Archive: appeared on the Bilingual Education Exchange Facebook Page in August 2010. I wrote this mission statement about BEE which I ran as a volunteer for three years, in order to better define and defend the values I felt the organisation stood for.
We started BEE two and a half years ago with the notion that, while growing up speaking both languages should happen fairly naturally and easily for English-speaking children living here in France, establishing reading and in particular writing would be more tricky.
A vital idea of getting together to organise BEE (rather than getting private tuition or doing it alone at home) has always been to pool resources – hence the appeal for books to establish a lending library – hence the non-profit status so that we can maximise the books and materials available to the children.
Another reason is that children learn languages best in a social situation with their peers and in different contexts. Hearing only English from your parents and in a domestic context limits vocabulary and literally limits what the bilingual child is able to talk about! And films and tv are one-sided – the child can’t respond or produce language themselves.
BEE also provides a change on a Wednesday in terms of teaching style. Our teachers trained in the British system are used to using more creative methods, art and drama skills, and plenty of imagination, and that’s just in the literacy classes, as we do lots of other things at BEE as well (the music is particularly close to my heart).
BEE is a ‘Wednesday school’ in the sense of Saturday schools elsewhere in the world (see for instance, La Petite Ecole Kentoise or Deutsche Samstagsschule Tonbridge in the UK, or Accents in France, among thousands upon thousands of others). However, we do try not to call BEE a school, to emphasise the fact that it’s a complete break from the rest of the week.
What we have in common with all of these organisations is that BEE was founded by a group of parents and remains entirely non-profit and run by volunteers, all fees going towards running, to provide resources, and to pay teachers’ salaries (qualified teachers being our most valuable resource!)
We see this status as a vital quality guarantee, as it means each extra child who joins the class benefits everybody in terms of the books or materials we can buy, or the new staff we can recruit. It also guarantees that only the interests of the children who attend our classes are in consideration when we advertise or develop BEE.
We’d love to try to encourage more children to join BEE classes is so that the classes can be as homogenous as possible in terms of age and ability. The best balance seems to be keeping the ratio of teacher to pupil as low as possible while keeping the groups large enough to be sociable and to provide opportunities for role play, collaboration and group projects working at roughly the same language level.
BEE Teachers are meeting on Tuesday to plan the new term and we’d really appreciate you letting us know by then if you’d like to enrol children in BEE literacy classes. You can give me a ring – as association President I can answer most things, or pass you on to somebody who can help better than I can if you have a specific question.
You can download an information pack – there is lots on Facebook (in particular photos) – and our website – http://www.bilingual.fr – has the fullest information about everything we do.
Thanks for reading this far and I really hope to hear from some new families this term to help us start our third year!