This essay was published at Basque Research:
Study on attitudes of students at the Public University of Navarre to bilingual education
The Public University of Navarre (UPNA) has presented the book, “Attitudes and beliefs of students of the UPNA to bilingualism and bilingual education”, a report on the research work undertaken by the University teachers Mr Pablo Sotés, Ms Nekane Oroz and Mr Carlos Vilches. The work, 1,000 copies of which have been published at a selling price of 12 euros, was financed by the Government of Navarre.
In order to gather information, the authors carried out interviews with 2,048 students - out of a total of 7,410 – over the 2005-2006 academic year and, moreover, used the technique of group discussion. The level of reliability of the study is 95.5%.
The principal aim of the work was to find out the linguistic skills of the student body at the Public University of Navarre and analyse the attitudes to bilingualism and bilingual education in the educational system of the Autonomous Community of Navarre. The results provide a linguistic map of the student body which should contribute to the task of linguistic planning within the various strategic plans of the University.
Linguistic profile of student body
According to the research results, 84% of students interviewed have Castilian (Spanish) as their mother tongue while 14% have Euskara (the Basque language) or both simultaneously, and the remaining 2% have a mother tongue other than Basque or Spanish. As regards linguistic skills, nearly 40% state that they have knowledge of Basque to a greater or lesser extent, comprehension skills being rated higher than those of oral and written expression. A similar percentage of students (40%) have knowledge of French, although here the percentage of those stating they have difficulties is greater than with Basque.
Linguistic skills in English present special characteristics, according to the study. In general, it can be said that the immense majority of students at the UPNA has a high or intermediate knowledge of the English language, scoring over 90% in each of the four linguistic skills (aural comprehension, reading writing and speaking). The highest scoring, nevertheless, is in written and oral comprehension and the lowest in oral expression. Of the five modern European languages, German is, on the other hand, the language with the least presence amongst the students (less than 10%).
About 20% of students have an elementary or higher qualification in Basque and more than 40% have a certificate in English. About 15% of students have qualifications in French and less than 2% in German.
Taking different languages into account
English is the language deemed by most students as the most appropriate for scientific and educational communication, followed by Spanish, German, French and Basque in that order of importance. This order changes when sociocultural transmission is involved (Spanish, English, Basque, French and German) or which are considered socially the best (Spanish, English, Basque, German and French).
Also, more than 90% of those surveyed consider that the knowledge of a second language facilitates the learning of a third. And to the question as to what linguistic model (in the Basque-Spanish bilingual educational system) they would choose for their primary/secondary school studies if they were making the choice now, women opt primarily for model D (Basque), followed by A (Spanish with Basque as a subject) and G (Spanish) and models in English or in French, in that order. In the case of men, however, the order varies, being model G the most popular choice, followed by D, A and then models in English or in French.
As regards legal aspects there exists a great lacuna in knowledge about linguistic zoning, established by the Navarre Autonomous Community Law on the Basque language. Nevertheless, 43% consider that Basque should have a new deal for the future regulated by Law, which would enable greater rights in the use and the teaching of this language. 14%, however, defend the validity of zoning.
Languages in the educational system
The study also reveals the opinions of students about the treatment of languages in the educational system. 60% of those surveyed consider that Basque is still not normalised nor has it been spread throughout the educational system as it should. More than 35% believe, however, that this language does not need any treatment differentiated from the other languages, given that they believe it to be fully normalised.
With respect to the linguistic models (see above) in the educational system, the majority of those surveyed who come from model A believe this model does not guarantee the achievement of obtaining the linguistic skills sufficient for undertaking university studies in Basque. In the case of model D, the majority who have been through this educational linguistic model hold that this immersion model in Basque enables them to carry out their university studies in either Spanish or Basque. However, ex-model G students believe this model does not guarantee a sufficient level in Spanish.
Regarding the EC languages, students justify the predominance of English as a majority foreign language in the non-university educational system of Navarre, linking fluency in this language with access to high socio-economic status.
As regards French, almost 50% of those surveyed believe it will continue to be taught as up to now, although 25% do not augur a good future for the tongue and consider that its teaching will gradually disappear. On the other hand, most students state that German will grow in the educational system of Navarre.
Languages in the University
The research revealed that students consider knowledge of English fundamental to starting their university studies (88%), followed at a distance by Basque (36%). French and German score significantly low in this respect.
At the time of undertaking the survey, the professional teaching qualifications in Basque included the Teaching Certificate in Infant Education and the Teaching Certificate in Primary Education and certain subjects in other qualifications. Students enrolled in subjects in the Basque language came to 10% of the total, most of which are women who study at the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, have Basque as their mother tongue and have been through model D schooling and this, to a great extent, in the Basque Autonomous Community (Euskadi).
Students not enrolled for subjects through this language state the reasons as being the lack of opportunity to learn the language or lack of linguistic skills therein, incompatibility with timetables, misleading information, preference for Spanish, etcetera. The percentage of ex-model A students opting for subjects through Basque does not come to 4%.
The study indicates that the provision of subjects/courses in Basque is classified as “insufficient” by more than half of the students. In this sense, 76.5% are in favour of including some subjects in Basque within a degree course; 30% prefer the provision of a complete degree course in Basque, together with the existing provision in Spanish and 15.7% would not offer any subject in Basque on a degree course.
Regarding EC languages, the University prioritises the linguistic training of the students - in the academic year in which the survey was undertaken, subjects were offered in English and in French, above all in the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences.
Given this situation, the survey indicates that English is the foreign language most required by students as a language of instruction. 79.2% of those surveyed believe it a good thing to provide subjects in this language, compared to 13.8% who opt for French and 12% for German. Nevertheless, only 19.40% would offer a whole degree course through English. The majority prefer this language to be offered in the following: a selection of subjects; optional subjects; certain core and obligatory subjects, free choice subjects - in that order. The demand for French and German in this respect is much less significant.
Finally, the research measured the level of satisfaction expressed by students at UPNA with how the University treats languages: poorly in the case of Basque and very poorly in the cases of French and German; and medium-high with respect to English..... ... .