Trinity College London has been working with the education authority in Andalusia on various language initiatives in recent years, the most recent requiring a new approach to delivering plurilingual language skills for school leavers and those going on to further education. Pluriligualism requires a simultaneous capability in more than one language, with the ability to switch according to circumstances. Trinity’s Integrated Skills in English (ISE) exam, with its focus on the interplay between speaking, writing, listening and reading, proved to be the ideal foundation on which to develop a new curriculum and the specialist training, development and support needed to deliver the changes.
The Andalucía Education Department was evaluating new ways to promote foreign language learning, including more collaboration between different international institutions, with the objective of improving the language skills of both teachers and students in the state education system in Andalucía, the largest education authority in Spain.
This activity follows EU policies around the encouragement of learning foreign languages to improve the communicative abilities of the citizens of Andalucía, contribute to the development of plurilingual competence, and develop a languages curriculum suited to the needs of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
Following the 2009 signing of the first agreement between the Consejería de Educación, Cultura y Deporte de la Junta de Andalucía and Trinity College London, a small but representative group of selected state secondary schools in Andalucía piloted using Trinity Integrated Skills in English (ISE) exams as an external evaluation to assess the integrated learning of English. This approach focuses on all four skills - speaking, writing, listening and reading, and the initial pilot included specific, tailored teacher training and support programmes.
In September 2011, a second agreement opened the possibility of registering as a Trinity registered exam centre (REC) to any Andalusian state secondary school interested in a Trinity ISE examination session. Again, this second agreement also included a series of specific training programmes for teachers.
In November 2013, a third agreement widened the collaboration to include any type of state school in Andalucía, at primary or secondary level. At the same time, this latest agreement includes the option to register Andalucía Teacher Support Centres as Trinity RECs for the evaluation and accreditation of teachers’ language ability.
The institutions that piloted the first agreement in 2009 concentrated on consolidating and improving CEFR levels A2-B1 evaluated via ISE at the end of compulsory secondary education at 16 years. This pilot confirmed that the new educational programme established by the Consejería and Trinity could deliver the desired results and, under the present agreement, the levels now attained at age 16-17 years are the required B1-B2 level.
The majority of these students achieve the upper B1 level in a second language, as required by universities in Andalucía in order to receive their degree, and as per the parameters of the Bologna process.
Trinity College London remains grateful to the education authorities in Andalucía, as well as to the teachers involved for their efforts and enthusiasm which have encouraged, and continue to encourage, this excellent project throughout the six years of collaboration. There are some 250 state schools across Andalucía that are registered as Trinity RECs, and regularly visited by Trinity Examiners from outside Spain. These centres can now also organise regular examination sessions for all students who require language certification that is matched and calibrated to CEFR’s international standards.
‘This was more than just an evaluation exercise – with Trinity’s involvement we have been able to improve greatly language skills at school-leaving age.’
José Francisco Molina Rubio, Head of the International Educational Programmes Service, Department of Education, Culture and Sport, Government of Andalucía