Reading Development in Two Different Contexts:the Case of the English-greek Bilingual Children in UK and in Cyprus

Introduction Bilingualism has a unique place within the educational context, since modern technology has minimalised the distances between countries and.

Introduction

Bilingualism has a unique place within the educational context, since modern technology has minimalised the distances between countries and people. Furthermore, the growing phenomenon of multilingual and multicultural countries and groupings (United Nations, United States, European Union) gives new significance to the issue. Research on bilingualism has been progressing quite rapidly and different disciplines have added their own contributions to the field. Nevertheless, new questions surface every day and they are usually multiple answers to these questions. This paper also attempts to answer the question whether linguistic diversity is also an inclusive issue. The following study derived from the need to answer similar questions raised by the increasing number of multilingual and multicultural children in primary schools nowadays. 

What is evident from the review of studies on bilingualism, are that the multiple factors influencing the bilingual child’s learning (e.g., the level of linguistic competence in the two languages shared by the bilingual child; the “use” of two languages at home, at school, the age of the bilingual child; the language/s used by the parents; the formal education system; etc.) play an important role on bilingual children’s linguistic development. Therefore, bilingualism is a complex issue where research is still ongoing and the limited number of studies on bilingualism provides a variety of findings, which could support different hypotheses.

In this paper, I try to show the different interconnected factors influencing the bilingual English-Greek children’s reading and also the educational implications for the two countries involved, in the light of inclusive policies followed recently across UK and Cyprus. Multiple case-study design was used to explore the factors influencing English-Greek children’s reading within four different school cases, three in UK and one in Cyprus. The data were analyzed against the quantitative and qualitative framework provided in the following section.

Theoretical background

In the last 20 years considerable changes have been taking place in education, that are mostly based upon conceptualization of what “special education” means and whether it should be considered as a separate area of concern (Ainscow, 1999). As a consequence, inclusion in education is a process concerning with the never-ending search to find better ways of responding to diversity. (Ainscow, 2005).

“In the last few years Cyprus is increasingly becoming a less homogeneous society”. The accession to the European Union and the educational imperatives that pluralism entails have an impact on educational system in Cyprus. (Hadjigeorgiou and Papapavlou, 2005). Within the last decade, the educational context of Cyprus has been changing rapidly. A growing number of linguistically and nationally different children have been attending Greek class. Within the existing arrangements, however, many pupils whose their mother tongue is not Greek may be marginalized or even excluded from teaching. Educational inclusion as a process promoting the participation of all students could be the answer to the needs of the children who belong to linguistic diverse groups. According to Ainscow (ibid) inclusion consequently concerns with the identification and removal of barriers. Adding to the latter, language diversity and cultural diversity could be considered such as barriers that could be removed with educational inclusion

The Cyprus Ministry of Education has been attempting to apply inclusive strategies to respond to linguistic diversity by appointing teachers to help bilingual children. Some of the teachers are trained to work with bilinguals, some are not. There is still lack of systematic application of literacy strategies at the Cyprus educational system.

At this section it is also important to refer to some issues relating to the organisational context of primary education in Cyprus, as well as to the teaching of literacy (to bilingual and monolingual children) in primary schools:

1) All primary schools in Cyprus are essentially similar, independent of local context factors (e.g., differential school ethos, administrative styles, faculty cultures).

2) The administration of primary education is highly centralised.

3) Teachers are responsible only for the successful implementation of the goals, objectives and programmes approved by the central office. 

4) Bilingual children are taught within the mainstream schools and in certain cases (in areas with a large bilingual population) in special units within the mainstream schools.

UK has been also a rapidly changing educational context with the increasing number of linguistically and culturally diverted children attending primary education nationally.

The model of literacy applied in UK incorporates both top down and bottom up approaches. The literacy strategy is based on searchlights (see following section) and includes both analytic and synthetic phonic approaches to reading. In the following section the English context for beginners in reading is presented.

The programme of study for the reading of English in the National Curriculum in England and Wales states that:

 

Pupils should be taught to read with fluency, accuracy, understanding and enjoyment, building on what they already know…Pupils should be taught the alphabet, and be made aware of the sounds of spoken language in order to develop phonological awareness (Department for Education and Welsh Office, 1995, p 6).

The following types of knowledge, understanding and skills are mentioned, based on the four basic searchlights (NLS framework, 1998), each of which sheds light on the text. These searchlights are: 

Phonic knowledge (sound and spelling)

Graphic knowledge

Word recognition

Grammatical knowledge

Contextual understanding (knowledge of context)

(Department for Education and Welsh Office, 1995, p.7).

The Framework for Teaching (The National Literacy Strategy, 1998)

…covers the statutory requirements for reading and writing in the National Curriculum for English and contributes to the Development of Speaking and Listening (p 3)

In autumn 1998, the National Literacy Strategy was introduced in all schools in England. The goal of the strategy is to raise the standards of achievement in literacy using a detailed set of teaching objectives in each year of primary education. The objectives are defined in the National Literacy Strategy Framework for Teaching (GB. DfEE, 1999). The basis for teaching is a structured daily session (the “literacy hour”). The daily literacy hour is at the heart of the framework.  It involves planned whole class teaching, structured group work and clear routines for independent working.

The study

Data were explored and a number of issues emerged in relation to the following research questions:

1) How does reading develop in monolingual and bilingual learners across four school case studies in two countries (UK and Cyprus)?

2) What factors influence the development of the bilingual English-Greek and monolingual English/Greek children’s reading in English and Greek?

3) What are the implications for teaching in these two countries?

My personal interest on the first two questions was yielded from my long teaching experience with bilingual English-Greek and Greek-English children in England and in Cyprus primary education. During my enrollment with bilingual children, a number of questions arose relating the children’s reading development.  In addition, the difference in reading strategies and educational policies across the two contexts initiated the third question of the possible implications for teaching reading to bilingual and monolingual children in these two countries.

Participants

This study explores the educational context of the Greek-English children in UK and Cyprus. Therefore, the study involved four different school case studies and four groups of children.  The sample derived from one urban state elementary school in the “City of Saint Epiphanios”, Limassol (two groups, 50 Monolingual Greek and 50 Bilingual Greek-English) Cyprus; the others were three elementary schools. Two Greek Schools in “Hudders City” England, (one group of 24 English-Greek children) and “Nelson City”, England (one group of 26 English-Greek children). Finally, one English school in “Hudders City”, England (one group of 50 Monolingual English children)

Method

It is important to remember that the study was essentially exploratory in nature. Rather unusually, too, it combined a number of dimensions that are not usually used together.  So, for example, it involved the detailed analysis of individual case studies within the context of a range of statistical information presented.  At the same time, it involved a comparative dimension (comparing school case studies and groups of children within the school case studies in two countries) with reference to the educational and linguistic contexts of England and Cyprus. Specifically, the study was designed to address the way reading develops in England and in Cyprus at two different levels (a macro level and a micro level).  

In deciding how to best design a cross-cultural study (studying the different contexts in particular), the researcher should consider complex theoretical considerations about how best to measure and interpret phenomena occurring in the two cultures. Different methods (for example, instrument design, sampling frame, mode of data collection, data analysis and documentation) may also be applied in order to achieve the quality of cross-cultural measurement. To conclude, the multidimensionality of a number of different factors influencing the research process in cross-comparison studies urges the choice of multiple case study and exploratory research as the appropriate methodology for the thorough investigation of the explored factors.     

Procedures

Having considered the overall approach that was taken in relation to the design of the study, in this section I explain in more specific terms the actual procedures followed.  I will start by explaining how a variety of methods were used in carrying out what I believe to be exploratory research that involved multiple-case studies.

In the present exploratory study there were four different school cases. The observation included two different levels: one at the local educational school context (school) and one at the national educational level (national educational level). Quantitative and qualitative data was collected through observation, structured, informal interviews and testing (cognitive and reading tests).     

Data were collected and analysed using the four different perspectives developed in Chapter Three (i.e. script dependent, universal, linguistic threshold and linguistic interdependence); ways of data analysis are presented in detail in the Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9.

This approach is illustrated in the following diagram. The diagram illustrates how the aid of theories provided by monolingual studies was used to investigate reading development in bilingual settings.

Diagram illustrating the use of varied theoretical perspectives in analysing data

Preliminary Understanding Of the hypotheses tested in English and Greek Monolingual

Populations

Preliminary Understanding of the Hypotheses tested in English and Greek Monolingual Populations

Preliminary Understanding

Of the hypotheses tested in English and Greek Monolingual Populations

Deeper Understanding of

Reading

Development in Bilingual Populations

Universal Theory

Script Dependent Theory

Linguistic Dependence Theory

 

Linguistic Threshold

Theory

The study involved the bringing together of data collected by both qualitative and quantitative methods. This use of multiple methods permitted triangulation of the data in order to develop deeper understandings from which inferences could be derived.

A multiple-case approach was adopted since, according to Yin (1980), this offers the “ability to deal with a variety of evidence documents, artefacts, interviews, and observations” (p. 20). Yin defines this case study as a phenomenon taking place within real life context. This is actually the case for bilingual learners who come from bilingual parents. In short, it seems reasonable to assume that a multiple-case study approach to investigate bilingual reading holds potential for learning about a relatively not thoroughly investigated phenomenon (Jimenez, et al., 1995).

By using multiple case studies and methods, the researcher also tries to achieve the triangulation and reliability of observation in a combined way in order to deepen understanding.

The context in which English monolingual, Greek monolingual, English-Greek bilingual and Greek-English bilingual children learn to read is different in Cyprus and in the UK. The differences are evident in the following domains of impact on reading development as these prevailed from the review of studies with bilingual English-Greek children. These domains of impact were distinguished into the following interconnected factors:

·         Linguistic factors (first and second languages used by the children).

·         Developmental factors, (cognitive characteristics).

·         Sociolinguistic environment (e.g., research using parents, siblings, friends, etc., sociolinguistic interaction with bilingual children provides information about children’s use of Greek and English languages).

·         The nature of the educational systems systems the UK and Cyprus.

I used a framework of analysis (presented via a diagram) in order to explore the factors mentioned above. This is important for the analysis and presentation of the various factors influencing children’s reading development. The framework aims to shed light on the impact that the different factors have or may have on the children’s reading in this study (e.g. Sociolinguistic Context).

Figure 1: The figure represents diagrammatically the key factors, as described in the literature review, which influence the reading development of English and Greek bilingual and monolingual children.

4) Cognitive characteristics

3) Educational

background

School/

teachers

2)Social  background

(family, friends)

1) Linguistic background

English/Greek orthography

5)English-Greek bilingual and monolingual children’s reading

An overall framework is presented in the diagram to explain how different forms of data are used within an integrated approach.  

The following sub-headings are presented in the diagram:

1)      Linguistic background

2)      Social background

3)      Educational background

4)      Cognitive Characteristics.

5)      English and Greek Bilingual and Monolingual Children’s Reading.

I studied each school as a different case-study and I used the above framework to shed light to the existing context (linguistic, social, academic, cognitive and reading). In the present exploratory study there were four different school cases. The observation included two different levels: one at the local educational school context (school) and one at the national educational level (national educational level). Quantitative and qualitative data was collected through observation, structured, informal interviews and testing (cognitive and reading tests).     

Findings

Research in how and what factors influence bilingual children’s reading suggested the       following domains of impact: 

The context in which English monolingual, Greek monolingual, English-Greek bilingual and Greek-English bilingual children learn to read is different in Cyprus and in the UK. The differences are evident in the following domains of impact on reading development as these prevailed from the review of studies with bilingual English-Greek children. These domains of impact were distinguished into the following factors:

·         Linguistic factors,

·         Developmental factors,

·         Sociolinguistic environment (e.g., research using parents, siblings, friends, etc., sociolinguistic interaction with bilingual children provides information about children’s use of Greek and English languages)

·         The nature of the educational systems systems the UK and Cyprus.

Each of these factors is examined below, in depth and in relation to this study’s specific context. 

Linguistic factors.

Bilingual research tends to agree on the impact of orthographic transparency on reading performance (Spencer, 2001 Caravolas and Bruck, 1993 Nikolopulos, 1999). Greek is a transparent language compared to English and this is an issue which has explicitly analysed in the section on the form of the Greek language

A comparison of English and Greek in relation to their regularity has indicated that English is a language with deep orthography, where phoneme-grapheme correspondence is not consistent. On the other hand, Greek is a language with regular orthography, where phoneme-grapheme correspondence is consistent.

According to the orthographic depth hypothesis the greater regularity of Greek orthography should allow for a stronger involvement of the phonological code in word recognition than would be the case for English. On the other hand, the deep orthography of English makes the role of the phonological code less important than the visual code, mainly because of the complex letter-sound correspondences of the orthography. Among researchers, there is a debate as to whether or not this applies to English skilled reading or not. Studies with English-Greek children have indicated that both visual and phonological codes are involved in English and Greek word recognition, thus supporting models in which both codes play a role (e.g., British Psychological Society, 2001).

Nevertheless, there is a disagreement concerning the extent to which the phonological code is used for lexical access in both Greek and English. Porpodas (1999) investigated some aspects of the reading performance and phonological and short term memory abilities in Greek reading first-year beginners. Porpodas (ibid) found that young Greek readers who exhibited a reading deficiency were able to read non-words (in which case they have to rely on phonological strategies), in contrast to studies with English low-ability readers, who exhibit difficulty in reading non-words, (e.g., Nation et al., 2001; Snowling, 2001).

In addition,  studies with Urdu-English children showed that English monolingual children relied on a visual rather than a phonological strategy, whereas Urdu children (Urdu is a language with regular orthography) rely more on a phonological strategy, supporting the idea of the orthographic depth hypothesis

According to the “orthographic depth” hypothesis the greater regularity of Greek orthography should allow for stronger involvement of the phonological code in word recognition than would be the case for English.

 On the other hand, the deep orthography of English makes the role of the phonological code less important than the visual code, mainly because of the complex letter-sound correspondences of the orthography.

It should be noted that among researchers there is a debate as to whether or not this applies to English skilled readers. On the other hand, studies with English-Greek children ( Porpodas; 1999; Kyratji; 1999; Loizou and Stuart; 2003) have indicated that both visual and phonological codes are involved in English and Greek, thus supporting models in which both codes play a role (e.g., Seidenberg and McClelland, 1989; connectionist models, Coldheart, 1978; dual route model, British Psychological Society, 2001).

Moreover, Loizou and Stuart (ibid) have shown that English-Greek children present a better phonological performance than their English and Greek-English counterparts. The researchers (op cit) have justified their results by the statement that learning a second simpler phonological language (Greek) enhances phonological awareness.

In addition, the English-Greek children also outperformed their Greek/English counterparts in phoneme awareness tasks, suggesting that learning an alphabetic language as a first one (English) promotes the level of phonological awareness (phonemic awareness).

Previous research by Porpodas (1999) investigated some aspects of reading performance and phonological and short-term memory abilities in Greek reading by first-year beginners. Porpodas (ibid) found that young Greek readers who exhibited a reading deficiency were able to read non-words (in which case they have to rely on phonological strategies) in contrast to studies with English low-ability readers, who exhibit difficulty in reading non-words, (e.g., Nation et al., 2001; Snowling, 2001). In addition, he concluded that phonemic decoding did not seem to present a serious problem for Greek children, not even those with reading difficulties. This was attributed mainly to the consistency of the Greek writing system.

Moreover, studies with Urdu-English children showed that English monolingual children rely more on a visual rather than on a phonological strategy, whereas Urdu children (Urdu is a language with regular orthography) rely more on a phonological strategy, supporting the idea of the orthographic depth hypothesis (Mumtaz and Humphreys, 2001). Another study by Stuart-Smith and Martin (1999) has indicated that performance in some phonological tasks may be varied across languages under the influence of specific linguistic features of the different languages. The above results accord with the script dependent hypothesis, which states that reading performance is related to the “nature” of the particular language. 

Developmental factors.

A question that is relatively fundamental is whether bilingualism has a reciprocal effect on cognitive growth and on which aspects of it. Numerous different answers to this question can be formed, throughout the There is a mass of literature written on this subject. From the nineteenth century to the 1960s, bilingualism was regarded as having a harmful effect on cognitive development (Takakuwa, 2000). Bilingualism was considered to be a hindrance to the development of a child’s intelligence and to lead to psychological confusion in children (Takakuwa, ibid).  Takakuwa refers to findings of studies such as Laurie, 1890; Saer, 1923; Smith,  1923, which showed bilingual children scoring lower on measures of verbal intelligence than monolingual children, in spite of the fact that their non-verbal intelligence was the same. More recent research in the cognitive abilities of bilingual children has provided evidence that bilinguals have the same or higher cognitive abilities than their monolingual peers (Peal and Lambert’s, 1962; Palij and Homel, 1987, Bialystok, 1988; Day and Shapson, 1996). It might therefore be useful to discuss the results of different studies of bilinguals and monolinguals in such a way as to discover meaningful relations between cognitive skills and bilingual children’s reading performance.

Andreou and Karapetsas (2001) have investigated the development of orthographic representations in children learning English and Greek. The study has proved a significant relation in the high performance among fluent bilinguals in both languages, supporting the threshold theory by Cummins (1976), who stated that bilinguals who achieve high levels of proficiency in both their languages are cognitively more advanced than those with a low level in one language, or monolinguals. The threshold theory was supported by other researchers, such as Karapetsas and Andreou, ibid Ricciardelli, 1992; Mumtaz, and Humphreys, 2001 also fount found that the bilingual English-Urdu children performed better than the monolingual English children in non-verbal intelligence, auditory digit span, non- word repetition and rhyme detection.   

To conclude, theories relating bilingualism to increasing cognitive development (e.g. the threshold theory by Cummins, 1976) are criticiszed by later research (Bialystok, 1988; Nevertheless, more recent studies (Mumtaz and Humphreys, 2001) provide evidence of the better performance of bilingual children in non-verbal intelligence. However, the ambiguity of the control methods during the studies do not allow any generalizeised conclusions about the level of positive/negative or indifferent impact of bilingualism on cognitive development.

Social factors

Bringing up a child bilingually has become a common phenomenon in our time. For children, being brought up in a bilingual context may have an impact on their knowledge of language (Baker, 1998; Genesee and Paradis, 2001; ).

Children in families where the parents have different first languages may be able to communicate with each parent in his/her preferred language and be able to use both languages at home. According to Baker (1998), “a child who speaks to one parent in one language and the other parent in another language may be enabling a maximally close relationship with the parents. At the same time, both parents are passing to that child part of their past, part of their heritage” (p 12).   There are also cases where the bilingual children speak the majority language at school and with friends, the minority language at home with parents, or use L1 and L2 for different functions and occasions (functional bilingualism, Fishman, 1971). The extent to which children use language/s is important for bilingual children who “struggle” to maintain communication with the nuclear family (parents, siblings) and the extended family (school, friends).

In addition, a number of researchers state that parents can contribute to establishing a bilingual environment for their children (Paradis and Genesee, 1995) and to promote their children’s level of competence in each of their two languages.  Due to the growing need of “getting to know” the amount of exposure in L1 and L2 at home and at school a growing number of studies on bilingualism assess the children’s-participant’s exposure to L1 and L2 (Bekos, 1997; Baker, 1996; ). A previous measure of the exposure of bilingual English-Greek children to L1, L2 was taken by Bekos (1997) in Athens/Greece, Gardner-Chloros et al. (1999) in English-Cypriot children in London and by a current study which is still underway by the University of Cyprus in Limassol Cyprus. Evidence provided by Bekos’ (ibid) study and by Kyratji’s (in press) pilot study showed that English-Greek children in Greece tend to speak English at home with both parents (English-Greek) and Greek at school or with friends. There is also evidence of mixing the two languages (code-switching, when in discourse with siblings).

Educational System

There are fundamental differences between the formal education in England and Cyprus. Greek children start reading at the age of six. English children start reading at the age of five. English-Greek children in England are taught Greek as a second language once a week. Greek-English children in Cyprus are taught English for four periods every week.

The intention in this part is to examine the educational context for early readers in England and to compare this with the analogous Greek educational context. In this section an attempt is made to answer the following questions:

·         What approaches are currently used to teach early reading in Cyprus?

·         To what extent are these approaches informed by the theoretical evidence presented in the review of literature in this study?

·         What can be learned about the role of phonological awareness and knowledge in early reading development from policy and practice in other contexts such as in England?

The underlying philosophy of the teaching methodologies is that language is not a system in a vacuum. It exists because people use it, and it is the context of use that determines the kind of language we employ. The curriculum of primary education in Cyprus (Analytical Programmes for Primary Education) suggests a curriculum which includes knowledge about language, and an emphasis on the importance of audience and purpose in speech and writing. It recognises that forms of spoken and written language are determined by the context of their use.

Whole language approach is very popular among first grade teachers in Cyprus. This is a result of the pedagogical academy teachers’ training and the formal policy of the Ministry of Education of Cyprus. Young teachers who have the opportunity to study abroad (e.g. England) or attend seminars organised in European countries are in favour of a combination of synthetic and analytic approaches in reading. They have also begun to teach phonological awareness by including phonological tasks in their daily teaching repertoire (e.g. blending, segmentation, sound-to word matching tasks, initial (or final) sounds, deletion and manipulation, etc.).  Some school inspectors have also started using a combination of analytic and synthetic approaches in their seminars organised for teachers of the first and second grade of primary education in Cyprus. However, the Cyprus educational system could be characterised as highly centralised and as a result, the Minister of Education and the Government would have the final “say” in a revision of the current approaches contained in the National Curriculum.

To conclude, Cypriot primary school teachers follow a number of class activities which are part of analytic methods. Cypriot teachers analyse the sentence into words and words into sounds in order to teach the children how to read. However, teachers are not aware that they teach graphophonics, nor is this stated in the National Curriculum.  Teachers do not have a theoretical background in teaching approaches applied to reading, and therefore, they apply some activities with which they are familiar from their own background and from years of teaching experience but without previous theoretical knowledge and critical thinking. There is a need for a structured Literacy National Curriculum, which sets out teaching approaches, specific aims, specific activities as well as appropriate assessment for beginners in reading. The Greek National Curriculum in Cyprus provides a theoretical background for the teaching of the Greek Books (1-4) for First Grade Primary Education (Ministry of National and Religious Education of Greece). The content of the books, however, is partly applied to graphophonics, and includes insufficient phonological training activities.

 

In the following lines, I will refer to a number of suggestions and recommendations related to the teachers of beginning readers in Cyprus in relation to the English National Literacy Strategy and the findings of the present study.

·               As phonological strategies seemed to play an important role in reading Greek for monolingual Greek children, teachers could apply phonological training from an early age (probably at the age of five). Phonological strategies are also associated to synthetic methods in teaching reading. Synthetic methods in teaching reading to Greek children are favoured by a following study by Theodoratou (2005). As Greek teachers often use analytic or whole-word methods in teaching reading, findings of this study could contribute to a better understanding of the appropriate teaching methods used in primary education in Cyprus.   

·               Visual strategies should be applied for reading English for the bilingual Greek-English children.

·               Monolingual Greek five-year-olds attained lower scores than the monolingual English five-year-olds children in all measures and this can be possibly attributed to the fact that Greek five-year-olds were not taught reading. Teaching reading from the age of five could perhaps enhance the phonological and other cognitive-linguistic abilities of the children. In addition, according to Cummin’s Linguistic Threshold Theory (for review, see chapters two and three) it is better to enhance bilingual children’s first language in order to develop their second language. It seemed that attaining a good level of reading ability in Greek was important for the development of the children’s other abilities.             

·               The socio-linguistic environment of the children also appeared to play an important role in their performance reading. The bilingual English-Greek and Greek-English children who were exposed to both English and Greek within their family-friends environment generally performed better in the tasks in both languages. This could inform educators of bilingual children to develop special projects for parents and children in order to promote the use of both languages within education in both England and Cyprus.        

·                     Cypriot teachers should be informed of literacy research and existing literacy methods taught in England for monolingual and bilingual children. Therefore, it is necessary to provide them with appropriate in-service training and a supportive environment.

·                     In England, the overall structure of the literacy hour is organised as “teacher-led, whole-class introduction which consisted of shared reading or shared writing; this is followed by group work” (www.nfer.ac.uk). In most cases, the emphasis is on word or sentence-level. One important activity of the literacy hour is the conclusion, where the whole class comes together and children report back and review what they have learned. A similar structure could be used in the Cyprus educational system.

·                     Parents, school committees and local organisations should also be involved in order to implement successfully literacy aims for monolingual and bilingual children.  

·         The curriculum-based phonological tests could be the model for a number of curriculum-based tests developed by the teacher for monitoring children’s phonological awareness.

·         A number of cognitive assessment tests could be developed in Greek and English for bilingual children (with special arrangements for blind children, e.g., adopted into Braille).

·         In terms of curriculum management, the adopted framework would be more successful if schools were to adapt a phased approach to implementation and involve staff in reviewing strategies and consider ways forward.

·         New teaching and learning strategies for bilingual children could be introduced at an early stage in the curriculum, before ages 10 and 11.

To conclude, there might be different ways that Greek teachers could adopt the new teaching and learning strategies involved in the implementation of a literacy framework in the Cypriot primary context.  I believe that general schemes focusing on phonological development would provide an ideal basis for inclusive practices if they contained explicit guidance on “assessing to teach” and the principles and practices of “mastery learning”, i.e. on planned repetition and revision that ensures retention of what has been learnt. Teachers should be informed of the two teaching methods (synthetic) and (analytic) which are used by the English National Literacy Strategy. Greek teachers would also be lead from a structured and carefully planned introduction to the NLS reading targets and in-service materials. They should be able to attend seminars in and out of school. They should also be able to look critically at the ideas introduced by the NLS. The examples provided by the English context should also inform the Greek teachers of the difficulties they might encounter and adjustments they may have to make in their adaptation of the National Literacy Strategy.

The curriculum-based phonological tests could be used as a model for a variety of tests developed by the teacher that would monitor children’s phonological awareness based on the Cyprus curriculum.

Conclusion

 

Teaching bilingual children is a challenging task nowadays, as populations tend to relocate more frequently. The comparison across the two educational settings indicated that teachers across the four school cases lack professional training and theoretical framework to teach bilingual English-Greek children.

Nowadays, there is a systematic effort of the two Ministries of Education in England and in Cyprus to develop literacy strategies for bilingual children in accordance to  European Union policy.

An important issue raised in the present study is the need to assess bilingual children in both their languages. The present study is among the few which attempt to devise an assessment battery in both languages across bilingual groups in both countries. Most bilingual studies consider bilingual children as two separate groups of children with different languages. The present study design considers the phonologies of the two languages in the task design, content and finally the analysis of task results.

It was evident that all the factors presented in the model were important for the children’s reading development and vice versa. The latter is very important for teaching beginning readers of both bilingual and monolingual in England and in Cyprus. The emphasis of the development of both phonological and visual teaching strategies for bilingual English-Greek children was also an outcome which it is also important for educational practice in both UK and Cyprus. The methodology used helped to broaden the horizons in an area which it is still “undiscovered” and it was a practical application of the theory of “levers for change” developed by Ainscow (2004). Ainscow (ibid) focused on factors within schools that can act as “levers for change” (p. 8).

Hopefully, the results of this study will motivate researchers to conduct similar studies that could corporate and expand the results and also take all these factors or some of them under consideration.


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