English-immersion Education in Chile: How Do Schools See Themselves?

Conference: The European Conference on Language Learning (ECLL2022)
Title: English-immersion Education in Chile: How Do Schools See Themselves?
Stream: Culture and Language
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Anne Westmacott, Universidad de los Andes, Chile
Annjeanette Martin, Universidad de los Andes, Chile


There is increasing interest worldwide in offering English-immersion instruction in schools in non-English speaking contexts. Such instruction may be defined as CLIL (Content Language Integrated Learning), CBI (Content-Based Instruction) or EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction), among other terms (Lyster & Genesee, 2019). In Chile, a growing number of private schools claim to offer immersion instruction at primary level, and are typically referred to as ‘bilingual schools’; however, there appears to be no related research from Chile, and little from South America. This qualitative study provides an initial profile of these schools, how they conceptualize and implement ‘bilingual education’, and the main challenges they face. We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with heads of primary and English language coordinators in 10 schools. Findings show that these schools teaching a varying number of subjects in English between grades 1 and 6, using mainly EMI instruction. Some have adopted foreign programmes (e.g. from Cambridge), while others create their own programmes, based on the national curriculum. A few report having to implement considerable changes in a short space of time and hesitated to define themselves as ‘bilingual’. Among the biggest challenges are recruiting, training, and retaining qualified and experienced bilingual teachers and coordinators. The findings will be of interest to those seeking to understand English-immersion education in schools, teacher educators, and those considering carrying out similar overviews in other contexts.

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