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Immersion education is a pedagogical model in which students receive their subject-matter instruction through the medium of a target language. In bilingual communities where a dominant state language coexists with territorial, indigenous, small-state, or unique minority or regional languages, the target language may belong to the second group.
The goal of the immersion model is to ensure that the regional language is present in the schooling system, while guaranteeing the learning of the majority language. This model has been praised by numerous international experts and organizations, such as the Commission’s High-Level Group on Multilingualism, the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues.
Immersion Education is applied in different regions of Europe such as Wales, Catalonia, or the Basque Country, and coexists with other plurilingual education models, predominantly with the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) methodology. It has been considered as an exemplary model which guarantees full, functional bilingualism, both in the majority and the minority language without segregating students in language terms.
Furthermore, immersion education model enables children to acquire sufficient linguistic competences in the two languages -the dominant and the minority language- which allow them to use the language of their choice after finishing school. If the school system fails to provide students full command of the two languages, that would result in a curtailment of children’s future opportunities and a limitation of their freedom to choose the language in which they wish to communicate as they become adults.
Recently, however, a sharp debate has emerged regarding the application of this model in some European countries, notably in France and Spain. Too often, arguments against the language immersion model are based on purely ideological grounds and use unbiased, partisan, and inaccurate data. All this has contributed to create confusion over the scope and the implications of this model.
In this Campus, we intend to shed some light on this debate by providing the participants with the necessary data that will certainly be useful for a better account of the language immersion model in education.
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