School Welsh Government Petition - socpie.uk
It appears that the Welsh Government has, as a consequence of the Socpie Campaign,, that campaign against compelling all children to learn through the medium of Welsh would damage children's education and it would be very sadly be a breach of children's human rights to undertake more research into the issue.
The problem is that there remains a 'feed the duck' view of learning that exists in society, a notion that children are empty vessels, inanimate objects that learning can be poured into like petrol into a tank and it will remain there for the rest of their lives. Young children do absorb language like sponges, but the issue of learning expecting children to learn through a new language is very complex.
There is evidence the whole issue of claiming that all children should learn through the medium in Welsh had become a political one. The answer to the issue lies with cognitive scientists not 'Tom, Dicks and Mary's, who became embroiled in a delusional dream.
There is an notion that Ph.D. academics are the authorities in their fields. Professor Sioned Davies, who informed on the Welsh Goverments Welsh language policies was university language academic, she had no educational qualifications, and she had no direct access to the corporate intelligence that exists in the subject.
There is a notion that subject boundaries are distinct. They are not. Learning Welsh is no different in cognitive terms to learning any other language. The core process of learning are applied to everything that we do.
There is a lamentable lack of research into all Welsh learning issues. It reflects the fact that Welsh is postage stamp of a language in United Kingdom and World terms. This is not intended to be offensive. It reflects the fact there are few troops on the ground contributing to Welsh language survival and learning issues. There are libraries of books on English language learning.
Language Learning Difficulty
Research suggest that it takes 10,000 of deliberate practice to learn a new language and develop native like fluency in it (deKayer and Professor Sarah Eaton). Deliberate practice is that like practising a piano. The figure is notional, but it illustrate the thousands of hours it takes to develop even basic fluency in a new language.
deKayser refers the difficulties that modern foreign language university students experience when they go on residency to countries where the language they are learning is spoken, where there is an expectation for them to live their lives through their new language. In practice many students increasing start to use their native language, because it is easier to apply and they can communicate with the fellow students in more detail.
The problem with the Welsh language is that it is not all around learners. The greater problem is that sadly Welsh language is a scattered, defragmentated language. It is essentially a range of different related dialects, languages. It is possible for speakers of one dialect not to understand what is said in another.
Research clearly illustrates that 67% is the tipping point of a living language (University of Galway). Languages are much more than a code. They are essentially memory cues that are used to share meanings between those who speak it. New languages cannot be exclusively learn in classrooms. The 67% speakers need reflects the vast time that is needed to develop language fluency.
The brain is very plastic. Unless we use what we learn we will lose it. Although Welsh medium education can create the 67% Welsh learning environments that will allow native English speaking children to learn Welsh in them, children will not retain their language into adulthood unless that have extensive opportunities to use it in their future lives.
Many adult Welsh speakers are speaking slang, what is referred to as interlanguage, a mix of Welsh and English, because they cannot use Welsh sufficiently. Actors on Pobl y Cwm, are often heard saying 'Drifo' as opposed to 'gyrru', which is proper word for driving, for instance.
The research on into working memory is still not widely know by educationalists and public, but it clearly illustrates that expecting children to learn a new language and then be educated through it would damage children's education. Working memory is the capacity to thing above what we are doing that enables us to commit what we need to learn into our our shorter and longer term memory, to learn.
Language fluency allows learners to think above what we do. Anyone who has witnessed someone trying to learn and speak a new language will illustrates how difficult it is. This because working memory, the brain, becomes overload. It is referred to as cognitive overload. This is what happens when a driver tries to use a mobile phone and drive.
When learners attempt use a new language and learn through it the potential for them to think above what they are learning will be reduced. This will retarded their thinking and consequently their capacity to learn. There branch of cognitive science that has researched cognitive overload. Professor John Sweller, who is a world authority on cognitive overall, has claimed that research clearly illustrates that attempting to learn through an unfamiliar language, the language and a subject content will retards learners learning.
The more fluent children become in their native English language the greater the scope will be to think above the language they are using and they will be able to think above what they are doing and learn. There are children across the world who can read, but they struggle to learn through their native English language, let alone Welsh.
Professor Sioned Davies, who wrote the report on the role of the Welsh language in schools in 2012, was a university academic, she had no professional teaching qualifications, she has never taught a child and she did not have the cross-curricula understanding to be able to assess the impact of her proposals on children' s education as a whole.
Parents, siblings and families devote a vast of time investing in their children's early native language development in a one to one relationship from birth. It is difficult to conceive how children will be able to enjoy the benefits of this support in a new language when their parents do not fluently speak that language.
There is the potential for children to experience learning difficulties, if they are coerced to learn through the medium of Welsh, which they would not experience, if they are educated through their native language. The huge problem is Welsh is not around learners in Wales.
Children in Wales are facing an uncertain future because of automation. There has too been far too much political rhetoric about all Welsh language issues. There is no evidence the educational impact of Welsh learning and learning through the medium of Welsh, even for fluent Welsh speakers, has ever been researched, except by Howard's.
The public and more especially, parents must have a right to be reliably informed about such issues, because children only have one education that needs to last them their lifetimes. In pure terms children will always learn more efficiently in their most fluent language and they will prefer to use it.
Socpie believes that there is sufficient researched evidence to suggest that it will be a breach of children's human rights to coerce all children to learn through the medium of Welsh. Most research suggest minority language speakers need to educated partly or totally in their native languages.
The enclosed was the posted Welsh Government Petition:-
New Research Need for School Welsh Language Teaching & Learning
Language is the fundamental medium of all learning. New languages cannot be instantly learnt. Research illustrates that there will be around a five-year learning deficit before native English-speaking children will be able to learn at the efficiency of Welsh native speaking children in Welsh medium school. This applies to an average child. Working memory is the gateway to all learning. Language fluency opens it wider.
There is a seven-year difference in children’s working memory capacity at the age of seven. Unless children can develop sufficient Welsh language fluency, then they will not be able to reach their full learning potential, which it is children’s legal human right to achieve in Wales. There is no convincing evidence that the full cross-curricula implications of Professor Davies’ proposals were considered in her research, such as the effects of her recommendations of developing children’s English language literacy and their mathematical skills. She was not qualified to consider these issues.
The Oxford Educational Dictionary states that “Although like most other professions, teaching requires a lengthy period of training and adherence to a professional code of conduct, many would argue that teachers are not normally accorded the parity of status with the other professions, such as law and medicine.” A university academic would not have had access to the corporate intelligence and experience that exists in the registered qualified teaching profession.
Although the issue of whether children should learn through the medium of Welsh is a very emotive political issue, the language that children learn through is fundamental to their successful learning, and the issue is a learning, educational one.
What those who are making political demands that all children should learn through the medium of Welsh fail to understand is that children go to school to be educated, not to develop a fluent Welsh language capability.
Working memory is the gateway to learning. Language fluency opens it wider. There is a range of 4 to 11 years of the working memory of children at the age 7. Most children’s working memory, which is genetically fixed, is around average. Learning a new language and learning through it will be difficult for children with generally low than average working memory.
Professor John Sweller, who is an educational psychologist, is a world authority on cognitive overload. He warns of the risks of attempting to learn a language and subject content simultaneously. Unless children develop the same level of fluency in their new language as their native one, then they will not be learning at their optimum learning efficiency.
The empirical research that is needed should be undertaken by suitably qualified educationalists who will investigate what is being established about language learning cognitively and who will apply a cross-curricula perspective to their research. They should recruit informed advice from practising teachers
Kirsty Williams, Welsh education minister, has called for more empirical research to undertaken into Welsh education. This is clearly needed to evaluate the role of Welsh language in schools. The 10,000 mastery may not relate ever process or skill that we can develop fluency in. it is not an exact figure, but it illustrates the scale of language learning.