Choosing Welsh-medium Education

There's a story on the BBC website today about why so many parents, particularly parents who do not themselves speak Welsh, are choosing Welsh-medium education for their children.

     Di-Gymraeg yn dewis addysg Gymraeg

Strangely—or perhaps not—this story is only in Welsh and doesn't appear on the English pages of the BBC website; even though it is primarily about, and therefore of interest to, parents who do not speak Welsh. As far as I can tell, the only English media to carry the story is the Caerffili Observer.

The full version is on the Bwrdd yr Iaith website, which I've copied:

Language no longer a barrier as more parents send children to Welsh language schools

Parents who cannot speak Welsh themselves are no longer viewing their inability to speak the language as a barrier to sending their children to Welsh medium schools, according to the findings of a new survey.

The survey which was carried out by the Welsh Language Board found that 65 per cent of parents who send their children to a Welsh medium school are not Welsh speakers themselves and do not view their inability to speak the language as a hindrance in their children's education.

The survey also found that over half of the parents questioned did not have Welsh speakers within their extended family, suggesting there is no longer a language barrier in educating a child outside of their first language. 97 per cent pinpointed the desire for their children to be able to speak the language as the main incentive for them choosing a Welsh medium education for their children.

The survey questioned parents with children in primary aged Welsh language education and was conducted in conjunction with the Welsh Language Board's 'Introducing Welsh' campaign. The 'Introducing Welsh' campaign reflects the advantages of introducing children to the Welsh language and promotes benefits such as an improvement in communication skills and greater job prospects for the future and can be viewed in Welsh or English.

Speaking in response to the survey findings Meri Huws, chair of the Welsh Language Board, said: "These findings demonstrate that parents should not be put off from sending their children to Welsh medium schools, even if they do not speak Welsh themselves. The benefits of learning Welsh from a young age are highly advantageous for both their education and in their future careers.

"It is fantastic to see the continuing trend of parents no longer perceiving their own inability to speak the language as an obstacle in their children's education.

"It is also great to see that parents are taking on board and championing the benefits of being bilingual as they make education choices for their children. Nearly half those surveyed believed that the single greatest benefit for their child speaking Welsh was the greater employment prospects that it would deliver, which in this highly competitive jobs market is a huge advantage."

The 'Introducing Welsh' campaign looks to encourage parents, in particular new parents, to give their child a head-start in life by introducing them to Welsh. It gives parents advice on the advantages of using Welsh in the home and raising children bilingually and encourages you to get friends, family and neighbours involved in your child's development.

Bwrdd yr Iaith, 21 June 2011

However the BBC Cymru version adds this personal touch to the end of their story:

Rhys Evans, a non Welsh speaking parent in Cardiff, "definitely wanted" his children to speak Welsh.

"How can an additional skill be a bad thing for them to have, especially when that skill is their own country's language?" he said.

His five year old daughter is already at school, and his three year old daughter will start Welsh medium education in September.

"I'm helping her with maths. Maths is tedious no matter what language it's in!"



Full details of the survey are available here. Several things should be noted:

The survey was commissioned by BYIG, but not carried out by them, and the press release was produced by the company that did the survey. There was no specific question about whether parents viewed their inability to speak Welsh as a hindrance in their children's education, although that could reasonably be concluded from their decision to send their children to WM schools. Obviously, the fact that parents can't themselves speak Welsh will affect their ability to help their children's education, and that particular question was asked in the context of then asking about the support available to parents. But that's not the same thing as saying it hinders their children's education.

It should also be noted that some parents gave more than one response to the questions about their main motivation for choosing WM education and what they thought was the single main benefit of being able to speak Welsh for their child.

The press release was withdrawn from the BYIG site, and that's probably a good thing. With some better editing it would have been fine, but that can't be done after it's gone out. However the faults in the press release don't invalidate the survey itself.

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NConway said...

BBC at it again we have similar slanting of stories in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

This is typical of BBC Wales online. Stories about Welsh rarely get reported (unless it's 'Welsh speaking extremists).

There are countless stories I see on the Welsh language site which would be of interest to non-Welsh speakers (and the many Welsh-speakers who find it easier to read English or chose to read both sites) but don't.

It really is a shoddy service. No wonder people complain that they 'don't know anything' when BBC Wales goes out of its way not to present news.

As for international news which could be of Welsh interest (unless there's a Welsh person involved) then forget it. So, there's no Welsh analysis or Welsh narrative to any international news e.g. elections, linguistic issue, issues of constitutional change etc.

Welsh language news is for Welshies see? Not for 'real Welsh people'.

At times, parochial seems to be too ambitious for BBC Wales news.

Anonymous said...

Good news from the Basque Country to.

Thanks for @Eurolang

Useful map of Euskal Herria showing the number and distribution of children registered in Basque-medium schools.

Anonymous said...

Encouraging story. The explanation of the motivation of the 97% of parents, given in the third para, does seem a bit circular, though. I suppose job prospects/identity/perceptions of quality of the education or prestige of the school could all be key factors in determining parent choice. Can only agree with Anon 19:59 - I too have seen a pattern of BBC Wales News ignoring stories relating to Welsh language and culture which would be of direct relevance to non-Welsh speaking readers. All too often the English language news pages read like a local newspaper obsessed with crime stories. On the other hand, the BBC Cymru newyddion pages also feel second rate: unlike the rest of BBC News, the design has not been updated. When stories appear in both languages the Welsh version is often shorter and slighter.

Anonymous said...

I see that many news about the welsh language are available here, in things of education... so.. sorry if this is a little offtopic right ow here, (couldn#t find the e-mail function), but i'm surprised that the awardwinning audio course of hasn't appeared ANYWHERE on here... I mean, it's (partially) [about 30 lessons] free, and it has over 14,000 registrered people on the forums (not all online of coruse) but countless learners from all over the world.
So, I have tried it (I live in germany, ond dw i wedi dysgu'n fawr iawn o Gymraeg - yn gyflym!)
have a look, and maybe you could support it with an article or so, because this course really should be known to all welsh learners.

Anonymous said...

ah mea culpa maxima - almost 14,000 I mean*

MH said...

Nice map of the Euskal Herria. Fits in nicely with this post last year on the figures for just the Basque Autonomous Community: 74% in Euskara, 22% bilingual and only 4% in Castillian-medium schools. I look to Euskadi as a model for what will happen in Wales.

I thought I had mentioned Say Something in Welsh before, but I've looked back and can't see where. Perhaps I said something in a comment on another blog. But let me now try and put that right by saying that it's an excellent course, and one which I think would suit a lot of people who have tried to learn Welsh before using more traditional methods, but got bogged down. The emphasis is very much on speaking, and instilling the confidence to speak, the language rather than on the more technical aspects of grammar and the like.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, grammar is irrelevant. You didn't need it when you leanred speaking, now, did you? You learned it anyway. A language is MEANT to be spoken and learning it any otehr way WILL have catastrophical impacts on things like accents etc, IF people are ableto speak it anyway with traditional methods. I have met many people who did multiple traditional welsh courses, yet couldn't get anything right.
Point is: You don't NEED these technical aspects. They are completely irrelevant ballast, which makes learning for the average people harder than it has to be. Give grammar courses for people who want to know about it, but don't force it on people who may not be able to comprehend such grammas - especially becasue they mislead people into way to formally speaking, which is once again the completely wrong way to get people to speak welsh - as it is spoken. You'll hardly find any German who talks like "Ich gehe in die Stadt und kaufe ein" And learning this first only makes communicating more complicated. Through communication, you will learn about other forms of words, ways to say something... and so on.
People SPEAKING welsh is what we need, not people knowing what a dative is, and who is able to point at it when he sees a written sentence.

Anonymous said...

Oh one additional thing: Just to show what I mean about, that we need people speaking welsh instead of knowing technical aspects. Imagine, a monoglot english speaker - he wants to learn welsh and takes a course somewhere... but does not really learn anything, Even after the second and third try it does not really help, and has no confidence to speak it. Just a simple question: how is welsh to survive, if you have an educationsystem, which teaches you about grammar, but most of the people learning the language couldn't get some easy sentences together, if they need them? Honestly, that sounds more like a deathsentence. Don't get me wrong: it's great that there are welsh coruses, but they have the wrong aim. Completely and utterly. You have to give people confidence to go out and USE the language. You have to show them that learning and speaking another language is FUN. Anything else are merely numbers on a piece of paper, not saying anything about the actual state of the language. Otehrwise you'll have something like 100% peopel can speak welsh (supposedly) while in reality, hardly anyone of those who supposedly speaks welsh, according the criteria of many coruses, could get normal fluent sentences together.

Plaid Panteg said...

As one of those parents, I am really excited about my oldest due to start WM school in September, with my youngest two also due to in a few years.

I am honest enough to admit that it is my desire for them to have the ability to speak Welsh but also for job prospects.

And of course my spoken Welsh is sufficient to become fluent alongside them.

My written Welsh is pretty basic, but I am now comfortable speaking in Welsh professional and socially. All via Saysomethinginwelsh, an iphone and a 45 minute drive to work!

Anonymous said...

When did you start to learn Panteg? No classes? Well done.

Anonymous said...

Of course, a more realistic question to ask is not "Why didn't BBC Wales publish this press release" but "Why DID BBC Cymru publish.....".

Does it not occur to you MH that this "poll" is complete rubbish?

You are usually analytical (when it suits you) how likely is this poll to represent Parents of WM School children?

It's the usual Welsh Language Board trick of making a press release that says what they want people to think and hiding the details of the poll.

MH said...

The poll may not be as comprehensive or conducted as widely as others, Anon, but that certainly doesn't make it complete rubbish. Nor are BYIG "hiding the details of the poll" as you claim. You never have been able to resist adding a liberal sprinkling of lies to what you say. The details are freely available on request, and I've linked to a copy of it for anyone who is interested. It reflects the views of the parents who responded, which is all that any poll can do.

I don't think the press release was as well written as it could have been. But the only things in the story that might be in any way misleading relate to the statement that non Welsh speakers do not view their inability to speak the language as a hindrance in their children's education (this can be reasonably inferred from their decision, but the question was not asked), and that there were two questions in which respondents were asked for "the main motivation" in choosing WM education and "the single greatest benefit" of speaking Welsh for their child, but where some of them ticked more than one box.

So where the article says "97 per cent pinpointed the desire for their children to be able to speak the language as the main incentive for them choosing a Welsh medium education for their children", it should have said "the main or one of the main motivations". And where the article says, "Nearly half those surveyed believed that the single greatest benefit for their child speaking Welsh was the greater employment prospects that it would deliver", it should have said, "the greatest or one of the greatest benefits". I'm not sure that this misrepresented the main points very much, if at all.

Anonymous said...

"However the faults in the press release don't invalidate the survey itself."

You're living in dreamland Michael; it's a survey of just six schools, one in Wrexam, one in Llangollen, one in Cardiff one in Newport Monmouthshire one in Swansea and one in Haverford west. How can such a sample ever be representative of Parents sending their children to Welsh Medium schools? When you look at the questions asked and the instructions, its chaotic. One section is for Non Welsh speakers only yet, strangely, the answers still add up to 125.

Is it credible that the WLB really thought that this mish-mash of nonsense was a real survey?

They guessed that people like yourself would suck it all in and love it and so they published it. It's not the first time, nor is it the first time that you have uncritically accepted WLB nonsense.

MH said...

All any survey can do is ask questions and record the answers given, Anon. It is what it is, and it provides some useful information. Apart from the points I've already criticized, the remainder of the press release seems to be substantially correct.

I don't know whether BYIG would have published this survey. If they gave you the same information as they gave me, the press release was not circulated by them; and if it had been submitted for approval it might well still have been published, but in a different form. However it's too late to change anything now. The damage has been done, and I've taken the view that the best thing to do is to be as open about it as possible.

Yet even if the company responsible is primarily to blame, BYIG is also at fault for allowing it to appear on its website ... although to their credit it was removed. But it's not up to me to defend them, and I have plenty of criticisms of them myself. In a way, I'm rather glad the Board is going to be dissolved and replaced with a Commissioner, though I'll reserve judgement until I see how the new Commissioner acts.


But as well as being critical of the press release, the Straight Statistics article (which was obviously based on information you provided) was also an example of twisting the truth to suit a particular agenda, as I've just said in my comment on Click on Wales. It was in fact guilty of the very same thing it was criticizing: it thought it could get away with "spinning" the story because the original survey was not available for people to check for themselves.

I have made that information available so that everybody can see it for themselves. And, as I've told you many times already, you would see far fewer of your comments deleted if you provided links to the figures you quote in support of your opinions.

Anonymous said...

Well Michael, As I've just just commented on "Click on Wales"; maybe you would like to apologise for calling me a liar....I won't hold my breath. The fact is that not all information has a "link", some of it, like my dialogue with the WLB, is private but can be accessed by you if you should wish.

Questions 3,4,5 on the survey were preceded by the instruction "If you are a Welsh speaker, go to question six". Therefore, since this particular survey had 81 non Welsh speakers, the maximum answers for each of those questions was 81.

As you can see the answers add up to 125 in each case. So you will excuse me if I say that the idea you float that there was not much wrong with the survey, only a fault in the press release is nonsense. But the damage is done....the publicity that the survey received can't be undone but the WLB is facing a complaint of misleading the public since the responses, particularly to question 3, suggests concerns from non-Welsh speaking parents about the Education of their children in WM schools. Parents might still send their children to a particular school because the advantages outweigh the disadvantages but that is not the same as pretending that there are NO disadvantages.

In fact the point that I made to Nigel at Straightstatistics was that there are NO CONCLUSIONS at all that can be drawn from this survey except that whoever designed it and carried it out knows nothing about polling. There is worse however. If you go back to the WLB and ask for the PR firm's prospectus to the WLB you will see that the propaganda attack that the WLB bought into quite knowingly was rather unsavoury. It is evident that dubious figures were going to be hung onto the WLB's reputation.

I would point out that the WLB didn't remove their own press release from their own site until I contacted them and that Meri Huws was happily out and about making hay until the proverbial hit the fan.

MH said...

It still hasn't appeared, but you'll see my response on ClickOnWales in due course, Anon.

I appreciate that not all information is on the web. But there's nothing to stop you putting any evidence you use to back up your opinions on a server (I would recommend either FileDen or OpenDrive, for both are free and very easy to use) or sending it by email. However if you make reference to evidence you cannot show us, your comments will continue to be deleted. Obviously if you choose to do it by email you must sent the evidence before or at the same time as you make the comment. My address is here.


Turning to what you've just written, the fallacy of your argument is that if you think the survey is worthless, you cannot at the same time rely on it to make definitive statements such as the one you made on ClickOnWales. Nor, for the same reason, can Straight Statistics claim that the survey found the "opposite" of what was claimed in the press release. In fact both you and Straight Statistics have done exactly the same thing that you are criticizing the company that produced the press release for doing.

And once again you've resorted to what has become one of your trademark straw man arguments; this time claiming that someone is "pretending that there are NO disadvantages" in WM education. Who is doing that?

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