecting data via questionnaires and focused discussions.(Appendix D gives a list of the questions used in this exercise)

2. Study of literature related to language and language learning.

3. Construction of language profile of student community by collecting data from parent community.

4. Preparation of 1st draft of the policy.

5. Presentation of draft to the Academic leadership team.

5.Incorporating changes and finalizing the Language Policy.

6. Publishing the language policy to all stakeholders.

Language Policy Revision

The language policy will be reviewed after a period of 3 years. (Next review: October 2016). The review committee will be led by a member of the academic leadership team and will include librarians, teachers, students and parents of the school. The review committee will make sure that any revision to the policy is coherent with the beliefs and values of the IBO, the school’s philosophy towards language and language teaching, changes in student and community demographics or other circumstances which justify the need for revision.

Works Consulted

  • Fox, Mem. Radical Reflections: Passionate Opinions on Teaching, Learning, and Living. San Diego: Harcourt Brace &, 1993. Print.
  • Fox, Mem. Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. New York: Harcourt, 2001. Print.
  • Halliday, M 1980. Language of Early childhood. Three aspects of children’s language development. Ch 14.
  • Guidelines for developing a school language policy, Language and learning in IB programmes, 2011, ©International Baccalaureate Organization.
  • Language Scope and sequence, International Baccalaureate Organization 2003
  • Language scope and sequence, International Baccalaureate Organization 2009
  • Language and learning in the IB programmes, International Baccalaureate Organization. September 2011
  • Learning in a language other than mother tongue in IB programmes. International Baccalaureate Organization, April 2008
  • Lindfors, Judith Wells. Children’s Inquiry: Using Language to Make Sense of the World. New York: Teachers College, 1999. Print.
  • Making the PYP Happen, International Baccalaureate Organization 2009
  • Short, Kathy Gnagey. Literature as a Way of Knowing. York, Me.: Stenhouse, 1997. Print.
  • Short Kathy Gnaney.Theory Into Practice, The Search for Balance in a Literature- Rich Curriculum. Volume 38. Number3. Ohio State University.1999. Print.
  • Sridhar, Manaswini. “Thinking about Language.” Editorial. Teacher Plus May 2012: 4-5. Print.
  • Syal, Pushpinder. “Interview of M.L. Tickoo.” Language and Language Learning 1.1 (2012): 60-64. Print.
  • Tooms, Autumn K., Nancy Padak, and Timothy V. Rasinski. The Principal’s Essential Guide to Literacy in the the Elementary School. New York: Scholastic, 2007. Print.
  • Wells, John. “International education, values and attitudes: A critical analysis of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Learner Profile.” Journal of Research in International Education 10.2 (2011): 174-188.

Appendices

Appendix A: Language profile of students at Fountainhead School- Questionnaire

Language Profile of students at Fountainhead School, Surat – The purpose of this form is to build a language profile of the student community at Fountainhead School.Please take 2 minutes to fill up this form.

 

Q1 – What is the language spoken at your home? (Choose only 1)(This will normally be the mother tongue or the native language, which the child also knows or is learning. For homes where more than 1 language is spoken frequently, choose the one which is the preferred language of communication by the family members.)
Hindi [ ] Gujarati [ ] Marathi [ ] Marwari [ ] Sindhi [ ] English [ ] Punjabi [ ]
Bengali [ ] Malayalam [ ] Telugu [ ] Tulu [ ] Tamil [ ] Kannad [ ] Others:

 

Q2 – Which other languages does your child know reasonably well? (You can choose more than 1)Please choose the languages which your child can understand and speak with some proficiency
Hindi [ ] Gujarati [ ] Marathi [ ] Marwari [ ] Sindhi [ ] English [ ] Punjabi [ ]
Bengali [ ] Malayalam [ ] Telugu [ ] Tulu [ ] Tamil [ ] Kannad [ ] Others:
Q3 – Is your child a first generation learner of English?Please answer yes if one or both parents have studied in a language other than English and are not very proficient in English.
Yes [ ] No [ ]
Q4 – Which is the language that you want your child to learn at school the most?(Choose only 1)
English [ ] Hindi [ ] Gujarati [ ] Others:

Why?

Q5 – What is your preferred language for communicating with the school?
English [ ] Hindi [ ] Gujarati [ ] Others:
Q6 – Did your family (your parents or grandparents) speak some other language (in the past/ few decades ago) but over a period of time, this language has been replaced by another language?
[ ] Yes. If Yes, which language has been replaced/ lost over a period of time -
[ ] No

Appendix B: Language profile of students at Fountainhead School- Survey Results

Q:1 What is your child’s native language/ mother tongue/ language spoken at home?

Bengali 2
English 19
Gujarati 293
Hindi 361
Hindi, Marwari 1
Katchhi 1
Malayalam 1
Marathi 2
Marwari 13
Punjabi 2
Sindhi 4
Tamil 4
Telugu 1

Q2: Is your child a first generation learner of English?

No 491
Yes 213

Q3: In what language do you prefer that your child studies in?

English- 100%

Appendix C: Pathways of language at Fountainhead School

Grades and Programmes Language of instruction and learning/ Language A Language B/Language acquisition 3rd language
PYP (Nursery to Grade 6) English Hindi Gujarati
Grade 7 and Grade 8 English Hindi/ French *
CIE Grade 9 and Grade 10 English Hindi
IBDP Grade 11 and Grade 12 English Hindi #/ French ab initio/ Spanish ab initio**/ Mandarin ab initio**

* indicates tentative

# Hindi being the host country language is strongly recommended to students as a group 2 course selection in Grades 11 and 12. Hindi will be offered at both SL and HL levels (subject to approval from IBO)

** The school is considering offering Spanish ab initio and Mandarin ab initio through Pamoja Education) for students who may be interested in studying these languages.

Appendix D: Questions used as provocations with school community

Section 1: Who should teach English and when?

  • Is teaching of English language the responsibility of all teachers at school or some teachers – HRTs, language teachers?
  • Are all teachers capable of teaching English correctly? If not what are the implications on their teaching the language?
  • Should English be used in all classes or in selected ones?
  • If English were used consistently in the homeroom, starting from the Early Years, would it ensure a decent level of learning?
  • Would subjects such as Math & UOI suffer if interlingual translation isn’t allowed?
  • In Arts & PE, should language of exchange be enforced as English?
  • Do all Single Subject Teachers (SST’s) have to be English language teachers? Or can they choose to be? For those who don’t choose to be, how should we view them? What about MY SSTs – since they are all SSTs there?
  • How much impact does a SST speaking in English have in the language acquisition process (EY/PY/MY)? If they don’t speak English very well, what could be possible impact on students?
  • Should one to one conversations also be in English between teachers & students? Should the counselor also talk only in English and listen to students only if it is English?

Section 2: Who should speak in English?

  • Should teachers be expected to talk to each other at all times in English only?
  • Should students be expected to talk to each other at all times in English only?
  • Why should casual conversations also be in English?
  • If casual conversations are in English then wouldn’t it have a deleterious effect on the language being used inside the classroom?
  • Are we taking away their “mother tongues” from them?
  • Does it help us to continue to speak in English in the hope that it will improve, unless it is corrected, unless we read / listen to good English?

Section 3: How should be improve English language levels of students & adults?

  • Should we correct the English errors made by children then and there?
  • Should we correct the English errors made by adults then and there?
  • Should children be empowered to correct teachers’ English if they are wrong?
  • How about language enhancement sessions? How about taking up one aspect of language learning in every assembly, every public meeting, putting up tons of posters and messages?
  • Should the school be able to accommodate students who don’t have English / Hindi / Gujarati backgrounds?

Section 4: Our explicit / implicit attitudes towards languages other than English

  • Should we view students / teachers / parents coming from Hindi / Gujarati background as people who are less capable of learning than others?
  • How can we make English an additive language rather than subtractive?
  • How can we promote English without making it a burden? Without demeaning Hindi / Gujarati / other mother-tongues?

Section 5: Teaching and learning of English language for those who aren’t fluent in it.

  • What strategies and support systems do we have to be able to cater to such students (and adults – to the extent necessary)?
  • What do we know from research and experience about children’s capability of picking up a new language? How much time would it take them if they were getting the right exposure at school alone?
  • For children with no exposure at home, should we have the same expectations or a different programme?
  • Why are we so focused as a school and as a society on writing and reading even before children can start speaking good English?

Section 6: Official preference and support for languages.

  • How do we define the Language of instruction, the preferred language and the Mother tongue?
  • What importance should we be giving to the Mother-tongue?

 
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