The work of Sue Garthcole of Cambridge University Brain Institute illustrates that working memory remains the greatest predictor of children's leaning attainment in school. It is fixed. I cannot be improved through brain training, despite it being claimed it can. The developing evidence it is determined by genes.
There is a seven year spread in children working memory capacity at the age of 7. Some children have a working memory capacity of 4 year old, others of a 12 year old. Most children have around average working memory capacity.
This means that in maths, reading and second languages learning success will always be more difficult for certain children to achieve than others. Child geniuses tend to have exceptionally high working memory.
Working memory grows three fold from the age of 4 to 14, but the spread of it increases as children grow older. Teachers are dedicated to making the cognitive demands of learning managable for all learners.
Working memory is the capacity to process information in our brains like two numbers, such as adding 2+2 or holding a telephone number in our heads. It is the power to think above what we are doing such as reading, which is the space that allow us to think above what we are doing and swallow what we are attempting to learn into our long term memory.
Working memory is like a tractor with a trailer piled high with bales of hay attempting to drive under a railway bridge. The height of the bridge, working memory capacity, varies between people. The gap between the top of the hay and the bottom of the bridge is the space we have to think above what we do such when we all read.
We need to think to learn and digest what we read, need to learn.
Fluency reduces what is referred to as the cognitive load. It requires less effort to fluently apply skills like reading and it creates more space for children to think and learn above it. It is like compressing the bales of hay on the trailer.
Language fluency, which will always relates to a matter of degree, is the gateway to all learning. This why developing language fluency is so important in children's education. Children will always learn more effectively fluent in their most fluent language. Those who attempt to learn and develop fluency in a new language will reduce the working memory they will have available for learning.
In pure terms children the more fluent children are in their native language the more effectively they will learn. Children with lower language fluency, who will tend to be those with lower than average working memory capability, will struggle to learn as effectively as those who have average or above average capacity.
Research in the United States illustrates that many children are able to read, but not learn through reading. There are 30% of English speaking children who are educated through the medium of English in the United Kingdom, who do not reach the expected 11 year reading level.
Key Issues - School Welsh
The problem with language is that we are all so fluent in our native language, which we can apply fluently with ease and flow, often giving little detailed attention to it, that we do not appreciate how complicated languages are or how much time is needed to devoted to learning new languages.
The problem is that we are inclined to automatically believe what we are told without asking whether it true, reasonable, or accurate.
How many people know that we develop around 35,000 words in our fluent native language?
How many people know that it takes around 6,000 hours to develop basic new language fluency and 10,000 hours to develop native like language fluency?
How many people know that children need to learn 50,000 words in their English school vocabulary?
The ambition to create a million Welsh speakers is based upon the assumption, the belief that it will be possible to create them. Political claims are being made unless the Welsh Government compel all children to learn through the medium of Welsh they will be effectively 'killing' the Welsh language.
This appears to be moral blackmail.
Although very young children language learning is natural, this does not meant that they are not involved in it and that their learning is unstructured. There is evidence that they do absorb language like sponges, but learning any language requires a vast amount of time and work. It develops from the word and then into pairs of spoken words.etc.
Children are not inanimate objects that learning can be poured into. Children can only learn through responding to appropriately structured and presented learning experiences. Young children learn languages cognitively in a similar way to older children and adults, but they have smaller working memories.
What is often forgotten in the school standards debate that school learning must and will always be a compromise. Teachers do not have to the time to give individual attention to each child. A teacher of a class of thirty will have a minute to give to each child in a thirty minute lesson. Parents have a vital role in supporting their children's learning.
Research suggests that children encounter 16 million words up to two years of age.
Parents invest in their children's future through giving intensive language support to their children. It is unclear how they will be able to offer this initial and continuing support if their children are educated in a language they cannot speak themselves. It is virtually impossible for adult to learn Welsh. Welsh to adult tutoring standards leave a lot to be desired.
In pure terms children will always learn more effectively in the language that they are most fluent in. This cannot be disputed. Children's learning will be enhanced when what is taught to them will take into account their working memories. Their native language difficulties are predictable.
Sue Garthcole's Report
Key Issues - School Welsh
Governments and parents must consider whether they want English speaking teachers in Wales to devote their time learning Welsh or developing the new curriculum and their teaching to world class standards. The issue is what will happen to those experience teachers who do not learn Welsh sufficiently to able to successfully teach through it.
There have been Welsh language political activist who have being playing being teachers and researchers, who have been making out that Welsh can be learnt in short time scales to a communicative level. One claimed it could be done in seven hours!
The Guardian article below illustrates that the problem with the United Kingdom, as whole, suffers in Pisa in comparison with Finland, because there are more children not been educated in their native language.