Language wraps itself around, in, through and between everything that we teachers and learners do in the classroom.
(Ritchhart 2002: 141)
ARIS is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School where we create a challenging and motivating multilingual environment, with English being the Language of Instruction. At ARIS, we view Language as a tool for making meaning in the world. We firmly believe that every student has individual and cultural sets of experiences, skills and interests, which must be considered in the teaching and learning process. We consider Multilingualism and the Development of Critical Literacy as important factors in fostering international-mindedness, through the promotion of cultural identity, intercultural awareness and global citizenship.
At ARIS, all teachers are language teachers, as language transcends curriculum areas. Through the IB and Cambridge programs, we aim to develop confident, inquisitive, enthusiastic and highly proficient readers, writers, viewers, presenters, speakers and listeners.
As an international school situated in Ghana, we are also strongly committed to providing students with access to local Ghanaian language. We aim to learn and make the most out of the host country and community for the local language and cultural experiences, throughout the curriculum. Equally important to the school, is the belief that, each student should have the opportunity to maintain and develop their mother tongue(s). It is also important to note that the acquisition of additional languages allows students to further reflect upon and explore different cultural perspectives.
Purposes of the Language Policy
The purposes of the Language Policy are to:
- Achieve a common, transdisciplinary understanding of ARIS’s aims and objectives for language learning at both Primary and Secondary levels.
- Provide support for language learning in the PYP and MYP to help students succeed in the DP.
- Provide the foundation of a whole-school language curriculum approach
- Provide support and focus for planning, teaching, assessing and curriculum development with respect to language in all areas of the school.
Language Profile at ARIS
Following the Language Survey that was completed by the ARIS Community, in April 2017, it came to our notice that our students speak more than 40 different languages, with more than 35% of them being trilingual or speaking more than 3 languages.
When asked about every student’s mother tongue the results were as follows: (548)
- 34% Arabic
- 20% English
- 8% French
- 6% Hindi
- 5% Twi
- 3% Mandarin
- 3% Turkish
- 21% Other languages
Nevertheless, it is important to note that when asked about the first language spoken by our students, more than 50% responded English, 26% Arabic, 7% French, Hindi 3%, Mandarin 3%, Turkish 3%, 8% other languages.
Upon reviewing all this data with the Language Department and the Senior Management Team, we have concluded that the foreign languages being offered at ARIS, caters to more than 80% of our students’ language needs.
Ideally, ARIS would love to offer all mother tongue languages, but obviously, it is not logistically and financially possible to offer classes in all languages. Although, due to the clarity that educational research brings, students who maintain their mother tongue will have better learning abilities with a second or a third language. Therefore, it is important that we provide the opportunity for students to access their first or mother-tongue languages.
At ARIS, we greatly value children continuing to learn in their mother tongue. We aim to place children in classes with other children who speak the same languages they do, whenever possible. We prioritize those children who are new to learning English.
We encourage parents to talk, read and write with their children in their mother tongue, and we also host a Mother Tongue and Other Languages Day events, each year.
ARIS is committed to offer 3 of the main mother tongues spoken by our community. All other mother tongues courses that are not offered by ARIS need to be arranged and paid for by families via the Admission and Administration Office. Ideally, these lessons should take place during after school hours and on Saturdays.
The emphasis in language use at ARIS is intentionally on English, in order to facilitate learning in an English-medium curriculum and to enhance students’ academic career potential. It is recognized that, the knowledge and acquisition of other languages not only promotes cognitive growth but is vital to social interactions, both formally and informally, inside and outside the classroom, at home and within the international community.
There is a strong link between learning a language and learning about a culture. It is, therefore, in the spirit of the ARIS Mission Statement and, more generally, the Development of International Mindedness, which students are encouraged to be proud of their languages and cultures while they also learn a language other than their own.
The ARIS Language Programme:
Early Years Programme (Nursery/Reception): French and Arabic or Hindi will be taught on a daily basis for 30-40 minutes.
Primary Year Programme (Year 1-Year 6): Students will study two languages in addition to English (Language A). Every student will have to choose a Language B and Language C.
Language B is a Language Acquisition course and will be taught on a daily basis, 5 times a week, for 40 minutes. Options for Language B are Arabic, French, and Hindi.
Language C is a Culture and Societies course and will be taught twice a week. Options for Language C are Arabic, French, Spanish, Hindi, Mandarin, Twi, and Ga.
Secondary (Year 7-13) MYP and DP:
In the Secondary School, language is divided into Studies in Language and Literature (Language A), Language Acquisition Courses (Language B) and Culture and Societies Courses (Language C). A student is required to take at least two languages. One of these should be a language and literature course. ARIS students have the opportunity to study up to three languages. These courses are offered according to the student’s level in the language of instruction, English (Language A), and the foreign languages Arabic, French and Spanish (Language B). Language C courses are also offered in Chinese Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, Twi, German, French and Arabic. In special circumstances students may have the option of following a different language acquisition course as self-taught courses with tutors assigned by the school.
Overview of Language Programmes
Except in the obvious case of the MFL classes, English (in both written and spoken forms) is the medium of instruction throughout ARIS.
- In Primary and Secondary, all students study English as a first language, including those students requiring extra English language learning support. This support is provided through the English as an Additional Language (EAL) program.
- In the IGCSE program, students study English language as a first or second language.
- In the Diploma Programme all students pursue a course in English: English Language and Literature (HL or SL) or English Literature (HL or SL).
Years 1 to 9 All students learn within the PYP and MYP language scope and sequence in line with the Primary and Secondary English courses, which are based on recognized standards. These courses aim to develop the skills of reading, writing, listening, speaking, language foundations, and media literacy through engaging learning tasks using authentic contexts and assessments.
In Years 10 and 11, two courses are available: Cambridge IGCSE English as a First Language and English as a Second Language.
In Years 12 and 13, students either follow the IB Diploma Programme English A Literature, Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL) or the English A Language and Literature SL and HL.
English as an Additional Language
ARIS has a diverse school population. Our goal is to support the academic and social development of all students. The English as an Additional language (EAL) programme enables students whose first language or whose prior language of instruction is not English to develop their language skills. The purpose of the EAL services is to assist students to become proficient in English and to be able to study at year level. The EAL programme is offered in Years 1 to 11.
For a student to be identified as an EAL student, an assessment of his/her English language proficiency is carried out. Initial assessments will be typically conducted upon a student’s first enrolment at ARIS, but may also be conducted at any point if there is an indication that there might be a need for EAL services.
Assessment of English language proficiency determines if the student’s use of English is below the expected level. Support is provided for the student to adjust to the school culture and achieve year level expectations.
- Differentiated support is provided for each EAL student.
- Progress in the acquisition of English is regularly reported to parents.
- Six weeks intensive support and follow-up.
An EAL specialist plans and delivers the EAL Individual Language Plan-ILP. Services may include individual or small group instruction, pull-out or push-in services.
Arabic, French and Spanish are standard based curriculum, integrating the Cambridge IGCSE curriculum and the PYP, MYP and DP scopes and sequence in line with the IB Continuum. The three courses are offered as: AB initio and Language B.
Students enrolled in all languages, may not join (LC) at any time as it is not designed for heritage learners. However, (LC) students will be encouraged to stretch up to join L B.
Placement in the L C language courses depends on students’ background, proficiency level and availability of courses. In order to abide by the ethical considerations of the IB Diploma Programme, students will be placed in appropriate language courses in Year 12 based on their proficiency and background.
According to the data presented in the ARIS language profile, the 6% of the students are Native and Heritage Hindi language learners who have been exposed to Hindi at their homes, who speak or merely understand Hindi, and who are, to various degrees, bilingual. Accordingly, Hindi is their second language.
The three courses are offered as: AB initio and Language B.
IB Diploma Program:
Placement in Language Acquisition Courses –
The degree to which students are already competent in the language, and the degree of proficiency they wish to attain, by the end of the period of study, are the most important factors in identifying the appropriate Language Acquisition course, in Group 2. Even though a given course may initially seem very difficult, it is essential that students follow the course that is best suited to their present and future needs and with the aim that it will provide them with an appropriate academic opportunity and challenge.
A student’s ability to access the curriculum and succeed at ARIS is highly dependent on language proficiency. As part of the admissions process, new students undertake an English language assessment. Students whose level of English language is below a level that the school considers itself able to support with its English Language Support program, may, in exceptional circumstances, be denied admission. Students who are deemed to require considerable English Language support will routinely be provided with additional English Language classes.
Language use in the classroom:
The language of instruction is English and the curriculum is in the medium of English throughout the school, though it is recognized that other languages may be used for varying purposes during instructional activities. Decisions regarding language use in the classroom are at the discretion of individual teachers; however, it should always be kept in mind that becoming proficient in English is a priority in order to access English medium subject areas, such as the Humanities and Sciences, in the IGCSE and IB Diploma Program curricula. Classroom teaching is thus guided by the following principles:
During general instructional activities, decisions regarding which language(s) should be used, must be founded on the intention that all students develop the necessary language proficiency in English to perform to their best ability on all tasks related to the curriculum.
Notwithstanding (1), it may at times be helpful for students to think through or talk through unfamiliar or complex concepts in their first language before learning the vocabulary to talk about these concepts in English.
When whole class discussions or mixed-language group discussions / activities are taking place, it is important to use English in order to ensure the collective understanding of all participants.
Though the use of a student’s first language is not discouraged in the school, there will often be times in the classroom where the teacher needs to stipulate that a particular activity be undertaken solely in English, in order to achieve the stated learning objectives.
Teachers consider language use at all stages of curriculum planning and implementation, with the aim of facilitating student understanding of both the language used in the classroom and the concepts embedded in the curriculum. In support of this aim the school provides on-going professional development for teachers in the area of ESL and EAL strategies appropriate for mainstream classroom settings.
Language use outside the classroom
In line with the general belief that diversity in the languages used by students and staff is a positive element reinforcing international-mindedness in the school, no language is discouraged outside the classroom. However, students are encouraged to communicate as appropriate with their peers in the common language of English. It is important that no student is excluded due to the prevalence of an unfamiliar language and that students do not experience a sense of alienation from others.
Ongoing formative assessment informs instruction, differentiated through small groups, open-ended tasks, and differentiated learning materials. The school’s Assessment Policy outlines our philosophy and approach to assessing student learning in the languages. A set of formal school assessments, including oral, reading, and writing assessment, are conducted. This data is used in various ways to inform ongoing instruction.
Language Policy Review
This Language Policy is a working document which is reviewed at least annually by the Language Steering Committee.