Japan, COIL and Early Childhood Education

COIL should not be confused with CLIL. COIL is not the same as CLIL, although both are linked to our degree in Early Childhood Education and both are acronyms but they mean different things: while one refers to Collaborative Online International Learning, the other means Content Language Integrated Learning. The first has to do with collaborative learning modules, while the second is directly related to the teaching of English as a foreign language.

It can seem somewhat confusing and even almost like a tongue twister. Luckily, our professor María Candelaria Romeu is here to answer our questions…

In what year is CLIL taught, what objectives does it pursue and what tools does it provide for students of Education?

It is a subject taught in the 3rd year of Early Childhood Education. It is basically an introduction to the CLIL methodological approach. We start with a theoretical base so that they can understand the benefits of teaching in a second language, how it is done and then move on to the practical part. That way they can develop their own materials and are able to apply them in class. It provides the ability to address content in second languages, understanding the difficulties that can be encountered during the process and how to solve them.

How important is the learning of foreign languages in today’s education and what methodologies are used most frequently to introduce children, from such a young age, to English?

It is not easy to answer this question briefly. Regarding the importance of learning second languages, what first comes to mind are advantages such as being able to communicate with people from other countries, as well as others as obvious as fulfilling work requirements, the need for communication and cultural exchange in a society like ours and other advantages that are equally important. Developing a second (or third or fourth) language is beneficial for the cognitive development of students. We know that the bilingual brain has advantages when it comes to changing tasks, paying attention or making decisions. It also has long-term benefits such as delaying cognitive decline. Bilingual elderly people have less cognitive impairment.


Regarding methodologies, the approach that is developed currently in the English class is communicative (Communicative Language Teaching), although in very varied ways since it is a broad approach. In addition, we have already implemented bilingual programmes in our learning centres where content is taught in second languages, following CLIL programmes. Advantages: more hours of exposure to the foreign language because it is not limited to English lessons, it is also learned through a task where the focus is on the content and not on the language, learning is focused on the use of the language in a real context, the register is different from that of the English lessons…

The best way to teach a foreign language to a child: with patience and love. It is essential to involve them in the learning process, so that they are motivated, they participate actively and consider the needs of every child. No alternative methodology works if we do not put the child at the centre – the rest comes with patience.

What are the biggest challenges that children usually face when studying a language that is not their own?

The challenges are many but never unattainable. Patience is the answer. I always tell my students that they should trust the abilities of children. It is essential that teachers believe in the abilities of their students… because they can do it. The role of a teacher is to guide the process but they should never be a hindrance.

And in order to implement a COIL module in Early Childhood Education, you have travelled no less than to Japan: why have you chosen the University of Kansai as a partner for this adventure?

Among the different universities that collaborate in the COIL projects, Kansai University is the one that offers degrees in Education. We knew they had good previous experiences and seemed like the ideal partner, so we got in touch with them and they responded. They have made everything very easy from the beginning. It was the right choice.

Kansai University is our partner for this COIL project in Education
This COIL module in Early Childhood Education will focus on intercultural competences. What tasks will students have to develop with their Japanese colleagues?

The final project they submit is a magazine article on an education topic. There is a whole process behind it. Firstly, there is the presentation phase: we share videos of our universities and students give us feedback. Japanese and Spanish students have asked questions and they have recorded videos to answer them. Let us remember that the theme of this programme is intercultural competence. They have to work in mixed groups. That way they have to adapt to different work rate and different points of view, in addition to the linguistic barrier since in our case they communicate in English.

The theme of our project is intercultural competence, as I said before, and that’s what we are going to explore. More than learning about education, what matters is the process. Learning from and taking advantage of cultural differences is important.

In the degrees in Early Childhood Education and Primary Education, you greatly encourage student mobility. What other initiatives are you taking to internationalize the academic programme?

We have the Erasmus+ programme, as well as the Iberoamérica Santander Universities scholarships. Through them, students go to Latin American countries to study at other universities. I always try to encourage students to do it. For those studying Education, mobility is important, especially the opportunity to carry out their curricular internships abroad. Besides their personal experience and the advantage of practising a second language, students work in a different educational environment and discover new ways of doing things.

A cooperation project with schools in Senegal has also been developed, organized by the Chair of Solidarity. Three professors of the Education degrees (Santiago Celestino, Nuria Andreu and Rocío López) travelled there with volunteer students to collaborate in educational centres. It has been a very good experience.

We have already spoken about the COIL programmes. We have more experiences. For example, the one of the English Department of Castellón with Finland, developed by Ruzan Galstyan and Anne Scharfenecker, and the one that we are trying to launch from here with Ecuador and Moscow for language teaching, with Fernando Serrano.


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