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Detail of contribution


Co-Auteur(s): Maria VRIKKI, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

English for young learners in Cyprus education: Exploring parents' attitudes from ideological and utilitarian perspectives.

Abstract/Résumé: The educational reform implemented by the Ministry of Education in Cyprus since September 2011 includes the early introduction of English as the first foreign language in state schools. The National Curriculum (2010) provides for the teaching of English as a subject in primary school at grade 1, rather than grade 4 which had been the practice before, and for some basic exposure to English in pre-primary education. This reform has offered a fresh testing-ground for a funded research project that investigates the parents’ attitudes towards this language policy. The results are analysed from two perspectives: an ideological perspective and a utilitarian perspective. In terms of the ideological perspective, the investigation examines if parents perceive English as an identity-laden and an ideology-laden language. It shows whether English is associated with political authority deriving from the former British colonial ruler on the island or with dominance deriving from the United States as a world superpower. It analyses the extent to which parents expect that the reform may negatively affect demands for national/ethnic identity maintenance. It demonstrates whether there are concerns about retaining linguistic heritage, which presupposes safeguarding students’ national language (Standard Modern Greek) and mother tongue (Cypriot-Greek dialect) within multilingual Europe. In terms of the utilitarian perspective, the study examines if parents perceive English as a neutral language possessing a purely functionalist role indispensable for a global lingua franca. It shows parents’ expectations about their children’s future competence in English and their future ability to meet intelligibility needs through English both within and outside the European Union. It investigates whether this early introduction to English is perceived as an empowerment for children by offering access to English-dominated domains (e.g. internet, cinema, popular music) and to opportunity (e.g. better higher education, successful future professional career, upward social mobility). The results stem from a questionnaire-based study, which takes place in eight pre-primary schools and eight primary schools of urban Nicosia, Cyprus (January 2013). Three different types of questionnaires (about 1000 questionnaires) distributed to three groups of parents (pre-primary school parents, grade 1 primary-school parents and grade 2 primary-school parents) will lead to a quantitative analysis that will reveal and compare the overall attitudes among the three parental groups.