From the age of three until the end of Baccalaureate, our students receive their education following a bilingual syllabus in Spanish and English. In addition, Pre-School pupils receive an introduction to French, which is extended to include German during all of Primary Education, until ESO (Compulsory Secondary Education), when students choose a third language from German, French or Arabic, and can continue studying any of those languages at Baccalaureate level. They can also receive extracurricular lessons in French, Arabic and Mandarin Chinese. By the end of Primary education, they will have received more than 4,400 hours in English, 735 in French and 420 in German.
Alongside this linguistic immersion in foreign languages from a very early age, the key is that languages are not conceived not only as a subject that is studied but rather as languages in which the students study. Rather than learning languages, our students learn in those languages. Thus, Primary Education students study Natural and Social Sciences (grouped under the title Environmental Awareness), Visual Arts, Physical Education and English language in English. French is used to teach Drama, as well as French language, while German is taught as a subject in its own right and is used to teach Music. In Secondary, English is used to teach Natural Sciences, Arts and Crafts, Physical Education and English Language, and, as mentioned previously, students have the opportunity to take a third language: French, German or Arabic. Lastly, in Baccalaureate English is used to teach Religion/Alternative Study subject and Sciences for the Contemporary World, in addition to English itself, giving a total of around 460 hours taught in this language. And as in ESO (Compulsory Secondary Education), students can choose between French and German.
For better language learning, all Primary Education and most Secondary Education teachers are native speakers of the language in which the subject is taught. Consequently, they can introduce students not only to the language but also to the culture in which the specific language has developed, promoting intercultural awareness and understanding.
In addition, there are support tuition systems for language learning in every class, provided by specific teachers, so students with any difficulty can receive the additional support they need. It is worth mentioning that support tuition is provided for English (from grades 1 to 10), French (from grades 7 to 10), German (from grades 7 to 10) and Natural Sciences in English (from grades 7 to 10). The Guidance Service is responsible for individual tracking of students who require such support, as well as for analysing situations in which the support of other specialists is required.
As a result, each year an average of 90 students at our school pass exams that give access to any of the Cambridge University diplomas authorizing them to teach English at centres officially recognized as bilingual by the Andalusian education authorities. About 60 of these students also achieve this while studying the ESO (Compulsory Secondary Education). Some of our students have already achieved the highest ranking Diploma awarded by Cambridge University: Proficiency. Furthermore, year after year our youngest pupils have been achieving top marks in speaking, historically the main shortcoming of Spaniards learning English. The improvement in the results obtained in external English examinations is also gradually being replicated in the other languages taught at the school. In 2014/15, 47 students obtained official diplomas in French, 18 in German and 3 in Chinese.
The advantages of studying in a multilingual and intercultural setting has a wide range of advantages beyond learning languages which will be useful for further career development. It has been demonstrated that when students learn three languages or more simultaneously, they acquire new cognitive skills. They learn to compare and contrast different elements, allowing them to develop new learning strategies. This multi-lingual approach strengthens students' ability to learn and to develop critical analysis. It also makes it easier for them to understand abstract notions like mathematics. Also, from a values standpoint, studies have shown that students who master more than one language, generally tend to be more tolerant and more open to other cultures, since studying languages allows them to obtain knowledge of the socio-cultural aspects of the countries where the language they are learning is spoken.